SPARTA, KY- This is something most NASCAR fans want to hear: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a big favorite to win Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval.
Earnhardt Jr. set a new track record in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session with a speed of 183.636 mph. He will have the best track position at the beginning stages of the race and if he can stay there most of the night he will be among the favorites to end up in victory lane after 400 miles.
Now, I know most of you will say just because he’s the pole winner doesn’t mean he’s the favorite.
This is a different circumstance.
Many of the drivers have said all day today that track position is going to be key here Saturday night. Martin Truex Jr. said in his media availability today that passing is going to be very tough on race day.
“Between the bumps, the banking and not enough grip up high it’s going to be a tough race.” Truex, last week’s Sprint Cup winner, went on to say, “The bottom lane is flat, the middle has grip but there’s nothing above that. The groove last year never seemed to move up. It should be no different than it was last year.”
That’s good news for Earnhardt and the rest of the starters up front.
That means Earnhardt who has a very fast race car and good car in race trim should pull away early. Obviously, it’s going to come down to late race strategy or like last year pit strategy, but Earnhardt heading into tomorrow night’s race with a strong car gives me no reason to think otherwise.
This could be huge for Earnhardt as he fell down to seventh in the standings after a rough stretch of races. He is rebounding as he’s finished in the top 15 in three of the last four races and has a potentially race winning car this weekend.
Also, the series is at one of Earnhardt’s strongest tracks next weekend in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, so he could potentially make himself a major player in the championship over the next couple of races.
Eric Smith is the Lead Motorsports Writer for Race Review Online. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru
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