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Bumpy road ahead for NASCAR drivers at Kentucky

Kentucky Speedway’s NASCAR tripleheader weekend marks the unofficial chase for the Chase. It kicks off the final 10 races that will determine the 16-driver playoff field for the Sprint Cup championship.

Just don’t refer to Kentucky as paving the way.

Kentucky Speedway officials proudly declare the bumpy half-mile tri-oval as The Roughest Track in NASCAR. The majority of drivers like the challenge Kentucky Speedway presents, meaning driver skill and the right set-up mean more on a track with less grip.

“It’s a tough track and it’s very rough and it’s very bumpy,” said Matt Kenseth, the defending Quaker State 400 champion. “I don’t know where the line is for what’s too rough and what’s too bumpy. But I do know … that paving a track does not make for instant good racing. It takes typically years and years before it gets back to being what I would consider real good.

“There’s a lot of challenges with new pavement for sure. I would never be the guy to raise my hand and ask somebody to pave a track.”

Storylines to watch at Kentucky Speedway:

Win and in: Entering the Quaker State 400, 10 drivers have secured spots in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. But big names like Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are still searching for their golden ticket. Will the racing heat up as the summer does with just 10 races left to determine the field?

Nationwide Series Hero Campaign 300:

Fresh faces: Kentucky Speedway has a knack for producing first-time winners. Ryan Blaney’s victory in 2013 followed Austin Dillon’s first win in 2012. Of the 15 Nationwide races at Kentucky Speedway, five have been won by first-time winners. The most stunning was David Gilliland’s arrival on the racing scene in 2006. Stephen Leicht (2006) and Joey Logano (2008) also earned their first Nationwide wins at Kentucky.

Speed thrills: Beavercreek High School graduate and Liberty Twp. resident Gary Keller has two cars in Friday’s race with partner Johnny Davis. The JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team fields entries for Landon Cassill (10th in points) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (17th). They’ll battle a Nationwide field littered with Cup drivers including Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.

Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225:

Busch whacked: Kyle Busch has won his last five Truck Series starts (dating back to 2013) and goes for his personal record of six straight tonight. In his four starts at Kentucky, Busch has finished first, third, sixth and seventh.

Double trouble: It’s been hammer down for ThorSport racing through the first seven races. Ohio’s only full-time NASCAR team has its two drivers leading the field as Johnny Sauter leads teammate Matt Crafton by 10 points. Ron Hornaday Jr. and Turner Scott Motorsports are 13 points behind Sauter. Crafton, meanwhile, has a series-leading two victories. Darrell Wallace Jr. has the other victory by a driver not named Kyle Busch (four wins).

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