• 70°

Drivers aim to expand Kentucky’s winners’ club

By Gary B. Graves

AP Sports Writer

SPARTA, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Speedway’s winners club is seeking new members.

The biggest challenge is a demanding screening process.

Just four NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won the seven 400-mile events at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch have combined for five wins and were favored here last July, but Martin Truex Jr. got the victory on the way to the series championship. Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champion, won here in 2013.

Considering how points leader Busch, second-place Kevin Harvick — who has five consecutive top-10 Kentucky finishes — and Truex have combined for 13 wins this season, the Kentucky Speedway club might stay the same Saturday night.

At the same time, Erik Jones’ victory at Daytona offers hope that a new face might emerge if everything falls right. Truex won the pole on Friday, but Jones joined him on the front row.

“We ran well here last year finishing sixth and you can look back on your notes and say, ‘OK, this is what we did to get to this point,’ or that point and that makes things quite a bit easier from a driver’s standpoint,” Jones said. “Just having that notebook mentally and physically has been a pretty big advantage.”

Whether it’s enough to overcome the Kentucky dominance of Busch and Keselowski remains to be seen.

Busch, Jones’ teammate with Joe Gibbs Racing, has seven victories across all three NASCAR national series at Kentucky. He won most recently in 2015 on the way to the Cup title. He has the top driver rating (125.9) at Kentucky, with two wins, five top-fives and six top-10s in the Cup races. And he enters tied with Harvick with a season-best five wins this season.

Keselowski meanwhile is looking to continue his pattern at Kentucky in even-numbered years, winning in 2012, ‘14 and ‘16.

“I didn’t know how many people believed in numerology in this sport or in this world until I came to Kentucky this year,” Keselowski joked. “I’m not a numerology person, but I appreciate those that are.”

Truex is looking for more of the same from last year, when he led 152 of 274 laps and won under caution. He has won three times already this season and is just 120 points behind Busch in third place.

Truex secured his first Kentucky pole by clocking 188.890 mph in his No. 78 Toyota. Jones (188.739) will start second, followed by Harvick (188.547) and Keselowski (188.390) in Fords. Busch (188.206) qualified fifth.

“To be able to come here last year and get our first win at this track was huge,” Truex said. “We’ve been strong here the last couple of years and hopefully we can figure out how to race up front again all night tomorrow night and have a shot at winning at the end.”

Several other drivers also could get in the mix.

Harvick has five top-10s at Kentucky. Joey Logano has four top-10s, including eighth last year, but will start 19th. Ryan Blaney, 11th in points and hungry for his first win this season, also could break through.

“I’ve enjoyed this race track, whether it was before it got repaved or now,” said Blaney, who will start seventh. “They’re a lot different, the two, and it’s pretty neat that Brad and Kyle have been able to win on both configurations pretty easily. I feel like our team is pretty close to where it needs to be.”

Comments

China Grove

Reaper’s Realm owners promise beefed-up security after weekend shooting

Business

Contractor expands local footprint, takes on county’s coronavirus projects

News

Home Improvement: Holiday gifts to spark home improvement ideas

Elections

Political Notebook: Local parties will host watch parties for presidential debate

Crime

China Grove man cited for driving through school field

BREAKING NEWS

October closure hearings set for Faith, Enochville elementary schools

Crime

Police say man gave false name after high speed chase, crashing into lumber truck

Coronavirus

Nearly 400 cases considered currently active in the county

Education

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College creates free course to help parents tackle virtual learning

Business

New unemployment claims down in August, could indicate positive trend for businesses

Crime

Salisbury man faces drug possession charges after overdose call

Crime

Police: Man charged after children call 911 from neighbor’s house

Ask Us

Ask Us: Who are people behind sign at City Park playground?

Coronavirus

Prison in Salisbury latest site of COVID-19 outbreak

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury Man charged with felony assault by strangulation

Nation/World

Trump vows quick Supreme Court vote, Biden urges delay for Nov. 3

Nation/World

New rule may strip pollution protections from popular lakes

East Spencer

East Spencer draws crowd for annual community day

Elections

In Rowan’s legislative races, Howard, Warren get off to strongest start in fundraising

Business

From Navy SEAL to Medicare agent, Trent Waller looks to continue serving his community

Elections

In 13th Congressional District race, Budd, Huffman differ on government’s role in COVID-19 help

Local

Rowan County Telecommunications joins new state digital 911 system

Education

School board will consider scheduling public hearings for Faith, Enochville closures

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion makes donation to support racial equality and justice