The state of Kentucky was home to a different kind of horsepower this weekend. Instead of 20 horses lining up at the gate for the Kentucky Derby, the Cup Series of NASCAR lined up 39 drivers for the Quaker State 400 at the mile and a half track of Kentucky Speedway. With the exception of 6 drivers (Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, and Eric Jones) everyone else in the field was looking to make their way into the playoffs and contend for the championship at the end of the year. The winner of this race, however, was far from unexpected.
A caution-free stage one allowed polesitter Martin Truex Jr in the #78 to run away with the lead. After the action-packed and drama-filled last two weeks at Chicago and Daytona, the calmness of this week’s race was disappointing and rather unsettling as viewers waited and anticipated something to happen. A dump-and-run for the win at Chicago, another 1.5-mile track, had fans thinking we would see the same type of desperation out of the drivers. The wreck-fest that was Daytona had people under the impression that we would see retaliation this week. Alas, drivers were smooth and steady, and mostly single file, all race long. Bummer.
The first caution for an on-track incident came on Lap 109, a handful of laps into Stage Two, when Alex Bowman in the #88 Axalta Chevrolet blew a right front tire and shot into the wall in Turn 3. Unfortunately, the damage was significant with the entire wheel-well smashed, making it impossible to change the tire. Bowman was out of the race and would go on to finish in the last place of 39th. The rest of stage 2 ran without caution and Martin Truex Jr took the extra playoff points.
The second and final caution came halfway through the last segment of the race when the JJ Yeley‘s engine expired and dropped a substantial amount of fluids on the track. Once it was cleaned up, Martin Truex took off again and no one else in the field could catch up, let alone pass the #78 as he drove away to the checkered flag. This wasn’t the first time Truex has won both stages and the race at Kentucky. In fact, he did it last year en route to the championship. That can only leave fans thinking: can he secure back-to-back titles? We’ll have to stay tuned.
Catch the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday for the New Hampshire 301. Get your tickets HERE!