Brad Keselowski(2) won last year’s Monster Energy Series Cup Race at Kentucky Speedway. Of the six Cup Series races held at the track, Keselowski’s won three of them. With nine races to go before the playoffs, every point is huge, and every win important. Keselowski is currently fifth in the Season Championship points standing and locked into the playoffs with two wins. He is tied for third with Kyle Larson(42) in playoff points. Each driver has 13 points that will carry into the playoff rounds. Martin Truex Jr.(78) lead with 21 playoff points, Jimmie Johnson(42) has 16. Last week’s winner, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17), is fifth with 10 playoff points.
Drivers earn 5 playoff points for a victory and 1 playoff point for a Stage win. The first 10 finishers in each Stage earn Championship points. Stage points could mean the difference between making the playoffs or missing out for non-race winners. Stages at Kentucky will be 80 laps, with the final segment a 107-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
Win and You are In
Of the 16 playoff spots available, 10 are locked with race winners. Six spots currently remain that open to non-winners based on Championship points. Kyle Bush(18), Chase Elliott(24), and Jamie McMurray(1) lead the non-winners in points. A victory by any of the three will not dramatically alter the playoff make-up. They appear in decent shape to qualify, even if a couple of non-winners take a late season win. Denny Hamlin(11), Clint Bowyer(14), and Matt Kenseth(20) sit too close to the bubble. Joey Logano(22), Erik Jones(77), and Daniel Suarez(19) hang just outside the cutoff line.
Trevor Bayne(6), Kasey Kahne(5), and Dale Earnhardt Jr.(88) can win a race. Anyone outside the current top 16 that pulls off a victory will shuffle the standings further.
Ford currently leads the manufacturer standing in both points and wins. Eight victories between six drivers give the Blue Oval bragging rights.
Cup regulars Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch are set for double duty. Each is competing in Saturday’s Cup event and Friday’s Xfinity Series race. Busch is making it a triple header, running in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Buckle Up In Your Truck 225” on Thursday night.
Last year’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup event at Kentucky provided an unusual television highlight. Black smoke rising behind the grandstands during the race was picked up on NBC cameras. A car and a truck on fire in the parking lot proved to be the source of the smoke. The truck held a BBQ grill in the bed, the assumed source of the fire. As it turned out, the cause was far different. Reporter Mark Story, from the Lexington Herald-Leader, tracked down one of the vehicle owners. His report of the events appears on the following link Kentucky Speedway Fire.