Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Bank of America 500

by Eric McClung on October 12, 2011 @ 12:14:44 PDT


Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of three quad-oval, 1.5-mile tracks that feature 24 degrees of corner banking. Fantasy owners can review results from the other two cookie-cutter venues, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, the former coming just six races ago. This trio is the most similar set of tracks on the circuit, hosting a total of five races with the final one coming at Texas in early November.

Location: Concord, N.C.
Shape: Quad-oval
Length: 1.5 miles
Laps: 334
Turns: 24 degrees
Front stretch: 5 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees

Drivers to keep an eye on

Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing

Despite leading just two laps, Harvick captured the May event at Charlotte after qualifying 28th and holding an average running position of 15th. In fact, he's started outside of the top 20 in each of the last three at CMS but finished 11th or better. Now four races into the Chase, Harvick registered as the runner-up at Chicagoland Speedway and sixth at Kansas Speedway, both 1.5-mile tracks. Although those tracks feature less banking than Charlotte, Harvick did recently finish seventh at Atlanta, which is very similar to this week's venue.

Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's/Chevy 100th Anniversary Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports

After the second race of the postseason, the five-time defending Cup champ sat a career-worst 10th in the Chase standings. Now following a runner-up performance at Dover International Speedway and a victory at Kansas, Johnson is only four points out of first. His career average running position of 8.2 at Charlotte is easily the best among all drivers. An engine failure left Johnson to finish 28th in the May event but that remains the lone DNF all season for No. 48 team. At Atlanta in September, Johnson finished as the runner-up behind teammate Jeff Gordon.

Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Fluidmaster Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

At Chicagoland, Kenseth qualified on the pole and held a race-high average running position of third but finished 21st after running out of fuel. In May, he paced the field with 103 laps led but finished 14th after having to pit for fuel with less than 10 laps to go. Kenseth has finished sixth or better in each of the last three Chase events. Assuming fuel doesn't become an issue again, he figures to add another result this weekend as intermediates like Charlotte are his strength.

Kyle Busch | No. 18 M&M's Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

A crash in May ended a streak of seven straight finishes of eighth or better at Charlotte for Busch which featured five top-fives. Rowdy's career average running position of 10.4 is second among all drivers. After beginning the Chase as the top seed, Busch faded to eighth with only one top-10 and no top-fives in four postseason races. However, he's still been running well and should earn a more deserving finish at a track that is typically very good to him.

Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Entering the season with lofty expectations, Hamlin will almost certainly finish with career lows in top-fives and top-10 finishes in six seasons as a full-time driver. However, there's an outside chance he could have something left to show at Charlotte. His average running position in the last two Charlotte races has been impressive, eighth and sixth. In addition, Hamlin finished the regular season with three straight top-10s, including an eight-place result at Atlanta where he was the only driver to run all 325 laps inside the top 15.

A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Best Buy Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

Back in May, Allmendinger finished a career-best fifth at Charlotte with an average running position of 10th. Although he finished 25th and two laps down at Kansas last week, Allmendinger registered a 10th-place result at Atlanta last month. While not the safest play, this is a driver that has the ability to run well on intermediate tracks. However, you'll want to review the results from the practice sessions before giving a full commitment.

David Ragan | No. 6 UPS Freight Ford | Roush Fenway Racing

David Ragan

In the last two Charlotte races, Ragan finished 10th and second. Earlier in the season, he qualified on the pole and finished seventh at Texas but suffered an engine failure last month at Atlanta. However, Ragan just finished a lap down last week at Kansas. Given the up and down results this season, Ragan is worth the bottom-tier price.

Marcos Ambrose | No. 9 Stanley/Bostitch Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports

The Australian has shown an appetite for cookie-cutter tracks this season. Earlier in the season, Ambrose finished sixth at Texas and Charlotte, both career highs. However, he was a non-factor last month at Atlanta after finishing 11th and 10th at the site last year. Ambrose has finished ninth in each of the last two Chase events and could find another snack for himself at Charlotte.

Temper your expectations

Tony Stewart | No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing

Just when it appeared Smoke was rising at just the right time to challenge for the Chase he proved to be an aberration. After opening the postseason with a pair of victories, Stewart was nowhere to be found at Dover International Speedway before finishing 15th at Kansas despite a pretty good run. Surprising, you have to go back to 2007 to find the last top-10 for Stewart at Charlotte. In that span of seven races, he's only collected three top-15s.

Joey Logano | No. 20 The Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing

Among all active drivers, Logano's average finish of 7.4 at Charlotte is tops. However, his career-best third-place result in the May event came with an average running position of only 23rd and just 10.7 percent of laps spent in the top 15. Over the last 11 races, Logano's only top-10 came on the road course at Watkins Glen International. If Logano looks sharp in practice, he could become a legitimate sleeper. Starting him based on the average finish alone could be a mistake, however.

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About Eric McClung

Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a three-time award finalist. Over the years, he's made several appearances in print and on radio. McClung began contributing to KFFL in 2008 and currently serves as one of KFFL's featured fantasy NASCAR experts. He's also captured the fantasy football championship in the KFFL staff league twice.

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