New tires vs. old tires, track position vs. better grip, clean air vs. working through the field. It's a common theme in NASCAR, especially late in the race when strategy plays a key role.
When it came to Kentucky, one more can be added to that list: dominant car vs. pit strategy.
Just over 30 laps to go, final pit call of the day, pressure is on. Jimmie Johnson, who at that point led nearly two-thirds of the race, gets some fresh tires. Matt Kenseth, seeking to gain some momentum he lost during the month of May and early June, gets told by the crew to go gas-only.
Kenseth out first, Johnson must make the pass...and the drama unfolds. Restart goes, Kenseth doesn't, Johnson then spins out going for the lead, and costs his team dearly. He comes in, and with fresh tires on all corners, charges through the field. But, time ran out, and the car that seemed to be destined for victory was left barely in the top-10.
On the other hand, Kenseth was the one on cruise control, as despite older tires, the clean air gave him the edge needed to get the lead, and hold it for the fourth win of his 2013 season.
That win gave one writer his first victory on the year, and with some finishes less than stellar, it gave the standings a bit of a mix-up. Here's where everyone now stands following the Quaker State 400:
Patti Rodisch (598) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th (0)
Rob Tiongson (589) Carl Edwards finished 21st (1)
Kelly Crandall (574) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th (1)
Rob Blount (528) Kyle Busch finished 5th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (527) Kyle Busch finished 5th (2)
Sal Sigala Jr. (526) Jimmie Johnson finished 9th (0)
Billy Fellin (526) Brad Keselowski finished 33rd (1)
James Broomhead (520) Kyle Busch finished 5th (1)
Dustin Parks (514) Brad Keselowski finished 33rd (0)
Ryan O'Hara (486) Jeff Gordon finished 8th (0)
Kara Martin (454) Brad Keselowski finished 33rd (0)
Misan Akuya (433) Matt Kenseth WON (1)
Christopher Leone (384) Martin Truex Jr. finished 7th (0)
Next Race: NASCAR in essence has come full circle. The year started off in Florida under cloudy skies but high expectations. New cars, new drivers, new fire. Once again, the time has come for the sport to make it's return trips to tracks.
There is no other way to start the second half of the season than going back to where it began. It's still a Saturday night event, and it will be a shootout, but this isn't a short track. It isn't a 1.5-mile track either.
NASCAR is back in Daytona for it's annual Independence Day weekend celebration, meaning smaller spoilers, restricted engines, and uncertainty of what will occur.
Writers, picking and choosing is a chess match here, but somehow, have your picks submitted by Thursday, appropriately on July 4, by 10 p.m. ET for the Coke Zero 400.