Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – DAYTONA BEACH, FL – There is probably no one more ready to pull into Kentucky Speedway than Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski. A three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner at the 1.5-mile track – best among his peers – Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) may be just the kind of panacea his season could use.
The 2012 Monster Energy Series champion remains surprisingly winless through the opening 18 races, but his record in Kentucky gives him every rightful reason to be optimistic.
In addition to Keselowski’s three Cup wins here (in 2012, 2014, and 2016), he has three NASCAR Xfinity Series race trophies too. He won the pole position and led a record 199 of the 267 laps in his 2014 Cup triumph.
It may be just the motivation and expectation to right the ship for Penske’s No. 2 Ford team. Although he was involved in an accident Saturday night in Daytona Beach (his fourth DNF of the year), Keselowski has five top-10 finishes in the previous seven races leading into Daytona. Importantly, he has four top 10s in the six 1.5-mile tracks the series has run already in 2018. And his runner-up finish on the Atlanta mile-and-a-half is his best showing of any race this year.
Keselowski, 34, has won at least one race in the last seven seasons – and he’s won in eight of the past nine years leading into 2018.
He has the second-best driver rating at Kentucky (109.6) and is ranked among the top-10 in all major statistical categories. He’s finished seventh or better in five of the seven races at Kentucky. And he’s tops in one that’s not official – he’s won the last three races in even numbered years. It’s 2018.
Count NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Elliott Sadler among those most eager to strap into his race car for Friday’s Alsco 300 (at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Kentucky Speedway is home to the veteran’s last series win 55 races ago.
He has nine top-10 finishes in 13 Xfinity races at the track, including five top-five efforts. And Sadler is coming off a runner-up finish at Daytona last weekend to re-take the championship lead. He has 14 top-10 efforts in 16 races this season.
The JR Motorsports driver may well need all the knowledge and experience he’s collected here because recently this venue has been a place for brand new winners – boasting six first-time series winners. Tyler Reddick joined that list just last year and four of the six earned their win in the summer running of the race.
The Camping World Truck Series starts NASCAR’s highly-anticipated triple-header summer weekend at Kentucky Speedway with the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 on Thursday (at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
With Brett Moffitt’s third victory of the season coming in Chicago two weeks ago, the popular young driver maintained his place among the series frontrunners. He is ranked third in the points standings heading into Thursday night’s Kentucky race, behind 19-year old Noah Gragson and points leader, Johnny Sauter.
A four-time winner this season, the former series champion Sauter is hoping to make his own history with an unprecedented fifth win in a single season. Kentucky has been a productive venue for Sauter, but he has yet to win there. He has six top-10 finishes in 11 starts and won the pole position twice – including last year.