The word "parity" has floated through the air at Kentucky Speedway this week leading up to tonight's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series "Quaker State 400".

The battle for a place on Victory Lane has resulted in 12 different drivers hoisting trophies in this season's first 17 NSCS races. Of that dozen, nobody has taken a checkered flag this season after starting from the pole position.

The last Sprint Cup pole winner to make it to Victory Lane was Carl Edwards, who won at Phoenix International Raceway Nov. 14, 2010.

Joe Gibbs Racing talent Kyle Busch will try to stop the NSCS pole winner's winless streak tonight when his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing M&M's Toyota leads the inaugural 43-car field for tonight's "Quaker State 400" to the green flag.

He's is living proof that owning the pole is a promise waiting to be broken. He wheeled past Thursday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) "UNOH 225" pole winner Johnny Sauter and entered victory from the back of a 36-truck field after missing the drivers' meeting and prerace introductions that followed a sixth hour of NSCS practice that day.

Busch started from the rear of last night's NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) "Feed The Children 300" following a qualifying incident and raced past pole winner and fifth-place finisher Elliott Sadler to a third-place finish.

Both performances are reflective of the somewhat even competition in NASCAR's three national divisions and that hasn't escaped Busch's attention.

"The competition is so tight," Busch said. "Everybody has a real good sense of this (NSCS) car now, so there's no room for leeway in the rule book for us to get creative and make our car faster than anybody's else's. You notice it more come down to the end of the race and strategy. It's how pit strategy plays out, how fuel strategy plays out — that determines who you see in Victory Lane.

"It's not somebody coming off pit road eighth or 10th, then being able to pass everybody and get up to the lead. The cars are so equal and they run the same time, so any time you can get out front and not have to race the guys behind you it seems like a better opportunity to put yourself in Victory Lane."

No NSCS season has ever been cycled without a pole sitter driving to victory. When Bob Flock drove his '48 Oldsmobile to a win at Hillsboro, North Carolina's Occoneechee Speedway on Aug. 7, 1949, he started what is now a 62-year tradition that Busch hopes to extend to 63 tonight.

The "Quaker State 400" green flag will wave at 7:30 p.m. in front of a sold out Kentucky Speedway crowd.

Story by Jeff Hibbs

- KYS -