Race No. 5 in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup brings the drivers “home” to Charlotte, North Carolina, home of many top NASCAR teams and Charlotte Motor Speedway, the host of this weekend’s Bank of America 500 for the Cup Series and the Dollar General 300 for the Nationwide Series.
JGR driver Matt Kenseth, still leading the Chase but by a mere three points over Jimmie Johnson, has two wins and 14 top 10 finishes in 28 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He finished 15th in May in the Coca Cola 600, and hopes to improve on that finish at one of his favorite tracks.
“I really like the race track at Charlotte,” said Kenseth, who is driving the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry on Saturday night. “If Sonoma Raceway was built right by my house, I wouldn’t want to go there during the Chase - so it’s not just because it’s close to home, but I really like the track. It’s been a good place for us. We ran just spectacular there for the 600 and got caught on a green flag pit stop and then got caught up in a wreck that we really didn’t have anything to do with. Didn’t have the result there, but we had an unbelievable car there. That track is one of my favorites and we always have a lot of confidence going there.”
Kenseth will also be racing Friday night in the Nationwide Series Dollar General 300, driving the No. 18 GameStop/Call of Duty Ghosts Toyota Camry. He has three Nationwide Series wins at the 1.5-mile track, his last coming in May 2011.
JGR driver Kyle Busch, who fell from third to fifth in the Chase standings, will be in the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota on Saturday night, looking for his first win at Charlotte. He has 11 top 10 finishes in 19 starts, but finished 38th in May, suffering from engine troubles. He’ll also be in the No. 54 Monster Energy “Prety In Pink” Toyota in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race, a series in which he’s had much better luck at Charlotte: seven wins and 17 top 10 finishes in 20 races, including a win in May.
“A lot of work has gone into this fundraising effort for the Pretty in Pink Breast Cancer Champions that we are sponsoring,” said Busch. “Samantha (Busch, wife) and I are excited the opportunity is finally here, so that we can offer a little comfort to those around us who need our help. It’s great to share our race Friday with neighbors who can use a fun night out, without worries about their treatment.”
Denny Hamlin, in the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Saturday night, set the track qualifying record in May with a speed of 195.624 mph, his first pole at the track; he went on to finish fourth in the race. He’s winless in 16 starts at Charlotte, but has nine top 10 finishes.
Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers will also be in Friday night’s Nationwide Series race with Kenseth and Busch. Sadler, in the No. 11 OneMain Financial Toyota, has five top 10 finishes and a pole in 13 Nationwide Series starts at Charlotte, is also looking forward to turning Charlotte pink on Friday night.
“Charlotte’s a fun weekend for us,” said Sadler. “It’s breast cancer awareness month, so a lot of pink cars and stuff going on there. It’s always a fun race for us in everybody’s backyard. Everybody tries to bring their best stuff, so always look forward to going to Charlotte - a really fun track for us.”
Vickers, in the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota, has six top 10 finishes in 11 Nationwide Series races at Charlotte, and knows his team will be happy to be “home” this weekend.
“It’s great for the team - everybody gets to be at home,” said Vickers. “Home for me is the Miami weekend, so that’s always nice to be able to sleep in my own bed. Charlotte is good. I’ve got family there and it’s good to see them and obviously I’m in and out a lot to visit the teams, but Charlotte has always been a special place for me racing go-karts there and spent a lot of time there in NASCAR as well, growing up watching races there. It’s a special track and always look forward to getting back to it.”
Qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series’ Bank of America 500 takes place Thursday at 7:10 p.m. ET, with the race going green at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Qualifying for the Dollar General 300 Nationwide Series race at Charlotte takes place Friday at 4:05 p.m. ET, with the race going green at 7:30 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at www.nascar.com and joegibbsracing.com.
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