The NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads back this week to the home track of many, Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 1.5-mile track is a popular venue and a win here, usually in front of employees and family who travel the circuit regularly, means a bit more.
“It’s always a marquee event, I believe, no matter if it’s the spring or the fall, Charlotte is the only night race in the Chase,” said Kurt Busch. “A lot of bragging rights because all the race shops are here in Charlotte. It’s just one of those special tracks that is one of the toughest ones to win on and we race there so often. The All-Star race and guys that aren’t in the All-Star race, race in the Showdown, we have the 600-miler, the 500-miler, a lot of laps at Charlotte, kind of makes you feel like the old school days that this is your home track and you want to defend it.”
Saturday night ‘s race is also the first in the Round of 12 in the 2016 edition of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. A win in any of the next three races secures a spot in the next round, so getting a win in the first race of this round can relieve a lot of pressure over the course of the next two.
Here are my favorites for Sunday’s 30th race of the year for your betting or fantasy racing leagues. Driver Ratings are compiled from 2005-2016 races (22 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Driver Rating is a number based on a formula developed by NASCAR which combines “loop data” elements such as average running position, average speed under green, number of fastest laps, and other stats. There is a maximum of 150 points that a driver can earn for each race. The odds are current as of Wednesday.
Martin Truex Jr. (4-1). Truex actually has a pretty low driver rating here, 84.2, 12th best. However, here in May he led all but eight laps staging a dominate performance in route to his first career Charlotte victory. He won last week at Dover, and is bringing the same car he won with here in May. Truex is the safest bet you’ll have in quite some time.
Kyle Busch (7-1). Busch finished second, although a distant one, to Truex last week at Dover. Somewhat astonishingly, Busch has never won a points-paying Cup race here. However he does have 10 top five finishes and has come close. He has the second highest driver rating in the field, 104.6 and with the way he has been running lately, it would be no surprise to see Kyle get a win Saturday night.
Jimmie Johnson(6-1). Johnson leads all active drivers at Charlotte with 10 wins and has the highest driver rating in the field, 109.6. His last win was in the fall of 2014 and he was third here in May leading five laps. He’s had a few tough weeks, but looked strong last week at Dover. If he can avoid the pit road mistakes that have plagued the team lately, Johnson could go all the way Saturday night.
Kevin Harvick (5-1). Harvick was second here in May. Overall he has three wins here the last coming in the fall of 2014. Harvick has the ninth best driver rating in the field,88.8, and has been a force to be reckoned with all season long; Saturday night shouldn’t be any different.
Denny Hamlin (8-1). Hamlin has never won a points paying Cup race here, but does have 6 top five finishes in 22 starts. He has the third highest driver, 95.6, and was fourth here in May. Like Johnson, If he can avoid the pit road errors that have lost him races this year, he could be a factor Saturday night.
OTHERS: Joey Logano (12-1) is the defending winner of this race and has the sixth highest driver rating in the field, 94.5. He has been hot and cold this season, but if he’s hot Saturday night could defend last season’s race win. Matt Kenseth (10-1) has the fourth highest driver rating in the field, 95.4, and has two wins here. He crashed out of last season’s race, and will be looking for redemption Saturday night.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Bank of America 500 will be run on Saturday October 8. Live coverage will be on NBC starting at 6:30 p.m. ET with the green flag coming just after 7:00 p.m. ET.