Rare NASCAR XFINITY Series doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway

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NASCAR XFINITY Series logo 2020

SPARTA, Ky. (WTVQ) – In a state known for horsepower, it will be taken to the extreme this weekend by a talented group of steel jockeys in an unprecedented Thursday and Friday NASCAR XFINITY Series doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway.

Instead of thoroughbreds, drivers of these 700-horsepower NASCAR stock cars will take center stage at Thursday night’s Shady Rays 200 and Friday night’s Alsco 300. Both races will be covered by FS1, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR radio starting at 8 p.m. ET.

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The list of favorites starts with the JR Motorsports camp which had all four of its entries finish in the top 10 at last year’s Alsco 300.

Justin Allgaier heads the list of JR Motorsports drivers with four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 13 previous Kentucky starts. It includes a current stretch of five straight top-10 finishes on the challenging 1.5-mile speedway.

Allgaier, who has posted six top 10s this season, including a seventh place finish at the most recent event in Indianapolis, is still searching for that first victory of the year. His two best finishes of the year have come at Darlington and Charlotte. He’s anxious to better his Alsco 300 finish from last year, which was a seventh-place effort.

“I thought we had a third or fourth-place car,” Allgaier said. “Unfortunately we had some mistakes on pit road and I sped getting onto pit road, which really hurt us. That’s the best mile-and-a-half that I feel like we’ve had speed-wise all year. It wasn’t the night we wanted, but still a solid finish and a good points night.”

His toughest competition could come from teammate Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet. The teammates clashed earlier this year when Gragson made contact with Allgaier at Bristol. Gragson sped on to the victory, while Allgaier ended up with a wrecked race car.

Gragson, who is currently second in points, has posted three victories this season, with eight top fives and 10 top-10s. Following his Bristol win, Gragson wasn’t asking for forgiveness afterwards, commenting that Allgaier “probably owes me one.”

“I don’t make excuses. I apologized to the 7 car, but I’m here to win races for the No. 9 team and they put in way too much effort for me to ride around and finish second,” Gragson said after the Bristol race.

The Chevy drivers will have to contend with a pair of really fast Ford Mustangs.

Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, started from the pole for the 2019 race with a lap over 180 mph. He was running in the top five when his car got loose, made contact with another car and hit the wall. He ended with a 14th-place finish.

“Pretty disappointed in myself to not be able to capitalize on such a fast car, that we proved capable of running with the best in the series,” Cindric said. “Patience on my end was what cost us that chance to capitalize.”

The North Carolina driver looks to capitalize this time around. He has been strong on the mile-and-a-half tracks this season with runner-up finishes at Las Vegas and Homestead and a third-place finish at Charlotte. He finished fifth on the Indy road course this past weekend.

He will have to outrun red-hot Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Ford and a teammate to 2019 Kentucky winner Cole Custer. Briscoe ran in the top 10 throughout last year’s race before finishing fifth.

Briscoe has provided many of the highlights of the 2020 season including an emotional victory at Darlington, where he outdueled defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch for the win. Briscoe has scored five victories in the first 13 races, including the second race of a Homestead doubleheader. He has won two of the last three races, including victories at Pocono and Indianapolis this past weekend. Even so, he feels the season could be even better.

“The sad thing is that I feel like we could have more wins right now,” he said. “I felt we had the best car at the first Homestead race. Atlanta is another one that we threw away. Bristol and Daytona could have gone either way. I feel like we could have six wins out of 10. To have three is good.”

Harrison Burton, son of former Cup Series winner and current NBC analyst Jeff Burton, is another strong contender. Driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, he edged teammate Riley Herbst for the win at California.

More recently, Burton took advantage of a late caution to outrun Cindric for the win at Homestead. A true rookie in the XFINITY Series at Kentucky, he has raced at the track once before, coming back from a spin to finish third in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

Ross Chastain has 15 starts in the three NASCAR national series at Kentucky. It includes a top-10 finish in his XFINITY Series debut at the track in 2014. Driving for Kaulig Racing, the team has been on a roll recently with wins by A.J. Allmendinger at Atlanta and Justin Haley at Talladega.

Kentucky Speedway holds significant memories for Chastain, whose fourth-place finish in 2019 qualified him for the Truck Series playoffs.

“It seemed crazy to accomplish,” he said. “Pretty cool to be disappointed with fourth, we definitely want more.”

The Kentucky Speedway race weekend includes an action-packed five events. In addition to the Xfinity Series doubleheader under the lights on Thursday and Friday, the drivers in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will headline the action Saturday with the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 at 6 p.m. and will be preceded by the ARCA Menards Series General Tire 150 at 2:30 p.m. On Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series stars will take to the track in the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, starting at 2:30 p.m. Each of those races will be televised live on FS1. PRN will broadcast the Cup and Xfinity Series races, while MRN will carry the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.