Quaker State 400 Dominated by Martin Truex Jr.

Live coverage from The Lasco Press at Kentucky Speedway

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Friday from Kentucky Speedway proved one thing. Clean air is King. The driver that captures the lead on the restart has a big advantage over the field. Christopher Bell won the Alsco 300, in part because Kyle Busch had no clean air.

Christopher Bell, NASCAR Xfinity Series, Alsco 300 Winner / Lasco Press Photo

Busch led the most laps, but an unscheduled pit stop placed him in the middle of the field at the halfway point. A deficit he was unable to erase, Busch finished 3rd.

Kyle Busch(18) starts 5th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Quaker State 400. With his 200 laps of Xfinity work to draw on, he has to be considered one of the favorites. The other two members of the “Big 3” start in the front also. Martin Truex Jr.(78) won the pole. Kevin Harvick(4), starts in the 3rd position.

The interloper in the group is last week’s Daytona winner Erik Jones(20). Jones starts second, on the front row with his teammate from last year Truex Jr. Jones passed Truex Jr. during overtime at Daytona to capture his 1st Cup Series win. A victory at Kentucky and Jones might lay claim to being in the “Big 4.”

Lasco Press Photo

An underlying theme for the race will be the feud between Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(17) and Kyle Busch. After Stenhouse Jr. caused a wreck at Daytona that took Busch out of the race. They both traded verbal jabs before and during Cup qualifying yesterday.

The Start of the Quaker State 400

Truex Jr. wasted no time in driving away from Jones on the start. Brad Keselowski(2), who seems to always run well at Kentucky moved into 2nd place early in Stage 1. Stage lengths at Kentucky are 80, 80, and 107. Necessitating a visit to pit road for fuel during all race Stages.

Lasco Press Photo

Most pit stops in Stage 1 occurred on laps 40-45. A few drivers stayed out hoping to catch a caution and improve their track position. Kurt Busch(41), Joey Logano(22), William Bowman(88), and Jimmie Johnson(48) pushed it the farthest. Pitting on Lap 61-66, returning the lead to Truex Jr.

Keselowski Trouble

Keselowski was caught speeding on his exit from pit road. He incurred a drive-through penalty that dropped him from the leading group of cars. After pit stops cycled through Truex Jr. had built almost a 2-second lead over Kevin Harvick(4). Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney(12), and Paul Menard(21) rounded out the top 5

Stage 1 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
78 Truex Jr. 10
4 Harvick* 9
18 Kyle Busch 8
12 Blaney* 7
21 Menard* 6
14 Bowyer* 5
19 Suarez 4
42 Larson 3
10 Almirola* 2
9 Elliott 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

Stage 2

Logano did not pit at the end of the Stage, having been to pit road just 17 laps earlier. Kurt Busch, benefiting from his late pit stop, only took 2 tires and exited in 1st. He lined up next to Logano for the restart, Truex Jr. lined up 3rd.

Lasco Press Photo

Kurt Busch jumped to a big lead when the green flag waved. Truex Jr. ran him down and took the lead on lap 98. Looking like he might dominate in a similar fashion to last year. Truex Jr. built a 3-second lead only to see it wiped out when Bowman cut down a tire on Lap 108. The damage from hitting the wall in turn 3 sent Bowman to the garage. Pit stops will give teams enough fuel to complete Stage 2.

The Restart

Truex Jr., and Kyle Busch share the front row for the restart after Bowman’s crash. Harvick, Blaney, and Menard make up the top 5 as the race goes green on Lap 114. Truex Jr., Kyle Bush, and Blaney went 3-wide down the backstretch. Martin pulled away through turns 3 and 4. He quickly established a 1-second lead, as Busch and Blaney battled for 2nd.

Lasco Press Photo

No one could challenge Truex Jr., who easily captured his 2nd Stage win of the night. His 5th Stage win of the season.

Stage 2 Results

Car Driver Stage Points
78 Truex Jr. 10
18 Kyle Busch 9
12 Blaney* 8
4 Harvick* 7
42 Larson 6
14 Bowyer* 5
41 Kurt Busch* 4
22 Logano* 3
20 Jones 2
21 Menard* 1

* Ford Fusion Drivers

The Final Stage

Keselowski gambles taking just 2 tires, he exits the pits first. Lining up on the front row next to Truex Jr., the clean air makes the gamble pay off. Keselowski jumps into the lead as Truex Jr. battles Harvick for 2nd.

Lasco Press Photo

Kyle Larson(42) makes his first appearance at the front of the pack. He passes Truex Jr. for 2nd. Larson missed driver introductions and had to start from the rear of the field. He doggedly worked his way into contention.

Larson Fades, Truex Jr. Surges

Short run speed took Larson to the front and the car went away just as quickly. Problems with the track bar in the rear of the car cost Larson a shot at the lead. Truex Jr. passed and began to close the gap on Keselowski. By Lap 201, Larson had faded to 7th and Truex Jr. reassumed the lead.

On Lap 206 J J Yeley(23) stuffed his car into the wall in Turn 4 bringing out the caution. This time Kurt Busch was the gambler taking just 2 tires and exiting 1st. Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Blaney, and Harvick followed.

Another Restart

Kurt Busch found the same success as Keselowski as he shot to the lead with a push from Blaney. Truex Jr., whose car seems to get stronger with a few laps on it, quickly closed on Busch’s bumper. Taking the lead on Lap 233 and pulling Blaney with him into second.

While the cars slugged it out on the race track. Some comic relief treated the fans in the grandstand. The track’s sprinkler system, apparently on a timer, activated and soaked the outer lane exit of pit road. The cars don’t need to pit again unless there is another caution.

Lasco Press Photo

The Finish

The official count showed 14 lead changes. When Truex Jr. was not in the lead, he was just loaning it to another driver. Just like last year, Truex Jr. dominated every facet of the race. Further entrenching himself as one of the Big 3 in 2018.

The only thing that got away from Truex Jr. all night was his car in the post-race celebration. After crawling out the window and standing on the door to salute the fans, the 78 car began rolling toward the apron of the track. Martin jumped off just as the NBC crew arrived to interview him. Did not seem to phase him in the least.

The Feud?

No on-track drama between Kyle Busch and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The two had little interaction. Busch finished 4th and Stenhouse Jr. 26th, 1 Lap down. Stenhouse Jr. seemed to give Busch a wide berth when Kyle passed.

 

 

Results of the Quaker State 400 presented by WalMart

Position Car Driver Behind LAPS
1 78 Martin Truex Jr. 267
2 12 Ryan Blaney 1.901 267
3 2 Brad Keselowski 8.446 267
4 18 Kyle Busch 8.879 267
5 4 Kevin Harvick 11.715 267
6 41 Kurt Busch 12.543 267
7 20 Erik Jones 12.662 267
8 10 Aric Almirola 13.417 267
9 42 Kyle Larson 17.260 267
10 22 Joey Logano 18.677 267
11 21 Paul Menard 18.920 267
12 14 Clint Bowyer 19.608 267
13 9 Chase Elliott 20.398 267
14 48 Jimmie Johnson 20.842 267
15 19 Daniel Suarez 21.401 267
16 11 Denny Hamlin 21.902 267
17 1 Jamie McMurray 25.983 267
18 38 David Ragan 27.850 267
19 6 Matt Kenseth 28.084 267
20 24 William Byron 29.142 267
21 31 Ryan Newman 29.778 267
22 3 Austin Dillon -1 266
23 37 Chris Buescher -1 266
24 34 Michael McDowell -1 266
25 95 Kasey Kahne -1 266
26 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -1 266
27 43 Bubba Wallace -3 264
28 15 Ross Chastain -4 263
29 13 Ty Dillon -4 263
30 47 AJ Allmendinger -5 262
31 72 Corey LaJoie -7 260
32 51 BJ McLeod -11 256
33 0 Landon Cassill -11 256
34 66 Timmy Hill -13 254
35 7  Jesse Little -14 253
36 99 Garrett Smithley -16 251
37 32 Matt DiBenedetto -67 200
38 23 JJ Yeley -68 199
39 88 Alex Bowman -159 108

 

Points/Playoff Standings

Position Driver Points Wins
1 Kyle Busch 799 5
2 Kevin Harvick* 740 5
3 Martin Truex Jr. 689 4
4 Clint Bowyer* 629 2
5 Joey Logano* 648 1
6 Erik Jones 480 1
7 Austin Dillon 362 1
8 Brad Keselowski* 630 0
9 Kurt Busch* 601 0
10 Kyle Larson 581 0
11 Denny Hamlin 559 0
12 Ryan Blaney* 546 0
13 Aric Almirola* 534 0
14 Jimmie Johnson 484 0
15 Chase Elliott 469 0
16 Alex Bowman 427 0
Playoff Cut Line
17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 418 0
18 Paul Menard* 404 0
19 Ryan Newman 348 0
20 Daniel Suarez 344 0

* Ford Fusion Drivers

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Steve Sweitzer
Steve is the Sports Editor for the Lasco Press and highlights our coverage of NASCAR and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Steve is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association and a nationally published author of automotive related articles for industry trade magazines. He is also a freelance technical writer and accomplished photographer. A 25-year resident of Southeast Michigan, Steve’s passion for reporting on our community, it’s residents, and our automotive connections allow us to use his skills to cover a number of events. Steve’s ability to seek out the unique behind the scenes accounts that tell the often-overlooked aspect of a story makes for entertaining reading. Follow Steve at thelascopress.com with weekly NASCAR updates and featured articles.