The Left Turn

NASCAR heads for Kentucky for the Quaker State 400

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This week, NASCAR heads for the Bluegrass state for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Motor Speedway. This track is a 1.5 mile tri-oval with tightly banked corners of seventeen and fourteen degrees. Back in 2010, NASCAR announced that it would add this track to the schedule and while it was met with much intrigue then, this track has provided much more tame racing than many would expect. Back in 2015, it was announced that this track would be repaved and reconfigured to fix some of the track's issues with moisture. After this repave, the part of the track that was most affected was turn three. This part of the track is easily the most challenging as there have been multiple incidents on this corner. This should be were all the action is come saturday.

Last week at Daytona,part-time driver Justin Haley pulled off arguably the biggest upset in NASCAR history as he was able to claim his first career win after the rain ended the race prematurely. Driving for newly formed Spire Motorsports, he was able to avoid the big wreck that claimed 18 cars and take the lead right before the rain came. Many would label this victory as a fluke considering he only led one lap but it is important to note that he was running around the lead pack before the last caution.

Another facet fans took issue with was how this team came about in the first place. Back in the off-season, owners TJ Puchyr and Jeff Dickerson purchased the charter from Furniture Row racing and announced that they would be the newest team on the grid. This charter ensured that the team would be assured a spot in each of the thirty-six races in 2019 as opposed to open teams that do not have a charter and are not assured a spot. Many also thought that the team's victory had no bearing on the regular season considering that neither Haley or the team would be eligible for the playoffs. When not racing in the Cup Series, Haley is an Xfinity series regular so that is where he collects his driver points making him only eligible to compete for a championship in that series. Overall, while this wouldn't happen in almost any other circumstance, I think that it is pretty neat to see a new driver go to victory lane for his first win. While I will agree that NASCAR's new charter method is severely flawed in every way, you can't really blame Sprie Motorsports for taking advantage of this and finding success. I wish them the best for the remainder of 2019.

Going into this weekend, the driver that I have winning this weekend is Martin Truex Jr. Over the last two races here, Truex has won both of them. In both of those starts, Truex has lead sixty percent of the laps run here so it's clear this track is basically Truex's playground. While I think that the new aero package may change things up a little bit, I still see Truex winning because of how well he has qualified here as well. Since 2017, he hasn't started worse than second and with Qualifying meaning as much as it does I think he should have no issue with that as well. He will be tough to beat come Saturday night.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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It is the end of an era this week at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series ends it season here for the final time. It was announced earlier this year in 2020 that NASCAR would conclude its season at Phoenix ending a 17-year tradition. While this track will still have a race here next season, it will be very weird to see champions week in Phoenix as opposed to the sunny beaches of Miami. This track has provided some of the most thrilling finishes in the past including the 2005 Ford 400 when Greg Biffle and Mark Martin finished side by side or of course in 2011 when Tony Stewart came back from multiple laps down to beat Carl Edwards for the championship. While the track will remain on the schedule next year, it simply won't be the same considering the circumstances. Not only is this track a fan favorite but also a favorite among drivers as well. I hope that NASCAR can reconsider to move this race back when they completely overhaul the schedule again in 2021.

Last week, Denny Hamlin went on to claim 37th career victory after annihilating the competition. With this victory, Hamlin will race for a chance to claim his first championship. This was a relatively calm race where there wasn't a lot going on. Passing was scarce throughout the race as it has been on a lot of these types of race tracks. Overall, the race was a pretty massive disappointment. Many fans were upset that this would be the track that would move to the season finale next season after what we saw on Sunday. While I understand their frustration, once again this goes back to how massive these spoilers are on this car and what a huge amount of drag they provide on smaller tracks like this one, if they can go to a smaller spoiler I think this problem should be eliminated. Let's hope that is the plan going forward next season and NASCAR's higher ups will listen to their drivers for once.

Another major headline this week was the announcement that next season Daniel Suarez will not return to the #41 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. As many would expect the driver that moves up to replace him is Cole Custer. This comes as a sort of a surprise considering there was news that the team was working with Suarez and his people on an extension. According to Adam Stern, after Suarez's sponsor Arris modems was purchased by a new company this postponed contract negotiations with the team and they simply ran out of patience. This is extremely unfortunate for Suarez. While many people were critical of him not being able to claim his first win, Suarez was having a pretty solid season. While I am happy to see Custer get his chance, I hope Daniel can find a competitive ride in 2020.

As I wrote earlier, this race will decide the champion. The four drivers that have made it are Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. These four drivers easily have a great case on why they have made it this far. The four have combined for 21 wins so it's safe to say these are the best four drivers in NASCAR right now. Of the four the favorite going into this race is Hamlin. Throughout his career, Hamlin has won everything there is to win but a championship. He has come painfully close so many times, including in 2010 when he spun out early at Homestead or in 2014 when he finished seventh behind Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick. Many believe that this is Denny Hamlin's year and they have great reason for thinking so. He has won here twice back in 2009 and 2013 so he should be a great threat to take victory. One of the unsung heroes when it comes to Hamlin's success has been crew-chief Chris Gabehart. Not only has he has done an excellent job at making this car fast, he has also done a good job at keeping his driver from getting too riled up; at Martinsville he was able to restrain Hamlin from going and knocking Joey Logano's lights out so he has done a great job of that as well. Look for Hamlin to be fast come Sunday.

While he isn't exactly the favorite, Kevin Harvick definitely isn't one to sleep on when it comes to these big races. When this format was first implemented in 2014, Harvick was its first champion. While he hasn't been able to follow up with a championship since, he has still been around the top four as he has made it to the championship race every year but 2016. He has been the definition of consistency and will definitely be up front. Throughout the season, Harvick has been kind of under the radar as he didn't win his first race till New Hampshire in July. He has really come to life since then by winning three races including the one that locked him into Homestead at Texas. Look for the #4 Mustang to be a contender.

It has been quite the season for Kyle Busch. In the regular season, he was able to claim four victories at tracks like Poccono and California. The second half of the season has been a different story. Since then he has yet to find victory lane and has had numerous instances of bad results including blowing an engine at Indy and voluntarily parking his car at the Charlotte Roval after his car was damaged from an earlier accident. Regardless of his troubles, Busch has been able to collect enough stage points over the races preceding the playoffs and find himself right back in the championship race. While any other time I would like his chances, I believe that right now his heart seems to be somewhere else but I could very well be wrong. Regardless Busch will definitely make this race very interesting.

The driver I have winning the title this year is Martin Truex Jr. As we all know, Truex has had to overcome a lot of adversity to get to where he is. Last season, after he finally seemed to find some stability and a championship, the ground seemed to be pulled underneath him as it was announced late last year that Truex's team Furniture Row would cease operations. While most pretty much nkew Truex would move to Joe Gibbs racing, this was just another obstacle for the vetran driver. When moving on to Joe Gibbs, Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn would pick up almost right where they left off and go on to win seven races and breeze a spot in the championship race at Homestead. This week, I think that Truex will cap off an incredible season with another win and a second championship and here is why I think so, of all drivers nobody has finished better than Truex. He currently enters this race with a 1.50 average finish since 2017. The man has been the closest thing to automatic here and this week should be no different. Look for Martin Truex Jr. to take the checkered flag and claim his second championship.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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