Expect Joe Gibbs Racing to return to the front in tonight's race

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Joe Gibbs Racing hasn't made much noise in the NASAR Sprint Cup Series in the last month or so, but that's likely to change in tonight's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

After winning seven of the first 12 races of the year, a JGR Toyota hasn't gone to Victory Lane since Matt Kenseth won at Dover in mid-May.

But so far at Kentucky, JGR and its quasi-fifth team from Furniture Row Racing have been crushing it. JGR Toyotas led all four practices at the 1.5-mile track, with Carl Edwards atop the speed chart for three of them and Denny Hamlin one.

In Friday's third practice, all five of the affiliated Toyotas were in the top seven in terms of speed; in the final Happy Hour warm up, Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. were 1-2, with Kyle Busch not far behind in fifth.

Yes, the pavement is new at Kentucky.

Yes, the banking in the corners is new at Kentucky.

But with JGR having won three of the first five races here, you can say the usual suspects have been up front so far this weekend. And in truth, they are likely to remain there tonight.

Still, it's no slam dunk, because the competition is tough.

Kyle Larson had the best 10-consecutive-lap average speed and was third-fastest in single-lap speed in both the third practice and in Happy Hour. Although Larson has never won a Cup race and Chevrolet is winless in five tries at Kentucky, Larson could be tough in his Chip Ganassi-owned Chevy.

Kevin Harvick showed good speed yesterday and will have the all-important No. 1 pit stall, which will be advantageous in a race where track position will be of paramount importance.

From the Ford camp, Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, has two victories and is always tough at Kentucky. He can never be counted out here.

Right now, though, the odds suggest another Toyota triumph under the lights tonight. But then again, there's a reason they actually run the races instead of just talking about them.