The story lines to watch Saturday night in the fifth running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway:
Gordon's bid for history
Jeff Gordon entered the final year of an iconic NASCAR driving career with at least one win at every track on the Sprint Cup circuit — but one. On Saturday, Gordon gets his final chance to put Kentucky Speedway in his win column.
If Gordon succeeds, he would be the first driver in NASCAR history to have won at every track on the schedule in a season (Gordon also owns wins at Rockingham and North Wilkesboro, where the Cup Series no longer runs).
Can Gordon do it?
A year after winning four races and being a legitimate threat to claim his fifth Sprint Cup championship, Gordon has, by his standards, struggled in 2015. The No. 24 car comes to Kentucky with no wins and 10th in the points.
Gordon's history at Kentucky Speedway is mixed. On the plus side, he is one of only four drivers — Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth are the others — to have finished in the top 10 in all four Quaker State 400s.
However, Gordon has never led a lap in Sparta and his highest career finish is fifth (2012).
'Bad Brad' vs. 'Rowdy'
Brad Keselowski (336), Kyle Busch (274) and Jimmie Johnson (203) have combined to lead more than three-fourths (76.1 percent) of the 1,068 Sprint Cup laps run at Kentucky Speedway.
Johnson, however, has never won in Sparta. Keselowski and Busch, meanwhile, seem in a perpetual battle for Kentucky supremacy.
Busch won the inaugural Quaker State 400 (2011) and is the only driver to win in four different series — ARCA (2003), trucks (2011 and '14), Xfinity (2004) and Cup — in Sparta.
Keselowski has won four times in Kentucky since 2011, twice (2012 and '14) in Cup and twice (2011 and '13) in the Xfinity Series.
Of the two rivals, there's no question who needs victory at Kentucky Speedway more in 2015.
With an early-season victory at California, Keselowski is all but certain to qualify for The Chase.
After missing the first 11 races of the season due to injuries suffered in a crash in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona, Busch stands 37th in points, albeit with a race win at Sonoma.
Since Busch has a Cup victory, NASCAR has said he can qualify for The Chase if he can get into the top 30 in season points. He is currently 37th, 128 points behind 30th-place Cole Whitt.
For the first time, the winner of the Quaker State 400 will get more than a trophy. The victor will also get a Crosley Slimline Jukebox (retail cost: $8,999.95).
"I'm told if you win the race you get a jukebox," 2014 Quaker State 400 winner Brad Keselowski said. "Where was that last year?"
The jukebox, produced by Louisville-based Crosley Brands, holds 80 CDs of music. A software package is used to create individual cards for each album with song selections.
This allows the owner to personalize the selections, said Crosley Brands publicist Jeff Parrish.
Winners of Thursday's Camping World Truck Series race and Friday's Xfinity Series event received smaller CR1206A model Crosley jukeboxes (retail of $1,799.95).
Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger says the hope is that the Crosley jukeboxes will eventually become for the Speedway what the famous grandfather clocks that go to winners at Martinsville Speedway are to that track.
In a 'Happy' place?
Defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick has been dominant so far in 2015 on mile-and-a-half tracks. In five races, Harvick has finished first (Las Vegas), second three times (Kansas, Atlanta, Texas) and ninth (Charlotte).
Given that, one would surmise Harvick should be among the favorites on the mile-and-a-half Kentucky Speedway tri-oval. Especially when you factor in that the Bakersfield, Calif., product has won twice in Sparta (2001 and 2014 June race) in the series now known as Xfinity.
Yet, surprisingly, Harvick's Cup record at Kentucky Speedway is so-so. He's never finished better than seventh and has only two top 10s in four races.
New rules package
For the Quaker State 400, NASCAR is introducing new specifications designed to lessen downforce on the cars. Rear spoiler heights will be reduced from 6 to 3.5 inches, the front splitter expanded by 25 inches and an overhang reduced by 1.75 inches.
The goal is to create racing that will feature more passing.
Will it work?
Rainy weather canceled planned test sessions to try out the new package Wednesday and Thursday.
"After talking with the team and some of the wind tunnel stuff they've done, I don't expect there to be something crazy different with the setup," Jamie McMurray said Thursday. "It's just going to be less grip. It will be interesting to see how important tires are going to be. ... I think the wear will be a little bit less."
Back-to-back for Junior?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. comes to Kentucky Speedway off victory at Daytona.
History suggests Earnhardt Jr.'s chances of putting together a second straight victory by winning at Kentucky are more than viable.
In four prior Cup races in Sparta, Earnhardt Jr. has two top fives, a fourth in 2012 and a fifth last year.
So far in 2015, Earnhardt Jr. has finished well on mile-and-a-half tracks. He has four third-place finishes and a fourth.
Danica reaches milestone
The Quaker State 400 is slated to be the 100th Sprint Cup start in the career of Danica Patrick. She has six top 10s and the pole position for the 2013 Daytona 500 to show for her first 99 starts.
Interestingly, if Patrick, 33, runs all 36 Cup races in 2015, she will have competed more often in Sprint Cup (118 times) than she did in the IndyCar Series (115 career starts).
In her Sprint Cup career, Kentucky Speedway has never been an especially hospitable track for Patrick. The Roscoe, Ill., product has finished 23rd and 21st in her two Quaker State 400 runs.