Charlotte Weekend Preview: Larson focused as Round of 12 kicks off at Charlotte

Kyle Larson (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kyle Larson was satisfied with his Round of 16 performance, but knows he has plenty of work left in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

“Even though we started the playoffs with a pretty nice cushion, and looked good to make the next round, I was glad to see our Chevys were strong throughout the first round and we had three solid finishes,” said Larson, who enters the Round of 12 third on the Playoff Grid, 24 points ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on the cutoff line. “It’s great to have both me and (Chip Ganassi Racing teammate) Jamie (McMurray) through to the second round, but I know things are going to get more intense for us in this round.”

The intensity he mentioned starts with the Round of 12 opener – Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

In eight career starts at Charlotte, Larson has one top five, two top 10s and a 19.8 average finish. He placed a career-track-best fifth in last season’s Charlotte fall race. Larson finished 33rd in this year’s May race after wrecking out of the competition.

“Charlotte has been kind of a hit or miss track for me, but I’m usually pretty good during the day there, so hopefully a day race will favor me,” Larson said.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver has a 3.2 average finish when he’s finished the race at 1.5-mile tracks this year. He’s in the midst of a breakout season where he’s posted career bests in wins (4), top fives (14), top 10s (18) and laps led (1,109) with seven races remaining.

“We obviously want to win in each round and not have to worry about the points, but if we can continue to be consistent and finish around the top-five, we should put ourselves in a good position to move on.” We just need to stay focused and work to be mistake free this weekend.”

Reed fights for final transfer spot

At the moment, Ryan Reed is clinging onto the final transfer spot to the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs Round of 8.

The 24-year-old Californian sits two points above ninth-place Brendan Guaghan for advancement heading into Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross and Blues Shield of North Carolina cutoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Ryan Reed (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Reed finished 10th in the Xfinity Playoffs opener at Kentucky and 16th last week at Dover. In eight career starts at Charlotte, he owns a high finish of 11th and an average showing of 13.9.

Reed advanced to the Round of 8 last season, placing sixth in the final championship standings.

“Charlotte is obviously a huge race for us,” Reed said. “Being a cutoff race and currently only being two points (ahead), it is super important to be fast and not make any mistakes. Charlotte is a good track for us and another 1.5-mile track, and our 1.5-mile program is where we are the strongest.”

NASCAR pit crews compete in fitness challenge

Before the racing gets started this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR teams from across the sport competed for a cause in the first ever NASCAR Fitness Challenge powered by Lilly Diabetes, the Official Diabetes Health Partner of NASCAR.

More than 50 team and pit crew members showcased their athleticism in a relay, endurance competition on stationary bikes at the NASCAR Hall of Fame plaza. Joe Gibbs Racing’s teams were out front in the first two heats and all four of its teams made the finals.

Team 20 from Joe Gibbs Racing had the most power and speed, winning the final round and $15,000 from Lilly Diabetes. The winning team plans to donate the money to The Pattyn Project, which works to bridge the gap between home and hospital for pediatric patients.

The inaugural NASCAR Fitness Challenge powered by Lilly Diabetes aims to showcase health and wellness in action, inspiring fans to make positive choices for themselves and their families.

Race Weekend Guide

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Race: Bank of America 500

Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 501 miles (334 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 90), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 180), Final Stage (Ends on lap 334)

What to Watch For: Kyle Busch goes for his third straight victory. The last driver to achieve the feat was Joey Logano in the 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. … Jimmie Johnson attempts to add to his track-record eight Charlotte wins. … Chase Elliott looks for his first win following his fifth career runner-up at Dover. … Non-playoff-eligible drivers who can spoil the day with a victory at Charlotte include past Queen City winners: Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano and Austin Dillon.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Race: Drive for The Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. ET

Tune-In: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

What to Watch For: The four drivers lowest in points who are winless in the Round of 12 following Saturday’s race will be eliminated from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. Right now, Ryan Reed sits two points above Brendan Guaghan for the final spot. Michael Annett (eight points behind Reed) ranks 10th, followed by 11th-place Blake Koch (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-20) in 12th. … Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Ryan Blaney are scheduled to participate in Saturday’s race.

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.