Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 Questions Before Charlotte


Built in 1958 and steeped in history, Charlotte Motor Speedway was called Lowe's Motor Speedway from 1998 to 2009, and was the first track to be named after a corporate sponsor. Other firsts include being the first modern superspeedway to host night auto racing after installing a $1.7 million lighting system in 1992. Oh, and there was that first motorsports facility to host the world premiere of a major motion picture when it hosted the stars of Cars as well as more than 30,000 fans.

So will this obviously famous facility host yet another fateful first for one of our Chase drivers this week or a Saturday night that they would just as soon forget? I will be pondering that and more as I venture into this week's edition of 5 Questions.

Will Jimmie Johnson or Mark Martin reach a record-setting fourth win to become the first driver to ever record four Bank of America 500 wins?
Johnson and Martin are currently in good company with NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers Bobby Allison and Cale Yarborough as the only three-time winners of the event. Johnson's last win here was in 2009 at the NASCAR Banking 500 while Martin's last win came at the UAW-GM Quality 500 in 1998.

Will we see our first non-Chaser in Victory Lane this week?
Aside from some nice runs from Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and even Carl Edwards, the Chase has been dominated by the 12 Chase drivers. So far Victory Lane has been graced by Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski with two appearances, and Matt Kenseth, but could we see Kyle Busch or a dark horse play the spoiler this week.

Can Matt Kenseth win two weeks in a row?
Matt Kenseth made the move of the year last week in Talladega when he not only avoided the 25-car melee, but also brought the No. 17 into Victory Lane for the first time since the season opener at Daytona. But can Matt make it two in a row? Matt is the defending winner of this race and Fords perform particularly well.

Will Kurt Busch make a positive debut in the No. 78 car?
Kurt Busch had a seemingly typical day at the track at Talladega -- has some good runs, even leading the race at one point, then went from first to "ran of of gas", got hit from behind, got out of the car with his helmet off, and tried to drive off, missing the audio warning to stop .... ultimately being called to the NASCAR hauler and then got parked for the rest of the race. Whew! So will his debut in the  #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway mark a new beginning for the former Sprint Cup Champ or be more of the same?

Will the Charlotte race results bring the Chase down to a two driver competition?
Currently the first four drivers in the standings are competing in a pretty tight race, but most likely Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson will be the ones coming down to the wire at Homestead. But do Denny Hamlin, now in third, 23 points behind Brad, and Kasey Kahne in fourth, 36 points back, have a fighting chance? This race may separate the real contenders from the pretenders.

Stay tuned for the answers to these questions. No matter how they shake out we will have a great night of racing Saturday, so enjoy!

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