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Which wild card will finish higher at Kentucky?

June 25, 2012, , NASCAR.com



Which wild card will finish higher at Kentucky?

The Race for the Chase is on. Kentucky marks 10 races remaining until the Chase field is set and the wild-card positions take on more significance each and every week. Currently, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman hold the cherished two spots thanks to victories at Richmond and Martinsville, respectively.

Which current Chase wild-card holder will have the better finish at Kentucky?

KYLE BUSCH RYAN NEWMAN

You shouldn't pick against Kyle Busch at this race track. It's that simple.

In the inaugural Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway, the pole-sitter dominated -- at one point holding a lead of more than eight seconds during a 105-lap green-flag run -- on his way to Victory Lane. Actually, Busch was there twice, having won the Truck race earlier in the weekend.

Busch's season thus far hasn't been too shabby, with wins at Richmond and in the non-points Budweiser Shootout, five top-fives and seven top-10s. Yes, June has been unkind to Busch -- his average finish is 27th during the four races -- so the desire to reverse his misfortune might serve as a strong motivator.

And then there's the matter of the Chase itself. Since 2006, Busch has only missed the field once. When he has been in it, he never has finished higher than fifth. In 2008, he was 10th despite having won eight races. The past two seasons, he was last among those competing for the trophy.

When you're a competitor like Busch, you hunger to win the championship, especially if your older brother can hold over you that he has a title and you don't. Busch knows better than anyone that the best way to secure your spot in the Chase is to get as many wins as possible before it starts. What better place to pad his resume, and maybe become more than someone holding a wild-card spot, than at a track he's already proven he can dominate.

Deanna Engel, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

I am a consistency kind of guy, so I fully expect Ryan Newman to finish better than Kyle Busch at Kentucky and maintain his hold on one of the two wild-card berths for the Chase.

Newman was methodical in the inaugural race in the Bluegrass State last year. He started 18th, fell back to the low 20s and then just flat-out raced his way to a fourth-place finish. Newman's performance last year models what the driver of the No. 39 has done on cookie-cutter tracks this season. He finished fourth at Las Vegas, seventh at Fontana, 14th at Charlotte, and 15th a couple weeks ago at Michigan.

Despite not finishing in the top 10 since his win at Martinsville in April, Newman has been a model of steadiness. Take out his engine failure at Talladega, and Newman hasn't finished outside the top 25 all season. His past five races have seen him all over the top 10, with an average finish of 14.8 in that span.

On the flip side, the No. 18 just makes me nervous. If the month of May was a boom for Busch, then the month of June has been a complete bust. Three engine issues and a late spin at Sonoma have Busch plummeting in the standings. And the fact JGR has no clue what is happening with the engine means there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the No. 18 team heading to Kentucky.

Busch may have dominated last year, but Newman will be the top wild-card this weekend.

Bill Kimm, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Both drivers posted top-fives in Kentucky's inaugural race last season, with Busch dominating the entire race and heading to Victory Lane after leading 125 of the 267 laps. Newman finished a respectable fourth after starting 18th. With just six points separating the duo, both need big finishes at Kentucky, but which one will be able to deliver? Deanna Engel and Bill Kimm have their favorites. Read theirs and then weigh in with your pick in the comments below. And don't forget to vote in the poll at the right.