3 THINGS WE LEARNED FROM KENTUCKY

1. Hard tires

Goodyear went to “old reliable” by using super-hard tires at Kentucky Speedway to avoid tire issues. “It was the hardest thing on the planet,” three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart said after the race. “The NHL doesn’t have anything on them on a hard puck.”

2. Crazy eight

Matt Kenseth finished eighth at Kentucky Saturday night and was genuinely pleased the way his No. 20 Toyota handled. “It’s the best we ran in two months, really,” he said. “I thought we had a top-3 to a top-5 car.” Fuel mileage was Kenseth’s undoing at Kentucky.

3. ‘Brad Speedway’

Brad Keselowski has 21 career NASCAR Cup Series wins and three of those have been earned at Kentucky. Since Kentucky has hosted only six Cup races, Keselowski has won half those races staged at the 1.5-mile oval since 2011. He has won every other year since 2012.

3 THINGS TO WATCH

1. Streaks

There are several interesting streaks in Cup Series racing right now, but the two most interesting belong to Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. Keselowski is on a two-race winning streak with wins at Daytona and Kentucky. Busch has finished every lap of all 18 races staged to date. There have been 5,202 laps run this season and Busch has finished each one. He is the last man standing in this ironman category.

2. Real standings

The points standings on the left side of this page are the points standings, but are not the standings being tracked by NASCAR Cup Series competitors. The real standings have Brad Keselowski at the top of the board with four wins this season, followed by Kyle Busch with three victories. Tony Stewart is 11th in the Chase standings thanks to that win at Sonoma. Jamie McMurray is on the bubble based on points.

3. Rookie battle

Every so often we have to remind you of the tremendous battle for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors. The two kids way out front here are Chase Elliott, who right now is qualified for the Chase playoffs, and Ryan Blaney, who is just beyond the cut line. They crashed each other out at Kentucky. Not surprisingly, four of the five rookie contenders crashed at Kentucky. 

QUESTIONS & ATTITUDE 

Compelling questions... and maybe a few actual answers

Forget Junior, what about Jimmie?

Jimmie Johnson’s struggles for much of 2016 have largely taken place outside the spotlight’s glare. Two reasons for this: 1. He did win twice in the first five weeks (Atlanta and Fontana), which puts him two up on Junior in the W column. And 2. When you’re sailing in Junior’s orbit, you tend to get overshadowed in good times and bad.

Is this unprecedented for the No. 48?

Our Research Dept. shows that since a third-place finish at Richmond in late April, Jimmie has had one top-10 in nine starts. Three finishes of 32nd or worse in the past five races. We had to dig back to 10-race stretch in 2004, when he had six finishes of 32nd or worse.

So he stays in your weekly top-10 ranking down below?

It’s tempting to bump him, but there’s too much history. Our Research Dept. also tells us, after all, after that bad stretch in ’04, Jimmie won three straight and four of the next five. But give it a couple more weeks, and we may punt history to the wall.

SPEED FREAKS

A couple of questions we had to ask- ourselves

Of the non-winners not currently inside the Chase cutoff, who is the best bet to win a race?

GODSPEAK: Give me Kasey Kahne (18th), because Kasey can win a race. He’s overdue for a win.

KEN’S CALL: Kyle Larson (19th in points) has three top-fives, so statistically I’ll go with him.

Any chance Martin Truex Jr. is ridding himself of all bad luck before the Chase?

GODSPEAK: We’re talking about the guy I picked to win the title. He will be fine.

KEN’S CALL: Like Harvick two years ago, maybe. Or, you know, maybe not.

We’ll keep asking, can Junior get it together?

GODSPEAK: Winning will cure all of Junior’s problems. I think he is saving up for September.

KEN’S CALL: We’re 18 races into 2016, with too many issues. Making the Chase is his top-end this year.

FEUD OF THE WEEK

CHASE ELLIOTT VS. RYAN BLANEY: Blaney tried to go three-wide on Lap 88 at Kentucky and sent both Elliott and himself into the outside wall. “I really didn’t know how that was going to work,” Elliott said.

GODWIN KELLY’S TAKE: Chalk this one up to a rookie mistake that cost two rookies. Blaney got caught in the heat-of-the-moment restart. One of them deals, as they say.

GODWIN'S PICKS FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE

WINNER: Brad Keselowski

REST OF TOP 5: Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Joey Logano

FIRST ONE OUT: Regan Smith

DARK HORSE: Kasey Kahne

DON’T BE SURPRISED IF: “Kez” and his super-hot No. 2 Ford make it three straight Cup Series wins.

DID YOU KNOW?

This week’s race at New Hampshire is 301 laps (the “New Hampshire 301”) while the Sept. 25 race is 300 laps (the “New England 300”). The extra lap for this week’s race stems from the event’s former title sponsor (Lenox Tools) and the company’s slogan regarding tools that “go the extra mile.” Nowadays, the extra lap simply serves to differentiate the two races in some small way.

WHAT'S ON TAP? 

SPRINT CUP: New Hampshire 301

SITE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1.058 mile oval)

TV SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (NBC Sports Network, 11:30 a.m.), qualifying (NBCSN, 4:45 p.m. Saturday, practice (CNBC, 10 a.m.; NBCSN, 12:30 p.m.). Sunday, race (NBCSN Sports, coverage begins at 1 p.m., green flag at 1:45 p.m.)

XFINITY: AutoLotto 200

SITE: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

TV SCHEDULE: Friday, practice (NBCSN, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.). Saturday, qualifying (NBCSN, 11:15 a.m.), race (NBCSN, 4 p.m.)

SPRINT CUP POINTS

1. Kevin Harvick 599

2. Brad Keselowski 595

3. Kurt Busch 583

4. Carl Edwards 566

5. Joey Logano 533

6. Kyle Busch 521

7. Martin Truex Jr. 514

8. Chase Elliott 492

9. Jimmie Johnson 484

10. Matt Kenseth 477

11. Denny Hamlin 472

12. Ryan Newman 463

13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 461

14. Austin Dillon 460

15. Jamie McMurray 439

16. Trevor Bayne 429

17. Kasey Kahne 423

18. Ryan Blaney 415

19. Kyle Larson 412

20. AJ Allmendinger 398

21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 389

22. Greg Biffle 359

23. Paul Menard 343

24. Danica Patrick 327

25. Aric Almirola 325

26. Clint Bowyer 322

27. Casey Mears 279

28. Landon Cassill 271

29. David Ragan 263

30. Tony Stewart 248