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Fantasy NASCAR race preview: Bank of America 500
By Eric McClung
Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of three 1.5-mile quad-oval 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.
Practice sessions: Thursday, Oct. 11 at 3:30 pm EDT, Saturday, Oct. 12 at 3:00 pm EDT, 5:50 pm EDT
Drivers to keep an eye on
Over the last six races of the season Hamlin has won three times and held an average running position of seventh or better on five occasions. Hamlin has never won at Charlotte but was the runner-up back in May. Known as an ace on flat tracks, Hamlin has flexed plenty of muscle on cookie-cutter tracks recently, sweeping the 2010 races at Texas and winning at Atlanta for this first time this year.
With four wins at Charlotte, including last May, this is easily Kahne's best track. Since 2006 he's only finished worse than eighth at CMS four times in 13 starts. Earlier in the season Kahne finished seventh at Texas and is scoring consistent results throughout the Chase.
Gordon has caught fire down the stretch with six podium finishes over the last seven and a dozen finishes of sixth or better over the last 16 races. At Charlotte, Gordon has held an average running position of 13th or better in five of the last six despite only collecting three top-10s in that time. Keep riding the hot hand as Gordon heads to a track where he's due.
Even though Truex has a fairly mediocre resume at Charlotte over his career he's got cookie-cutter tracks down this season. He recently finished a career-best fourth at Atlanta and was sixth at Texas after capturing the pole. Even though he's rarely challenging for a win, Truex always among the safest bets to finish inside the top 15 week in and week out.
Since 2010 Harvick has held an average running position of 15th or better in all five races at CMS. He's also finished eighth or better in four straight, including a win in the spring of 2011. Harvick has yet to win this season, generally qualifies poorly and only owns four top-five finishes, but one came recently at Atlanta. Earlier this season he finished ninth at Texas and eighth at Charlotte.
Finishing sixth in May marks Earnhardt's best finish at CMS with HMS since debuting in 2008. Earlier in the season he finished 10th at Texas, sixth at Charlotte and seventh at Atlanta. Cookie cutters have obviously been kind to Earnhardt all year and should continue to serve him well down the stretch.
After confirming his lame duck status at RFR, Kenseth and his team stumbled out of the gate this postseason. Now coming off a wild win last week Kenseth can make it two in a row if he can defend last year's Chase victory at CMS. Kenseth has also been extremely impressive throughout his career at Atlanta and Texas. Look for Kenseth to make the most of the remaining intermediate-heavy schedule, starting with CMS.
While leading an average of 94.8 laps per race, Busch has landed podium finishes in four of the last five at CMS. Rowdy failed to qualify for the Chase but has finished seventh or better in three of the four postseason races thus far. As an elite driver that's not in the championship picture Busch has been an underrated value that could play spoiler.
Temper your expectations
Results on cookie-cutter tracks like Charlotte have been a mixed bag for Stewart in recent years. In the Chase a year ago he started from the pole, led 94 laps and finished in eighth for his only top-10 finish at CMS since 2008. Smoke has been a boom-or-bust driver for much of the season but is not the best option at CMS.
The Biff finished 13th and 15th at Charlotte a year ago but led at least 50 laps in each race. He redeemed himself in May finishing fourth after leading a race-high 204 laps. However, over the last seven races of the season Biffle has only two top-10 finishes and has seen his performance slide. Unless he looks great in practice and qualifying take a pass on Biffle this week.
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