Martin Truex Jr. is no longer looking to avenge a near-miss at Kentucky Speedway. Instead, the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion returns to the hills of Sparta, Kentucky to defend his Quaker State 400 title.
Heading into last year’s race at Kentucky, Truex was second in the points race and looking to avenge a disappointing finish in the 2016 race. The New Jersey native dominated last year in a victory he called “sweet redemption” at the time.
With last year’s win, Truex joined Matt Kenseth as the only driver not named Keselowski or Busch to win the Quaker State 400, presented by Walmart.
“To go back there after what happened (in 2016) and get our first win at Kentucky was awesome,” Truex said. “It was the kind of win that’s a real confidence booster and gave us a lot of momentum for the rest of the year.”
Truex had a 16-second lead as the final laps of last year’s race counted down before Kurt Busch brought out a caution, which triggered seven laps of NASCAR’s overtime-finish format.
Truex was able to hold off the field on worn tires and take control of the points race. He currently sits third in the points with three wins and is already guaranteed a spot in the MENCS playoffs.
In the early years of Kentucky Speedway, bumps made the 1.5-mile track notorious among NASCAR circuits.
Now, since the redesign and repaving of the track in 2016, turn three is what Kentucky Speedway is known for among drivers.
“Getting your car to work in (turn) three is the real challenge,” Truex said. “Cars are going fast out of (turn) two and carrying a lot of speed going into (turn) three. It’s definitely tricky – not optimum as far as how you would want a track set up.”
The ability of the teams to stay on top of a car’s setup, combined with the driver’s skill is why success in the Quaker State 400 is a good indicator of success in the MENCS championship.
“Turn three is really … what sorts them out,” Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said at a tire-testing session in May. “The drivers that really have a lot of skill, and now also a lot of experience, have continued to do well here. … We’ve probably stratified it even more with the changes to one and two, and made it even more difficult for the outsiders to compete here.”
In the recent commercials for the Quaker State 400, Truex tells viewers that turn three “keeps you up at night.”