Bank of America 500 Preview
October 7, 2014
By Micah Roberts
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I'm so excited that we have a Saturday night NASCAR race at Charlotte this week just because the past few Sunday’s with NFL playing at the same time have made my NASCAR experience less enjoyable. You walk in to most sports books and the race isn’t even on TV because of all the games, and most in the crowd only want football.
Not all books, though. I have viewed NASCAR on an NFL Sunday at Green Valley Ranch and the Westgate SuperBook over the past couple of years.
If I stay at home, I only have two TV’s in one room, and NFL coupled with playoff baseball has made it tough for NASCAR to find much love from me at the same time. So in the process of needing to see what happened in the race, I have to stay up later to watch the replay (I’m not a DVR capable guy).
When I see Saturday night racing, even though it’s on a another 1.5-mile track, I get excited. And if it had to be one 1.5-track, I’m glad it’s Charlotte, which has been running twice a year since 1960. This is the track where Elvis Presley filmed ‘Speedway’ with Bill Bixby and Nancy Sinatra. How could this not be my favorite track?
Last week’s race at Kansas was the eighth piece to the 1.5-mile puzzle. A total of 11 will be run on 1.5-mile tracks this season. Another Penske Ford -- Joey Logano -- won giving them five of the eight wins so far. We saw Kevin Harvick lead some laps again, but still be kept out of victory lane in the eight races. We also saw Kyle Larson (2nd) be fast, Kyle Busch (3rd) show up for his best career Kansas finish and Ryan Newman (6th) look like a contender. That's six straight top-15 finishes for Newman on a 1.5-mile track.
We can use everything we saw last week and apply it to Charlotte on Saturday night, as well what we learned on the other 1.5‘s this season. Charlotte and Kansas run much different, with Charlotte being faster, but the required set-ups do apply for both. The most recent runs would be most relevant, but there’s also a Charlotte race from late May. Jimmie Johnson won that race during a stretch of winning three of four races, but he hasn’t won since.
Johnson is currently sitting 12th in points of this Chase stage after finishing 40th at Kansas. That was the first of the three races in this stage of 12 drivers competing to advance. After Charlotte and Talladega, four more drivers will be eliminated and Johnson is certainly looking like a great candidate to exit. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 11th in points after his 39th-place finish and Brad Keselowski finished 36th to be 10th in points. For Keselowski, who leads the series with five wins, he’s on the short end of the stick too.
It’s almost like the standings have been turned upside down. Top-5 in the standings are Logano, Kyle Busch (-6), Carl Edwards (-9), Newman (-9) and Denny Hamlin (-11). That same kind of final result after Talladega next week is going to ruin a lot of people’s Chase bracket, including mine.
What it sets over the next two weeks is a few big name drivers that will almost be pressed to win one of the two to advance to the next stage of three races. Johnson hasn't looked good lately, but he does have seven career wins here, and did win in May. If there was one team that could flip the switch, it would be Johnson, but four races into the Chase, I have my doubts.
This week I’m going to look for Penske and Hendrick drivers to contend. Why not? They have won all eight races at this distance this season. I also think we can maybe take a poke at a Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress or Chip Ganassi Racing driver. The favorites look to have the edge again here, but those drivers in the 12/1 odds bracket up to 40/1 aren’t far behind.
One of those drivers is Jamie McMurray, who I initially picked to win this race before the Chase started. He won the non-points All-Star race here in May, and also has two Charlotte fall wins, including his first career victory when he was subbing for Sterling Marlin in 2002.
Keselowski won this race last season, and would be a great candidate to win based on his three wins on 1.5s this season. He's also in desperation mode of trying to make the Chase and he's the type of driver I like when the chips are down.
The best value is Kahne based on his price and ability to run well on these type of tracks. He's got four Charlotte wins under his belt as well as a win on Charlotte's sister track at Atlanta in August.
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #5 Kasey Kahne (15/1)
2) #2 Brad Keselowski (6/1)
3) #24 Jeff Gordon (6/1)
4) #4 Kevin Harvick (6/1)
5) #22 Joey Logano (8/1)