Chevrolet seeks elusive Kentucky Cup win

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Chevrolet has won a lot in the Cup Series.

In fact, Chevy cars have gone to victory lane 781 times in Cup competition, most recently with Alex Bowman at Chicagoland Speedway.

But among all the active tracks the Cup Series has visited multiple times, there is one that continues to elude the bow tie: Kentucky Speedway, which the series returns to this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

The Cup Series has visited the 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Kentucky, eight times since 2011. Each time Chevrolet came up empty.

The winners of those eight races have been divided among Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and the now defunct Furniture Row Racing, which won the last two races.

Two facts put Chevy’s lack of Kentucky win in perspective.

The Cup Series has been going to Kentucky long enough that three manufacturers have won there. That would be Toyota (five wins), Ford (two wins) and … Dodge.

Yes, Dodge claimed a win at Kentucky in 2012 with Brad Keselowski. That was its final year of competition before leaving NASCAR.

Also, remember Jeff Gordon? The four-time champion and winner of 93 races won at least once on every track he raced on in Cup competition … except Kentucky. Gordon never led a lap on the oval and his best result in five starts was fifth in 2012.

How close has Chevy come to winning in Kentucky?

It’s finished second three times, with Kasey Kahne in 2012, Jamie McMurray in 2013 and Kyle Larson in 2017. None of them led a lap in their efforts.

The most promising efforts came from Jimmie Johnson in 2013 and Kevin Harvick in 2016.

Johnson 182 laps in 2013, but finished ninth after he spun on a restart on Lap 248 while defending second place from Joey Logano.

Three years later, Harvick started from the pole and led 128 laps but he lost the lead to Keselowski on a Lap 200 restart. Keselowski went the final 67 laps without pitting and won. Like Johnson, Harvick finished ninth.

Only three Chevrolet drivers in the field for Saturday’s race have won at Kentucky: Ty and Austin Dillon and William Byron.

Austin Dillon in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway in 2012. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Austin Dillon swept the Xfinity Series races there in 2012.

“Kentucky is one of those places I’ve always been pretty decent at, going back to the NASCAR Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series days,” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “We were able to win there, and any time that you head into a track that you’ve been successful at in the past you go in with some confidence.

“The repave is a few years old now (2016) so it should be fun to see how that’s shaping up. We will look forward to Kentucky as one of those places that we feel like we can run well at. At this point, we need a win in order to make it into the playoffs and that is our goal.”

Ty Dillon and Byron have one win each there in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. Dillon won in 2013 and Byron in 2016.

“Kentucky has lost a lot of grip quickly,” Byron said in a media release. “They repaved it less than five years ago and it has really gotten grayer and grayer each year. I’m sure it’s going to be even more slick this year when we go back. It’s one of those tracks that takes a while to get rubber, so you just have to almost wait for that process to happen and make sure you tune your car to the rubber and not the clean track. That’s really all I’m worried about is once the rubber lays down you know it’s going to be a different race track.”

While Chevy hasn’t found victory lane in Kentucky, its drought comes up short of Ford and Toyota and the tracks those two manufacturers took the longest to win at.

Ford’s longest stretch occurred at Martinsville Speedway.

From the track’s opening in 1949, it took 24 races before the blue oval finally won on the short track with Fred Lorenzen in April 1961.

For Toyota, which debuted in the Cup Series in 2007, the track that plagued it the most was Auto Club Speedway.

It took 11 races on the 2-mile speedway before Kyle Busch won there in March 2013. The race total before his win was helped by Auto Club hosting two races a year from 2004-2010.

Here are the tracks Chevrolet has its fewest Cup wins at courtesy of Racing Insights.

NASCAR America Presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Kyle Busch

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver joins Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to discuss this week’s news as well as take fan phone calls.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1, Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).