CONCORD, N.C. — Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts the opening race of the Playoff’s Round of 12 this year with the Bank of America 500 Sunday afternoon. Martin Truex Jr. leads the hunt for the championship trophy but Kyle Busch is closing fast.
Busch is looking for his third consecutive win to secure his spot in the Round of 8. But that’s only part of his story. Did you know that a victory at Charlotte would give him a win at every active track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit? Busch has the second-best driver rating (105.6) at Charlotte.
From 2004 – 2014 the 1.5-mile track held the fifth race of the playoffs but in 2015, Charlotte began playing host to the fourth. Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner and is usually one of the top competitors at the track with the series-best driver rating (110.4). But did you know he also leads the series with eight checkered flags? Another trip to Victory Lane would tie him with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the Cup Series all-time wins list.
Johnson, however, failed to make it past the first round of qualifying for the Bank of America 500 Friday evening and will start the race from 25th place.
He explained the challenge he will face during Sunday’s race, “There is far less opportunity to work strategy in order to leap-frog people and have something work for you. Last weekend in Dover we finally got to the top 3 and then the checkered fell. It just takes a long time to pass quality cars, and you get inside the top 10, and they’re quality cars. It takes 50 laps per position and then you just mathematically run out of (the) opportunity to get to the front. So, I’m disappointed with tonight. I’m disappointed with the way qualifying has been going. We’re trying hard but we just can’t get our fingers on it right now.”
But don’t count him out yet. In 2003, Johnson won the Coca-Cola 600, after starting 37th.
Matt Kenseth is currently ranked 11th in the Playoffs and will need a win to advance to the next round. He has the third-best driver rating (96.1) with two victories, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s and two poles. Pole-sitter, Denny Hamlin, has the fourth-best driver rating (95.8) with seven top fives, 15 top 10s and one pole but did you know he has never scored a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
The odds are in favor of a victory by one of the top 12 drivers. Only once has a non-Playoff competitor won the Charlotte Playoff race – Jamie McMurray in 2010. Another significant factor is qualifying well and that’s good news for Matt Kenseth who will start second in the race. It’s the most proficient starting position, having produced 17 winners.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continue Sunday with the Bank of America 500. Tune into NBC at 1 p.m. ET for all the action.
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