Charlotte Motor Speedway, formerly known as Lowe's Motor Speedway, is one of three 1.5-mile quad-oval tracks that feature 24 degrees of banking in the corners. Thankfully for fantasy owners, all three of these venues have held at least one race already. The other two are Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has already hosted its second race, and Texas Motor Speedway. Following the Saturday night event in NASCAR's capital, Texas will get its reprise after stops at Martinsville Speedway and Talladega Superpeedway. Expect the performers from Charlotte to bring similar results, if not the exact same cars and setups, to Forth Worth.
Location: Concord, N.C.
Length: 1.5 miles
Turns 1-4: 24 degrees
Frontstretch: 5 degrees
Backstretch: 5 degrees
Drivers to keep an eye on
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Operation Home Front/Miller Lite Dodge | Penske Championship Racing
You can rely on Newman
The secret is out. The elder Busch brother is the best driver on the three 1.5-mile cookie-cutter tracks. In addition to dominating wins at Atlanta and Charlotte this year, Busch finished fourth at Texas and sixth in the return trip to the Dirty South. That makes Busch the only driver to record top-10 finishes in all four of those races, although his brother, Kyle Busch, has top-fives in each of the last three. Since 2007, big brother has held an average running position of at least 13th with over 80 percent of laps run in the top 15 in four straight races. Through five Chase races, Busch has only one top-10 finish, strong performances at Charlotte and Texas should provide a much-needed boost.
Ryan Newman | No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet | Stewart-Haas Racing
After struggling to get consistent results on intermediate tracks over the last few years, Newman has turned the page this season. Following a 17th-place finish in the first Atlanta race, he improved with an 11th-place result at Texas followed by a pair of top-10s at Charlotte and Atlanta. Add a top-10 at Kansas Speedway and a top-five at Auto Club Speedway over the last two weeks and Newman is riding the wave of success on the most recent intermediate tracks as well. His recent history at Charlotte has also been impressive. Over the last two years, Newman has two poles in three starts, finishing 11th or better each time out, including a runner-up performance last year. Despite missing out on the Chase, Newman has been among the most dependable drivers in the postseason.
David Reutimann | No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota | Michael Waltrip Racing
Rain helped Reutimann earn his first Cup series victory last year in the spring race at Charlotte, but his performance earlier this year was more impressive. His average running position of fourth was second to only race-winner Kurt Busch while the Double Zero matched the Blue Deuce by spending 399 of 400 laps running in the top 15. On-track incidents ruined Reutimann's chances at both Dover International Speedway and Kansas, but he rebounded with a 10th-place finish last week at Fontana. When his equipment holds together and other drivers aren't making contact with him, Reutimann is among the safest bets to record a good finish on intermediates.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
Since 2006, Kahne has three wins and four other top-10s at Charlotte in nine starts. Last year was extremely impressive, spending over 99 percent of his laps running in the top 15 during both races at the site. In May, Kahne was less off his game with a 12th-place finish and just 54 percent of laps in the top 15. However, his recent performances on intermediate tracks suggest he's back to form. Despite crashing at Kansas, Kahne won the pole and led the first 27 laps. Last week at Fontana, Kahne started fifth and finished fourth with an average running position of ninth and 97 percent of laps in the top 15. Expect to be seeing red near the front of pack for much of Saturday night.
Joey Logano | No. 20 The Home Depot Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
It has only been three starts, but Logano has been impressive each time out at Charlotte. His average running position has ranged from seventh to 13th with a top-five, a top-10 and a 13th-place finish from earlier this season. Logano has posted similar numbers in the Nationwide Series with two top-fives in the last three starts at the site. There is some risk given Logano has been quiet on the other cookie-cutter tracks this season. However, he's coming off an 11th-place result at Fontana and could one of the better gambles to take among middle-tier drivers.
Temper your expectations
Denny Hamlin | No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota | Joe Gibbs Racing
Exercise caution using Edwards
Outside of winning at Texas, Hamlin has been lackluster on cookie cutters this season. Hamlin has good finishes on the recent intermediate tracks, Kansas and Fontana, but held average running positions of 14th and 13th, respectively, in those starts. In 10 career starts at Charlotte, Hamlin has only three top-10s, the last coming back in 2007. Given Hamlin's sparkling resume on flat tracks like Martinsville and Phoenix International Raceway, which are upcoming Chase venues, owners in allocation formats should reserve him in favor of those sites.
Kevin Harvick | No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Owners with Harvick starts left in reserve would be wise to keep him in the garage this week. Since 2004, Harvick has failed to record a top-10 finish at Charlotte in 13 starts. While his best finish in that time, 11th place, came back in May, Harvick's long stretch without a strong performance at Charlotte is quite troublesome, despite his extremely solid performance all season. Two of his three wins this season have come on restrictor plate tracks, making Talladega a must-start for Happy Harvick.
Carl Edwards | No. 99 Aflac Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
A blown engine cost Edwards in last year's Chase event at Charlotte. Coming off a race plagued with engine and equipment problems for Roush Fenway, fantasy owners have one more reasons steer clear of Edwards this week. While he was the runner-up a few weeks ago at Atlanta, the most recent cookie-cutter race, Edwards had DNFs in the first race at that site and at Texas. In the May start at Charlotte, Edwards finished a respectable 16th after qualifying back in 31st. The improvements made in the Ford camp since then will give Edwards good shot at bettering that, but last week's debacle makes this a wait-and-see affair before you start a Roush driver again.
Matt Kenseth | No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Despite three straight top-10 finishes at Charlotte, including a runner-up performance in last year's Chase, Kenseth and his Roush teammates carry a considerable amount of risk this week. With the team looking to gain an edge, they pushed the envelope too far at Fontana and blew two engines in the process. Charlotte is not an easy location on engines either, so this problem may carry over. While this doesn't mean owners should ignore Roush drivers for the remaining six races of the season, we should give it at least one week to ensure the necessary fixes have been made.
A.J. Allmendinger | No. 43 Wix Filters Ford | Richard Petty Motorsports
In seven career starts at Charlotte, Allemendinger's best finish came in May, a 14th-place result. While that's not very inspiring, nor was his average running position of 17th or the 43.3 percent of laps in the top-15. Prior to that, he had only once race in six where he ran more than 1.8 percent of the laps in the top 15. Only once has his average running position been higher than 22nd. Among bottom-tier drivers, Allmendinger is one of your top options, so it's probably preferable to save him for another race, if you're running short of his starts.
Eric McClung has been profiled by the FSWA for covering the fantasy sports spectrum and is a two-time award finalist. He's also 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.