Observations• Kentucky Speedway’s lone Sprint Cup Series date might be in jeopardy without ever having a chance to live. Attendance has dropped markedly each season since the inaugural sellout in 2011, which was accompanied by massive traffic and parking problems that left fans stranded hours on nearby highways. The old adage “You get one chance to make a first impression” apparently still rings very true. Less than half of the grandstands were filled Saturday night. How long before owner Bruton Smith decides he would be better served by a second date at Las Vegas than continuing to struggle to recover what’s left of the Kentucky track’s fan base?
• Every race TNT has broadcast this season has included audio problems that have raised the ire of fans. Saturday night’s broadcast included the same audio issues but also included a video disruption. In a statement, a TNT spokesperson called the issue “isolated breaks” in its satellite transmission. One time is an accident, twice a problem that needs to be addressed. Five times? Unacceptable.
• The performance by Team Penske in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races this weekend indicates the gap between it and the rest of the Ford teams – particularly on intermediate tracks – only seems to be growing wider.
Winning hurts for Keselowski: Brad Keselowski dominated Saturday night’s race, but not long into his Victory Lane celebration he was on his way to the infield care center.
While shaking a champagne bottle in Victory Lane, the bottle broke and Keselowski received a nasty cut on his right hand that which required four stitches to close.
“We were playing around with some champagne bottles and as I told my good friend, ‘We should have stuck with beer.’ We were having too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open,” he said.
“I’m just glad we won. It’s a lot better story when you win and get hurt.”
Hamlin in a bad stretch: Denny Hamlin was running strong Saturday night when a flat right-front tire sent his No. 11 Toyota careening into the wall in Turn 3 on Lap 28.
Hamlin was done for night and credited with a 42nd-place finish – his third consecutive finish of 26th or worse.
“It looked like the right-front just delaminated and blew out,” Hamlin said. “It’s similar to a lot of tire problems that we’ve seen throughout the year. A green race track – things like that.”
Logano slows to finish: Joey Logano spent most of the night keeping pace with Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski and even sometimes leading him.
Late in the race, however, a dropped cylinder in the engine of Logano’s No. 22 Ford slowed him and he ended up ninth.
“Brad had the best car. Brad was ridiculously fast from the time he unloaded,” Logano said. “I can see what he’s got in his car and everything – he’s just fast.”
Newman earns first top-five: Ryan Newman, who finished third, earned his first top-five finish of the season, and his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team continued the improvement its shown over the past month.
Newman has finished 11th or better in three of his past four races.
“It’s nice for us on the No. 31 side to get a top-five, and it’s something to build on for sure,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to go out and win the next race, but it gives us some confidence, and confidence is very powerful in our sport.”
Five key moments
1 . Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth suffered right-front tire failures during the first 121 laps, knocking them out of contention.
2 . Brad Keselowski, who started from the pole, showed his dominance early and led the first 78 laps.
3. Aric Almirola’s wreck on Lap 214 happened just after green-flag pit stops began. Kyle Busch already had stopped and held the lead on the restart on Lap 220. Keselowski restarted in sixth.
4. Joey Logano, who had kept pace with Keselowski all night, dropped a cylinder in his car’s engine on Lap 242 of 267 and fell back several positions.
5. Keselowski ran down Busch and passed him for the lead with 19 laps remaining.