Greg Biffle won the first NASCAR race among the three national series, with his Gander Outdoor Truck Series win in 2000. Kevin Harvick took the first Xfinity Series checkered flag in 2001. Kyle Busch celebrated the inaugural Monster Energy Cup Series Quaker State 400 in 2011.
And, most recently, Martin Truex Jr. claimed back-to-back Quaker State 400s and a chance add a third.
Who will be the next NASCAR driver to make history – or repeat it — at Kentucky Speedway? That will be answered starting Thursday with NASCAR’s tripleheader weekend at Kentucky, which celebrates its 20th season of racing.
Here are five things to know about Kentucky Speedway’s NASCAR weekend:
1. NASCAR dropped the green flag at the 1.5-mile, tri-oval track near Sparta on June 17, 2000.
Kentucky has hosted 53 NASCAR races among the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (8), Xfinity Series (24) and Gander Outdoors Truck Series (21). All three return over the next three days, culminating with the MENSC Quaker State 400 on Saturday night.
Truex, the two-time Quaker State 400 defending champ, goes for his fifth win this season. He’s tied with Busch for the most Cup Series wins at four, and is one of seven drivers locked into the playoffs along with Brian Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.
Busch, meanwhile, looks to add to his track record for most NASCAR wins. He has seven overall among the three major series with two Cup wins, three in Xfinity and two in the trucks. Busch also won at Kentucky in the ARCA Series. Keselowski is second with six wins, three each in Cup and Xfinity.
All three of last year’s race winners return with Truex (Cup), Christopher Bell (Xfinity) and Ben Rhodes (Trucks).
2. Only the best win at Kentucky. So far.
As Justin Haley showed with his Cup win at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, anything can happen. Will it at Kentucky? Doubtful.
Four different drivers have won the eight Cup races at Kentucky — Keselowski (3), Busch (2), Truex (2) and Matt Kenseth (1). All four drivers have also won Cup championships.
Busch (4), Truex (4) and Keselowski (3) have combined to win 11 of the first 18 races this season.
3. Can Stewart-Haas snap its skid?
The Stewart-Haas stable of Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Daniel Suarez have gone winless in 18 races. That ties the team’s longest streak without a victory to start a season, which they also did in 2011.
That’s a 180-degree spin from last season when the foursome combined to win 12 races.
Harvick is the best bet to take the checkered flag at Kentucky. He’s led 383 laps on 1.5-mile tracks this season with a best finish of fourth (twice). Almirola, Bowyer, Harvick and Suarez have combined for two top-5 finishes at Kentucky in 24 combined starts.
“Kentucky is a very tricky track,” Bowyer said. “It’s very fast. It’s very unique in the sense that both ends of the track are very different. The entrance to turn three is what sticks out to me when you think of Kentucky. That turn is so deceiving, and it entices you to drive in way too deep. That’s because it’s so flat that the car wants to get really loose getting in there. All of a sudden you’ve got to really slow it down, and the exit opens up a lot into that dogleg. You carry a tremendous amount of speed through turns one and two, which is what gets you into trouble going into turn three.”
4. If you want to win the Xfinity Series then start up front.
Of the 24 winners, eight have started on the pole including Joey Logano, who won three straight from 2008-10. Eleven winners have come from the front row and 15 have started in the first two rows.
Among the Xfinity hopefuls Friday are four from JD Motorsports with Gary Keller. Keller, a Beavercreek native, teams with Johnny Davis to field cars for Garrett Smithley (No. 0), Stephen Leicht (No. 01), B.J. McLeod (No. 4) and Landon Cassill (No. 15). The team has three top-10 finishes this season, including a season-best fifth from Leicht at Daytona International Speedway last Friday.
5. The Truck Series’ Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 has shared victory lane in recent seasons.
Continuing with Rhodes’ victory last year, six different drivers have won the past six events at Kentucky.
Brent Mofitt and Ross Chastain lead the series with two wins each. Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter also have victories among drivers scheduled to compete.
The last driver to win two straight at Kentucky was James Buescher, who won both races in 2012.
Thank you for reading the Springfield News-Sun and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.
Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Springfield News-Sun. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.