After the craziness of Daytona last week, it’s nice to get back to a 1.5-mile track this week, however, be careful what you wish for in that regard. Kentucky is anything but a tame intermediate track. Just like the kick and bold flavor of the Bourbon and Whiskey, they make in the Bluegrass State; the track will give you a kick and require boldness to make it through the race and find your way to Victory Lane.
It has only been on the Cup schedule since 2011 and in that time, it has gone through a repave and reconfiguration in 2016. The track used to be even banking all the way around but now Turns 1 & 2 are steeper than Turns 3 & 4 and that side of the track is also narrower than it previously was. The new layout has made Turn 3 one of the most challenging corners on the Cup schedule as it is an incredibly flat entry and the banking doesn’t really kick in until about halfway through the corner, meaning a car can easily step out on a driver or havoc can ensue when a driver tries to correct the line in the middle of the corner. That’s also why the track will put down PJ1, traction compound, to help improve the grip in the outer grove and make it more than a one-grove track.
In the eight races that have happened at this track at the Cup level, the pole-sitter has won three times, including last year, while the outside pole-sitter has won twice. Over the last five races, at least one driver has led well over 100 laps of the 267 in the scheduled distance giving you the chance for a laps led dominator on Saturday night. With the weather starting out pretty warm and then cooling off under the lights the cars that start out strong may not finish that way if the crews can’t keep up with the changing track and vice versa. The few night races we’ve had this year with this package have shown that the cars that are good before the sun goes down, don’t always finish that strong so keep that in mind when building lineups. The cooler temps will also induce closer racing which can help position differential marks as well.
Prop Bet Challenge
- Only three active drivers have won a Cup race at Kentucky. Will we see a first-time Kentucky winner this weekend? To say “no” means you think Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., or Kyle Busch will win the race. And they’re all starting in the Top 10 and all have great histories at Kentucky. I will say YES because I’ll go with the field and take a new winner. Daniel Suarez looked incredibly fast in qualifying and he’ll be starting on the pole. Not to mention I won’t count out guys like Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, etc.
- O/U 18.5 lead changes? I’m going to take the UNDER because this is the kind of race that can be dominated by just a few drivers. Last year Truex, Keselowski, and Kurt Busch combined for over 250 laps led and this is a pretty tricky track. Go with the under this week.
- Which former Kentucky winner will finish higher? Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr.? I’m going to take MTJ with this prop. He’s been the hotter driver of the two as of late, he’s starting a little higher, which means very little, but he led 174 laps alone at this race a year ago. It’s a tough pick because both guys could win today, but I’ll roll with Truex.
- O/U 13.5 stage points for Kevin Harvick? I’ll take the UNDER, but I have total and complete faith that he’ll register stage points. He’s four-for-four in stage points the last two Kentucky races and he’s starting inside the Top 5 later tonight. However, 14 seems like a bit much for my liking so I’ll take the under.
- Which Hendrick Motorsports driver scores more points? Chase Elliott or William Byron? Surprisingly I’m taking William Byron, even though I’m not particularly too high on him ever in DFS. Elliott didn’t look great in qualifying, but looked solid in practice. Byron looked better in qualifying after a mediocre combined practice grade. I’ll stick with Byron though as a bit of a contrarian play.
- O/U 21.5 lead lap finishers? Ahh yes the one prop I hate week in and week out. I’m taking the UNDER. 21 drivers finished on the lead lap last year at this race and I believe less than a dozen finished on the lead lap a year before. The over is tempting based on the new package that has led to more competitive and safer racing, but I’ll still lean towards 21 or fewer.
- Will Saturday’s winner lead the last 10 laps? YES. Given the performances of the winner at this track, I’ll say that the winner leads the last ten laps unless the field pits within the last ten, which would all but ruin this prediction.
- Brad Keselowski has an average finish of 11.4 at Kentucky. Will he finish in the top 10 this weekend? YES the top 10 should be very easy for Keselowski. I thought he’d win at Daytona last weekend. Obviously that wasn’t the case. He should easily finish inside the top 10 this weekend.
- O/U 6.5 different leaders? Last year saw very few leaders, but I think there will be at least seven leaders on Saturday. Keselowski, Truex, Suarez, Almirola, Kyle Busch, Harvick, and Hamlin could all find their way on to the lead at some point. Seven different leaders seems within reach, but don’t be surprised if there are one or two dominant drivers this weekend.
- At least five drivers will score 42 or more points? I’ll go with NO. Five seems a bit too high. Only four drivers scored 42 last year, and just three the year before. I expect the pattern to continue this week in Kentucky.