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This Week in Auto Racing June 27 - 30

3:58 PM, Jun 27, 2013   |    comments
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Sparta, KY (Sports Network) - All three of NASCAR's national touring series are racing at Kentucky Speedway this week.

NASCAR

Sprint Cup Series

Quaker State 400 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ky.

It's "go time" for several drivers in the Sprint Cup Series, as the race to the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship is on.

This weekend's 400-mile event at Kentucky Speedway begins the 10-race stretch that precedes the playoffs for NASCAR's top series. Following Kentucky, the series will run at Daytona, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol and Atlanta before the regular season concludes on Sept. 7 at Richmond. The Chase begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland.

The top-10 in points after Richmond will qualify for the Chase. The 11th and 12th spots in the Chase field are the wild cards, which go to those drivers between 11th-20th in points that have the most wins.

Right now, Martin Truex Jr. holds the 10th spot in the point standings. After snapping his long 218-race winless streak this past Sunday in Sonoma, Calif., Truex moved up three spots in the rankings. He has an eight-point advantage over 11th-place Kasey Kahne, who has one victory this season (March 17 at Bristol).

Truex, who is in his fourth season with Michael Waltrip Racing, is hoping to make his second consecutive and third overall appearance in the Chase.

"I am not thinking about points until after the race at Richmond," Truex said. "I stopped focusing on it and landed in victory lane. It's amazing to think that we are in the position we are in. It's been a roller coaster of a season, and if we can keep the bad luck from biting us, I think we will be in good shape."

Truex would love nothing more than to win at Kentucky on Saturday, the same day he turns 33 years old. He's had very good finishes on the mile and a half tracks in the past.

"Kentucky should be a good race for us," he said. "We had a really good run there last year. We finished eighth. Our 1.5-mile program has been really impressive this year."

Kahne is presently atop the wild card rankings, while Tony Stewart holds the second spot due to his win earlier this month at Dover. Stewart finished 28th at Sonoma and dropped from 10th to 15th in points (-20 behind Truex).

While Stewart took a tumble in points, Jeff Gordon gained some ground with his second-place run at Sonoma. Gordon bounced back from a disappointing 39th place finish at Michigan. He is now 12 points behind Truex.

"We're just going to go and push hard and perform and try to put more finishes like this together," Gordon said after his runner-up finish at Sonoma. "If we live up to our potential and we don't get caught up in some of these silly things that we have been caught up in this year, there's no doubt in my mind we can work our way into the top-10."

Of the 23 racetracks on the current Sprint Cup schedule, Gordon has won at every one of them except Kentucky, which joined the series in 2011. Kyle Busch won the inaugural race here two years ago. Brad Keselowski scored the victory at this track last season.

"I think it would be cool to win at Kentucky and knock it off the list," Gordon said. "I'd love to win at every track. That would be a special accomplishment. And I need to win here before more tracks are added to the schedule."

Last November, Gordon scratched Homestead off of his tracks where he had yet to win. His first victory at the South Florida track came in his 14th start there.

Keselowski, the defending series champion, sits ninth in the standings (just seven points ahead of Truex). He has yet to win a race this season.

"Our team's goals for this season is to obviously defend the championship from last year and to win some races," Keselowski said. "We feel like we have that capability. We just have to dig in deep and find it here. But we're still in a pretty good spot (in points)."

Busch, who has two wins this year, is eighth in points. His victories came in Fontana, Calif. and Texas.

Behind Kahne and Stewart in the wild card standings are Paul Menard, who is 12th in points, followed by Gordon, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch. Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jeff Burton complete the top-10.

Forty-three teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Quaker State 400. Kyle Busch and Keselowski are those Sprint Cup regulars competing in all three NASCAR races at Kentucky this week.

Nationwide Series

Feed the Children 300 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ky.

Austin Dillon has been looking forward to the Nationwide Series' return to Kentucky Speedway for quite some time.

Dillon will attempt to win his third straight Nationwide race at this 1.5-mile racetrack. The series competed here twice last year, with Dillon scoring the season sweep.

One year ago, Dillon put on a dominating performance at Kentucky. The Richard Childress Racing driver started on the pole and led all but eight of the 200 laps for his first career victory in the series. Dillon also started on the pole when the series competed here in September. He led 65 laps, including the final 50. His win came one day after his team owner and grandfather, Richard Childress, celebrated his 67th birthday.

"Anytime you win at a place, you love it," Dillon said. "I have other tracks I love, but that one is very close to me, because I got the two biggest wins of my career here."

Dillon and Joey Logano are the only drivers with multiple Nationwide victories at Kentucky. Logano won three in a row here from 2008-10 when he drove for Joe Gibbs Racing. He is not entered in this year's race.

Right now, Dillon is fourth in the point standings. He is 45 points behind leader Regan Smith. Dillon recently set a record in the series by winning four consecutive poles -- Charlotte, Dover, Iowa and Michigan. He started 14th and finished 10th last weekend at Road America.

Dillon has not won a race since nine months ago at Kentucky. His best finish this season is second, which came earlier this month at Iowa. Dillon led 207 of 250 laps, but Trevor Bayne passed him with 12 laps to go and went on to claim the victory.

"Everybody is working hard together, but we're just struggling to have things go our way," Dillon said. "When it turns, it's going to be bad news for the rest of the teams out there."

Smith came to Road America with a commanding 58-point lead, but after finishing 32nd there, his advantage was trimmed to 28 over Justin Allgaier, who moved up to second in points following his runner-up finish.

"It was a big hit," Smith said. "You can't deny the fact that was a huge points hit, but with that said, that's why we worked hard to have the big lead and strive to have the big lead. I would much rather be the one being chased from 28 points out in front than the one chasing from 28 points behind."

Forty-one teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Feed the Children 300.

Camping World Truck Series

UNOH 225 - Kentucky Speedway - Sparta, Ky.

Following a two-week break, the Camping World Truck Series resumes its 2013 schedule on Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway.

The last race in the series was held on June 7 at Texas, where rookie Jeb Burton picked up his first win. Burton, who is the 20-year-old son of former Sprint Cup Series driver and 2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton, is currently second in the point standings. He is 23 points behind leader Matt Crafton.

Burton has been very impressive this season, finishing no worse than 15th in the first seven races. In April at Martinsville, he started on the pole and led a race-high 154 laps but ended up finishing third.

"We've got some momentum right now, and we've been fast every week," Burton said. "We should have won a couple of other races."

This will be the first time Burton competes in a race at Kentucky. He tested at this 1.5-mile track earlier this month.

"We actually tested there two weeks ago, and we have a really, really good truck there," he said. "I'm pretty pumped up about it and like the racetrack. I like the bumps. It makes it a handful to drive, and I think it kind of puts it back in the driver's hands a little bit."

Burton is driving the No. 4 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports this year. His teammate, James Buescher, is the defending series champion. But Buescher has had a somewhat disappointing season. He has yet to score a top-five finish.

Kentucky might be where Buescher gets his season on track. He won both truck races here last year. Buescher also won an ARCA event at this track in 2009.

"It's a place I feel like suits me," Buescher said. "It's pretty flat, and it's a tough racetrack. There's a lot of character to it, a lot of bumps and things you have to negotiate well. Just a place I guess I have figured out."

Buescher is presently fifth in the rankings, as he trails Crafton by 50 points.

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