Every year, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to the bluegrass state of Kentucky. However, this was not the Kentucky we’re used to. The track conditions changed since they were racing in the daytime instead of the night temperature that they are used to. This year, no one expected this race to be an upset. Well, we were all wrong.
In a surprising last lap, rookie of the year contender, Cole Custer, won the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway for Stewart Haas-Racing. Custer, in the 41 Haastooling.com Ford Mustang, got a big shove from Ford Teammate Matt DiBenedetto going four wide to pass teammate Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Blaney. Custer led five laps, earned a playoff berth, locked himself into the All-Star Race, and got his first Cup Series win. Fun fact: Custer is the first rookie to win a race since Chris Buescher in 2016 at Pocono.
Even though Kevin Harvick did not win, he still made a charge to the front after struggling early on. The 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Mustang led 11 laps and it looked like he was going to get his first win at Kentucky. As previously stated, he lost the lead to teammate and eventual winner Cole Custer. Aric Almirola dominated stage one and led a good portion of stage two. The 10 Smithfield Vote For Bacon Ford led a race high 128 of 267 laps, but finished eighth. Clint Bowyer rounded out the SHR cars, finishing 14th in the 14 One Cure Ford.
The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas were quite average in today’s race. Two time Kentucky winner, Martin Truex Jr, was the highest finishing Gibbs car. He led 57 laps and finished second in the 19 Auto Owners Insurance Toyota Camry. Truex was one of the four cars battling for the win in the final laps. Denny Hamlin, who is tied for the points lead in the playoff picture, struggled, but came back to finish 12th in the 11 FedEx Freight Toyota. Another two time winner at Kentucky is defending champion Kyle Busch who drew the pole for the race and led nine laps in the 18 M&M’s Fudge Brownie Toyota. However, he struggled with a car that was “breaking” at one point, according to him. Busch is still winless in 2020. Erik Jones rounded up the Gibbs cars, finishing 22nd in the Built in Kentucky Camry.
Two of the three Team Penske cars finished in the top ten and were batting for the win. Ryan Blaney led 18 laps in the 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang. Blaney tried to use the low line in the four wide battle for the win, but was unable to make the pass. Brad Keselowski led 34 laps and won stage two in the 2 Snap-On Mustang. Keselowski had some frontal damage after spinning out Jimmie Johnson late in the race, and fell back to finish ninth. Joey Logano rounded out the cars, finishing 15th in the 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford.
Hendrick Motorsports has cars in the top ten and hoped to get a win on owner Rick Hendrick’s birthday. However, all would finish outside that mark this time. William Byron had the most success, leading four laps and finished 11th in the 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro. Jimmie Johnson was cleared to race after missing last week due to a positive COVID-19 test. Johnson was one of the cars that could have contended for a win, but was spun out by Brad Keselowski as he tried to block in the closing laps of the race. The 48 Ally Chevy finished 18th. Alex Bowman, in the 88 Cincinnati Camaro, finished one spot below Johnson and Chase Elliott finished 23rd in the 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevy.
Matt DiBenedetto led a lap and finished third in the 21 Menards/Quaker State Ford Mustang for the Wood Brothers.
Previous winner Kurt Busch didn’t lead a lap, but finished well in fifth place driving the 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro for Chip Ganassi Racing. Teammate Matt Kenseth struggled after an impressive run at the brickyard last week. The 42 Clover Chevy would wreck twice and finish 25th.
The next race is the All-Star race and Open at Bristol Motor Speedway. No points are on the line, but a big check is.
Quaker State 400 Results
- Cole Custer (R) 41 HaasTooling.com Ford Mustang Stewart-Haas Racing
- Martin Truex Jr. 19 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry Joe Gibbs Racing
- Matt DiBenedetto 21 Quaker State/Menards Ford Mustang Wood Brothers Racing
- Kevin Harvick 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang Stewart-Haas Racing
- Kurt Busch 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro Chip Ganassi Racing
- Ryan Blaney 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang Team Penske
- Christopher Bell (R) 95 Toyota Dealers Toyota Camry Joe Gibbs Racing
- Aric Almirola 10 Smithfield “Vote for Bacon” Ford Mustang Stewart-Haas Racing
- Brad Keselowski 2 Snap-on 100 Ford Mustang Team Penske
- Tyler Reddick (R) 8 Caterpillar Chevrolet Camaro Richard Childress Racing
- William Byron 24 Axalta Chevrolet Camaro Hendrick Motorsports
- Denny Hamlin 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry Joe Gibbs Racing
- Austin Dillon 3 Rig Up Chevrolet Camaro Richard Childress Racing
- Clint Bowyer 14 One Cure-Colorado State University Ford Mustang Stewart-Haas Racing
- Joey Logano 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang Team Penske
- Ty Dillon 13 GEICO Chevrolet Camaro Germain Racing
- Ryan Newman 6 Acronis Ford Mustang Roush-Fenway Racing
- Jimmie Johnson 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro Hendrick Motorsports
- Alex Bowman 88 CinCInnati Chevrolet Camaro Hendrick Motorsports
- Chris Buescher 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang Roush-Fenway Racing
- Kyle Busch 18 Fudge Brownie M&M’s Toyota Camry Joe Gibbs Racing
- Erik Jones 20 Toyota “Camry Built in Kentucky” Toyota Camry Joe Gibbs Racing
- Chase Elliott 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro Hendrick Motorsports
- Michael McDowell 34 Love’s/Delo Ford Mustang Front Row Motorsports
- Matt Kenseth 42 Clover Chevrolet Camaro Chip Ganassi Racing
- Daniel Suárez 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota Camry Gaunt Brothers Racing
- Bubba Wallace 43 Victory Junction Chevrolet Camaro Richard Petty Motorsports
- Corey LaJoie 32 Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net Ford Mustang Go Fas Racing
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 47 Kroger Chevrolet Camaro JTG-Daugherty Racing
- J.J. Yeley 27 Greenlight Debit Cards for Kids Ford Mustang Rick Ware Racing
- Brennan Poole (R) 15 Spartan Mosquito Pro Tech Chevrolet Camaro Premium Motorsports
- Josh Bilicki (R) 77 Austin Hatcher Foundation Chevrolet Camaro Spire Motorsports
- Garrett Smithley 53 Victory Lane Quick Oil Change/Kendall Oil Chevrolet Camaro Rick Ware Racing
- Joey Gase 51 Donate Life/Life Center Chevrolet Camaro Rick Ware Racing
- Quin Houff 00 Creek Enterprise Chevrolet Camaro StarCom Racing
- John Hunter Nemechek (R) 38 YANMAR Ford Mustang Front Row Motorsports
- Timmy Hill 66 RoofClaim.com Toyota Camry MBM Motorsports
- Ryan Preece 37 Kingsford Chevrolet Camaro JTG-Daugherty Racing
Ian O’Brien is a Contributor for the Unwrapped Sports Network. Follow him on Twitter @IanOBObrien.