Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

For the first time in a long time, Kyle Busch looked mortal.

Riding a streak of 14 top-five finishes in 17 races dating back to last year – a stretch that included four wins – the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion delved into a four-race tailspin in which he placed no better than 30th beginning at Dover (30th) and capped off with a 40th at Michigan.

Despite the setback, Busch seems back to his old ways following performances of seventh and second at Sonoma and Daytona, respectively.

On Saturday, Busch will vie for his fourth victory of the season in Saturday's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) where he is the defending winner and ranks tied with Brad Keselowski for first on the all-time list with two triumphs.


“We left Michigan with a DNF and headed to the test there in Kentucky, but Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys weren’t discouraged," Busch said of his cold streak. "We had run well, we just didn’t have any luck."


Statistically, Busch is the top competitor at Kentucky. He leads all active drivers at the 1.5-mile track in driver rating (129.1), average finish (3.8), average running position (4.6) and laps led (437).


Past success might not be the best indicator of performance in Saturday's race since Kentucky underwent a repave in the offseason.


"As for this weekend, there’s just a lot of unknowns going there with the repave and it’s essentially like going to a completely different venue," Busch said. "At the same time, our cars are fast with this 18 M&M’S team, we can run up front, and we can finish in the top-five in every race. We’ve just had some bad luck that has kept us from some other good finishes. Those finishes are frustrating, but I feel a bit better knowing that we have fast cars and are capable of finishing in the top-five every week.”


Gaughan goes for another win in The Bluegrass State


Brendan Gaughan expressed mixed emotions about this offseason's repave of Kentucky Speedway – his top track on the NASCAR XFINITY Series circuit.


“We loved the old surface and the bumps, but it  did need the resurfacing," Gaughan said. "They did reconfigure Turns 1 and 2 which bums me out a little bit. Turns 3 and 4 are some of my favorite corners. It’s the old school mile-and-a-half; flat, difficult and really tough to get around with the speed we carry. They kept the banking along there, so I am really happy about that."


Gaughan will get to see if he still enjoys Kentucky – statistically his top track – in Friday's Alsco 300 at the 1.5-mile oval (8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).


In seven Kentucky starts, Gaughan has never finished outside the top nine. He logged one of his two career NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in the Bluegrass State in 2014.


A virtual shoe-in for the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase at fifth in the point standings (115 points above Ross Chastain on the cutoff line), Gaughan believes he can start piling up some wins.


“I think Richard Childress Racing continues to provide us with the equipment we need to return to Victory Lane each and every week," he said.


Rhodes readies to make Chase in home track debut


NASCAR Next alumnus Ben Rhodes is beginning to show the potential he displayed when he won five races on his path to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship in 2014.


Following a bumpy 2015 season as a part-timer in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and an uneven start to his first full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign this season, the 19-year-old ThorSport Racing driver has produced career-best finishes in his last two starts – a fourth-place showing at Iowa and runner-up result at Gateway.


Rhodes will try to further improve by going for a win in his debut race at his hometown track of Kentucky Speedway – Thursday's Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).


"I’m really looking forward to the truck race at Kentucky Speedway," Rhodes said. "This is my home track and having the confidence of these two great finishes in my back pocket makes the experience even more enjoyable."


Rhodes is currently 10th on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase Grid, a mere 11 points behind Ben Kennedy on the cutoff line. A win would virtually assure him a spot in the eight-driver, seven-race playoffs.


"If I were able to get my first win at Kentucky Speedway Thursday, it would mean so much to me, I’m not really even able to put it in words," Rhodes said. "If it does happen, they better be ready because we’ll will have a huge crowd there supporting us through it all.”


NASCAR Race Weekend Guide


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Race: Quaker State 400 Presented By Advance Auto Parts

Place: Kentucky Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps)

What To Watch For: On Saturday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will run the updated lower downforce rules package it ran at Michigan. ... Brad Keselowski goes for his second straight victory after winning at Daytona. He is tied with Kyle Busch for the Kentucky Speedway wins record with two. ... Five Chase berths remain with nine races left until NASCAR's playoffs. ... Matt Kenseth – the only driver other than Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski to win at Kentucky (2013) – tries for his second win of the season. ... Roush Fenway Racing attempts to continue its momentum after placing all three of its drivers in the top 10 at Daytona: Trevor Bayne (third), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (fifth) and Greg Biffle (eighth).



Race: Alsco 300

Place: Kentucky Speedway

Date and Time: Friday, July 8, 8:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)

What To Watch For: Daniel Suárez attempts to widen his six-point lead in the standings over second-place Elliott Sadler. ... NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Josh Wise are on the entry list for Friday's race. ... Full-time series wins leader Erik Jones searches for his third victory of the season.


NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Race: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225

Place: Kentucky Speedway

Date and Time: Thursday, July 7 at 8:30 p.m. ET

Tune-in: FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 225 miles (150 laps)

What To Watch For: Matt Crafton tries to defend his 2015 Kentucky race win. ... William Byron attempts to extend his one-point lead over second-place Crafton in the standings. ... 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Brett Moffitt takes the saddle of the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota in place of Matt Tifft.