After a wild, rain-delayed, rain-shortened race at Daytona that saw several big names crash out and ended with Justin Haley celebrating in victory lane for the No. 77 Spire Motorsports team in just his third Cup start, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for Saturday night’s Quaker State 400. The bad news is that the chaos at Daytona probably didn’t do many favors for Fantasy NASCAR owners, but on the plus side, a trip to a mile-and-a-half track like Kentucky should be a decent opportunity to rebound.
There has been a lot of pushback over Haley’s wins, mainly because Spire Motorsports had been non-competitive the entire year prior to Daytona. In fact, the No. 77 car was lucky to crack the Top 30 most weeks. Many fans are saying that an organization like Spire Motorsports shouldn’t be allowed in the sport, suggesting the team is just in NASCAR as a cash grab and has no interest in trying to run well on a weekly basis. However, I think the hate directed at Spire Motorsports is misplaced.
No, this was not an ideal situation. It was a complete fluke that required a perfect storm of circumstances to even come about. From the massive wreck that triggered the lengthy caution to NASCAR calling one-to-go only to have a lightning strike hit and bring out a red flag, the end result was Haley going from 27th to victory lane without ever running another green flag lap.
Even if the only goal of Spire Motorsports is to make money, who cares? Most sports franchises want to make money, but that’s beside the point. This win was not a product of some loophole in the system that Spire is exploiting. The win was a product of the ridiculous nature of superspeedway racing.
Fans love seeing the cars bunched into a big pack and the big wrecks that can result, but this type of racing puts luck and survival ahead of skill and speed, and on occasion, it allows for teams that have no business winning races to do exactly that. As usual, some NASCAR fans want to have their cake and eat it to.
Personally, I am not a fan of superspeedway racing, and I loved seeing Haley emerge as the winner because I knew the same people that laud over this type of racing would be up in arms that a glorified start-and-park operation picked up the win. How anyone can claim that racing at Daytona and Talladega isn’t more about luck more than anything else after what happened last Sunday, is beyond me.
The good news, at least from a fantasy standpoint, is that the top drivers and top equipment should once again rise to the top this weekend at Kentucky. If you are among the fantasy owners who had a rough weekend at Daytona, you should be able to load up your lineups for Saturday night’s race and post some hefty point totals.
Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway Rankings
1. Kyle Busch, #18 M&M’s, Joe Gibbs Racing
Busch has had some rough luck the last couple of weeks, but he should get back on track at Kentucky. He owns a series-best 5.0 average finish at the track and has finished 12th or better in all eight starts, logging six Top 5s. Busch is also a two-time winner here, and he has led more than 100 laps four times.
2. Martin Truex, Jr., #19 Bass Pro Shops, Joe Gibbs Racing
He will be gunning for a Kentucky three-peat this weekend after dominating this race in each of the last two seasons. Truex started second and led 152 laps in his win here in 2017, and in last year’s victory, he won the pole and led 174 laps.
3. Brad Keselowski, #2 Miller Lite/Discount Tires, Team Penske
Keselowski leads all active drivers with three career wins at Kentucky, and he is one of just two drivers to lead more than 500 total laps at the track. He also has six Top 10s in the eight races here, and he has led more than 30 laps six times, leading 60-plus laps five times. Keselowski enters Saturday’s race with four Top 5s in the first six races at 1.5-mile ovals this year, the most in the series.
4. Kevin Harvick, #4 Jimmy Johns/Busch Beer, Stewart-Haas Racing
While he hasn’t been dominant at Kentucky, Harvick sure has been consistent here. He has a 9.4 average finish in eight starts, finishing 11th or better seven times. In fact, Harvick has reeled off six straight Top 10s at Kentucky, cracking the Top 5 in last year’s race. This season, no driver has scored more points or led more laps at the mile-and-a-half tracks than Harvick.
5. Joey Logano, #22 Shell-Pennzoil, Team Penske
Logano has been rock solid at Kentucky since joining Team Penske, cracking the Top 10 in five of his six starts here in the No. 22 and leading laps in four of those races. He has shown plenty of upside at the 1.5-mile tracks in 2019, finishing third or better in three of the six races thus far.