Following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race 16 contenders were reduced by four drivers. The Bank of America 500 is the first race in the Round of 12 at takes place this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The points were reset for the top 12 drivers on the Chase Grid and their playoff points were added to their total to rank them as the next three-race round begins. These drivers have three races to either win and advance to the next round of The Chase or score enough points to stay out of the bottom four in total points when the round ends and the field is cut to eight drivers.
The first chance to get that magic advance with a win is Sunday, October 8th. The 12 championship contending drivers will race each other and 28 other drivers around the 1.5-mile track in Charlotte. This track is wide enough for plenty of side-by-side racing and long enough for plenty of high-speed racing. However, the track is also challenging enough that only 11 active drivers have ever scored a point-paying race at the track in NASCAR’s top division.
If there is not a balance between the speed in the car and the handling of the car, the result could be a very bad day for the driver. It could result in the driver not being able to drive fast enough to finish well in the race or even worse, the driver could lose control of the car and have the day end early in the garage area.
While making adjustments to get that balance of speed and handling the pit crews need to be mistake free and the drive needs to be mistake free getting on and off pit road. Any mistakes made during pit stops will lose spots on the track that a driver might have a hard time gaining back.
Which active drivers have performed well at Charlotte Motor Speedway during their Cup Series careers? Here’s a look.
Top 10 Driver Ratings at Charlotte
- Jimmie Johnson – 110-4
- Kyle Busch – 105.6
- Matt Kenseth – 96.1
- Denny Hamlin – 95.8
- Erik Jones – 94.6
- Kasey Kahne – 93.6
- Joey Logano – 91.9
- Kevin Harvick – 89.1
- Kurt Busch – 88.0
- Martin Truex Jr. – 86.9
Driver names in red are current championship contenders
NOTE: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2017 races (25 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson not only is at the top of the Driver Ratings, he is the defending winner of the 2016 Bank of America 500. He is also the all-time leader in Cup Series wins at Charlotte having won eight races at the track in NASCAR’s top division. You can bet he will try his best to add to that win list and advance to the next round in NASCAR’s playoffs.
Kasey Kahne was eliminated from championship contention heading into this weekend’s race. Kasey is next on the list of Charlotte winners with four trophy from the track on his shelf at home. Winning number five after being eliminated from the Chase Grid would be quite a statement.
Kevin Harvick has three wins at the track while Matt Kenseth and Jamie McMurray have two wins each. All three of these drivers advanced to the Round of 12 on the Chase Grid and can still win the 2017 championship title. Winning this weekend would get them to the next round automatically.
Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski both advanced to this round of the playoffs and both have a single Charlotte win on their resumes. Martin won the first race of round one in The Chase this year and based on his dominance this season will have a good chance at doing the same thing in the Round of 12. Brad has been strong most of the year and could easily get that automatic advance with a win this weekend.
Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway earlier this year for his only win at the track. Kurt Busch also has a single Charlotte win in Cup Series action. Both drivers found themselves below the cutoff line after last weekend’s race and were eliminated from the Chase Grid as a result. Both would love to play spoiler to the drivers that advanced by getting the win this weekend.
Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano didn’t make the Chase Grid this season, but they both have a Charlotte win on their resumes. They would be equally happy to play spoiler to the championship contenders this week.
Of course the Chase Grid drivers that have not won at Charlotte would love to get that first win at the track and advance automatically to the next round of the playoffs. The non-contending drivers that have not won at the track want to simply win the race to add to their own list of tracks where they have been victorious.
Bonus points and playoff points have already proven to be valuable this season and in The Chase. That means the first two stages of the race (90 laps each) will likely be hotly contested as they have been pretty much all season long. The final stage is 154 laps and winning that stage pays the most points, so hotly contested might end up being an understatement for this stage.
The action will get started Sunday. October 8th at 1:00 PM central time (2:00 PM eastern time) at Charlotte Motor Speedway when the green flag waives to start the Bank of America 500.
By: Buck Stevens