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Quaker State 400 Preview

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I originally had a thought process coming into this week that the Joe Gibbs Racing team would be the drivers to beat Saturday night in the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. After being informed Toyota's reduction in horsepower -- as we saw at Pocono and Michigan -- will be continued this week, contrary to earlier reports, some strategies are going to have to be changed and altered.

It's hard to get the Matt Kenseth wins at Las Vegas, Kansas and Darlington out of my head. The same goes for Kyle Busch who rolled to wins at Fontana and Texas. But those performances are long gone, and for a team trying to win championships as many of the Gibbs and Waltrip drivers are, they can't keep having engines expiring.

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For Busch, I was salivating at the chance to wager on him just because of all his past success at Kentucky. There have only been two Cup races at Kentucky -- Busch won the inaugural race in 2011, but he's had all kinds success there in other series. He's claimed a Nationwide Series win, a Truck series win and also won as an 18-year old in an ARCA race. Few drivers have had more time racing at Kentucky than Busch.

The 1.5-mile tri-oval with 15 degrees of banking in the turns was an ideal situation to see the Kenseth and Busch get back to their early season ways. Denny Hamlin was also a driver to consider as he attempts to make his charge in the Chase. In Hamlin's case, he has to win, and win now. He can't be too happy about program changes while trying make a miraculous season comeback after missing four races this season due to a back injury.

With questions still surrounding drivers that would have been favorites, you have to go back and kind of run a similar process before Michigan where you give Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne strong considerations, while also bumping Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards more into the equation. Kahne has finished second three times on the four 1.5-mile tracks raced on this season.

On the same note, Kevin Harvick is due to steal another one, and Brad Keselowski -- last year's Kentucky winner -- has got to eventually get a win on the season.

One of the best long shots on the board is probably Joey Logano. He's shown more power on 1.5-mile tracks this season than his teammate Keselowski, and he's also got some pretty good credentials at Kentucky in other series. Maybe not as impressive as Busch, but he does have a couple Nationwide wins there.

Despite Kahne having some recent issues, I like him the best to come out on top based on his success at Las Vegas, Kansas and Charlotte. If he can stay on the track, he should be one of the drivers to beat.

Ultimately, you still have give Busch consideration despite less horsepower. Busch wasn't a strong contender at Pocono and Michigan, but did finish the race get top-10's. His past excellence on the track accounts for a lot here this week. Instead of being the favorite to win this week though, he's taken down a few notches.

Top-5 Finish Prediction

1) #5 Kasey Kahne (8/1)
2) #16 Greg Biffle (20/1)
3) #99 Carl Edwards (12/1)
4) #48 Jimmie Johnson (6/1)
5) #18 Kyle Busch (6/1)
  
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