BAKER: Three Things To Watch For At Charlotte

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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicks off round two of the playoffs at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Jeremy Thompson photo)

CONCORD, N.C. — The NASCAR traveling road show has come home to Charlotte for a weekend of XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series action.

The drinking words may well be “playoffs” and “weather”, as we will likely be discussing a whole lot about both before the final checkered flag falls.

Here are three things to pay attention to at Charlotte throughout the weekend:

1. Playoff Eliminations

The NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive for the Cure 300 takes place on Saturday, and it is the final race in round one of the playoffs for NASCAR’s second-tier series.

Brendan Gaughan, Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Jeremy Clements are the “bottom four” right now, which means those teams will no doubt employ some interesting strategy in their efforts to advance.

Koch and Clements basically need to win to advance, but Gaughan and Annett are both racing Ryan Reed for the final transfer spot.

2. The Hendrick Factor

We all know that Toyota’s teams and Kyle Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet have been the main topics of conversation up front for much of the Cup Series season.

But Charlotte has always been a track where Hendrick Motorsports has excelled, with 19 total victories across the spring and fall races as a team, and I think you may well see the team resurface at the front this weekend.

Jimmie Johnson leads the team with eight victories, while the now-retired Jeff Gordon has five. Darrell Waltrip scored twice for Hendrick in the Tide Ride, while Kasey Kahne, Casey Mears, Ken Schrader and Terry Labonte have each had one trip to victory lane in the Queen City while racing under the Hendrick banner.

Last weekend at Dover, Hendrick Motorsports looked like they were ready to step up into the spotlight as a unit again for the first time in a while, and that momentum could very well carry them into Charlotte.

We know that Johnson is always strong here, but Chase Elliott is hungry for his first Cup win and he felt like he gave one away last week at Dover, so he’ll likely have a bit of a chip on his shoulder during the Bank Of America 500.

Kahne told us on The Stock Car Show last night that he would love to come in and fix what has been ailing him lately at Charlotte and get another win for Hendrick Motorsports in his final Charlotte race for them, and you know Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is just itching to get back to victory lane at least one more time in his final season of competition.

This team bears watching this weekend.

Mother Nature

NASCAR announced a new informational partnership with The Weather Channel in a Friday press conference at the track, and it appears to be just in time.

Tropical Storm Nate is threatening to interfere with Sunday’s Bank Of America 500, and I’m sure NASCAR will be consulting closely with their new partners throughout Friday and Saturday to see if any schedule changes are necessary for Sunday’s events.

The track is highly temperature-sensitive, and temperatures are in the 80s and sunny both Friday and Saturday. If any significant changes to the start time are needed for Sunday, the teams will definitely be scrambling to adjust their setups in the early part of the race.

The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, Scorpion Radio Group, their sponsors or other contributors.


About the Writer

Tom Baker HeadshotTom Baker is the owner and senior editor of Race Chaser Online, as well as creator of the Stock Car Steel/SRI Motorsports Show — airing Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern on the Performance Motorsports Network.

With 27 years of motorsports media, marketing and managerial experience, Baker serves as the coach and mentor for several next generation racers, as well as Race Chaser Online’s passionate lineup of rising motorsports journalists.

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