SPARTA — Who's up and who's down after the fourth Sprint Cup race in Kentucky Speedway history:
Checkered flag: Brad Keselowski. As the only driver to win in Sparta in all three NASCAR national touring series, Kyle Busch has been the "King of Kentucky Speedway."
"Bad Brad" might now have usurped him.
Keselowski is the first two-time Cup winner at Kentucky after claiming his second Quaker State 400 in three years with a dominant performance (he led 199 of 267 laps) Saturday night.
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Since 2011, Keselowski has won four NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway, with two Nationwide victories (2011, 2013), too.
Keselowski's Cup victory at Kentucky in 2012 launched him to that season's championship. He hopes this year's victory in Sparta will have the same propulsion.
Black flag: Brad Keselowski's victory celebration. The driver who had all but no trouble running 400 miles over "the toughest track on the circuit" wound up needing four stitches in his right hand because of a (insert throat-clearing sound) victory lane injury.
Lesson: When you are shaking a champagne bottle, probably best not to bang it into the corner of a podium — which Keselowski, driver of the Miller Lite Ford, said he did.
After the bottle exploded in his hand, Keselowski said he "tried to do the guy thing" and shake off his injury — until he realized he was slinging blood all around victory circle.
He then made a fast break to the infield care center to get stitched up.
Lesson II: "I should just stick to beer," Keselowski said.
My question: When is NASCAR going to get serious about victory lane safety?
Checkered flag: Hendrick Motorsports. There still has not been a win at Kentucky for the "New York Yankees of NASCAR," but for the second time in three years Hendrick put all four of its drivers — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (fifth), Jeff Gordon (6th), Kasey Kahne (8th) and Jimmie Johnson (10th) — in the top 10.
Black flag: Roush Fenway Racing. Berea College graduate Jack Roush's three cars were no factor Saturday night. Greg Biffle finished 14th, Carl Edwards struggled to get up to 17th and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 25th.
Checkered flag: The fantastic four. Coming into the 2014 Quaker State 400, four drivers — Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth — had finished in the top 10 of every Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.
After Saturday — Busch second, Kenseth fourth, Gordon sixth, Johnson 10th — that remains true.
Black flag: Jimmie Johnson. He might have clocked another top 10 at Kentucky, but the 48 car was sabotaged by a subpar qualifying effort (25th). Johnson was never a threat to win Saturday night — unlike in 2011 and last year, when he easily could have won both times.
Said Johnson: "We had a bad-fast car; we just messed up on Friday and got behind the eight ball."
Checkered flag: Ryan Newman. His third-place finish moved Newman up to eighth in the points. He is now behind only Matt Kenseth (fifth) among winless drivers in the standings. Barring a late run of first-time winners in the next nine races, both Newman and Kenseth look to be in good shape to earn a spot in the Chase whether they earn a victory themselves or not.
Black flag: Kyle Larson. If The Chase started today, the winless rookie would get in on points. However, after he finished 40th at Kentucky following an accident caused by a cut tire, he dropped from 10th to 12th in the traditional points standings. With 16 Chase slots and 10 different race winners so far this year, Larson is now fourth in points among winless drivers and in highly vulnerable position to being bumped out of The Chase.
Checkered flag: Kentucky Speedway. Even though it poured rain mid-afternoon Saturday, the Quaker State 400 went off on time and ran without a weather interruption. Of the four Sprint Cup races in Sparta, this one seemed to go off the smoothest.
Black flag: Kentucky Speedway. There has never again been anything close to the massive crowd that turned out for the 2011 inaugural Cup race — which, of course, got snarled in the infamous "Carmageddon" traffic jam entering the facility.
Since Speedway Motorsports, Inc., bought the track, Kentucky Speedway does not provide attendance numbers. I would guess 70,000, give or take, for this year's race. It was a good crowd, but there were a lot of empty seats in a grandstand that now holds 106,000.