Kentucky Rear-View Mirror

Quaker State 400

Pete Pistone takes a look at some news, notes and observations from a weekend of racing at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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There hasn’t been a dominating performance like then one Martin Truex Jr. turned in Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway since the Furniture Row Racing driver decimated the field in the 2016 Coca-Cola 600.

Truex Jr.’s Quaker State 400 victory wasn’t quite as impressive as the night he led all but eight laps in Charlotte, but 152 in front of the field at Kentucky isn’t too shabby.

In the process, Truex Jr. has racked up 28 playoff points and with eight races left in the regular season, he has several more opportunities to increase his cushion that will carry through the playoffs as long as he’s eligible.

It might prove to be an insurmountable advantage for anyone to overcome and Truex Jr. has a distinct advantage of making it to the Championship Four race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

So far the year has been off the charts for Truex Jr. and the FRR team, which continues to outperform the Joe Gibbs Racing mother ship it shares an affiliation with through Toyota. While MTJ has three wins, JGR still is winless.

From the looks of Saturday night, it’s hard to imagine Truex Jr. won’t have several more notches in the win column before all is said and done.

  • Truex Jr.’s dominance compounded what was overall a lackluster race that didn’t feature as much side-by-side competition as most fans want to see. Kentucky’s two-year-old racing surface made it very difficult for a second groove to materialize despite the yeoman efforts by track management to create more racing room including the use of the “Tire Dragon” machine to lay down rubber around the 1.5-mile speedway. Of the six Cup races held at Kentucky, the best remains the 2015 edition of the Quaker State 400 when the track’s worn out surface and the advent of the new lower downforce rules package created one of the best races in recent memory.
  • “Silly Season” got a little sillier with Matt Kenseth’s admission he would more than likely not return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018. That set off a chain of speculation which includes Kenseth moving to Hendrick Motorsports to take over the No. 88 ride vacated by the retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr., keeping the seat warm for a year or two before William Byron is ready to move up from the XFINITY Series. The logical move for JGR is to bring Erik Jones in-house from Furniture Row Racing, but the snag in that scenario is the No. 77 team’s 5-Hour Energy sponsorship was grandfathered in when Monster Energy came on board as the series title sponsor. Because of those parameters it cannot move teams or organizations. But after weeks of discussion it now appears likely things for next season will start becoming more apparent in the coming days.
  • The future of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 ride beyond this season are still unclear but regular driver Aric Almirola could be back this week. Almirola has made great strides in his recovery from the back injury he suffered at Kansas Speedway in May and will test this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. If all goes well, Almirola could start next Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. His return leaves fill-in driver Bubba Wallace without a ride in either the Cup or XFINITY Series.
  • Officials at Kentucky Speedway found themselves in a controversy with some drivers over the preparation of the track’s racing surface this weekend. Kentucky underwent a repaving and reconfiguration prior to last year’s NASCAR weekend and in an effort to create as many racing grooves as possible, Kentucky employed the “Tire Dragon” machine to put down more rubber on the track. However, some drivers felt adding rubber to the lower groove of the track wasn’t the right thing to do. “We know what we’re doing,” was a response from the track’s Twitter account in response to those driver tweets. However, prior to Saturday’s races, the track had a reversal of plan and did work the higher groove of the track. "I think what a lot of drivers are forgetting is this track was resurfaced," said Steve Swift, Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s vice president of operations and development. "It's a brand new racetrack. So on a new track, you have to put rubber down in what is the groove, not what you want the groove to be."

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.

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