The Charlotte, North Carolina area is the hub for NASCAR teams and drivers, but since most of the drivers have a residence there it’s hard for any to claim home-field advantage when NASCAR comes to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.
But most drivers do have the luxury of sleeping in their own beds and sometimes a good night’s rest can do wonders.
Before the Kansas race, it looked like it would take wonders to catch the win-king of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Matt Kenseth, with five wins in the regular season and two wins in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs.
After Kansas, Kenseth is still the leader, but barely.
Contender Kyle Busch always drives on the edge with great skill, but at times he also seems to drive over the edge too. His third crash at Kansas put his fast car on the hauler and Busch dropped from second like a boulder rolling off a towering cliff.
Meanwhile Jimmie Johnson, the five-time champion thought to have a cape tucked away somewhere, finished strong ahead of Kenseth and claimed second just three points off Kenseth’s perch.
Kevin Harvick roared to another win, assuring again that he has turned his “lame-duck” season at Richard Childress Racing into Peregrine Falcon performances.
Harvick is just 25 points back from leader Kenseth and his No. 29 team carry lofty momentum into the home turf at CMS.
Jeff Gordon has steadily rejuvenated the No. 24 Chevrolet 2013 record with consistent top finishes and, he too, is within range of the leader just 32 points away.
The top-five contenders had comments before rolling into the Bank of America 500 at CMS on Saturday, October 12, at 7 p.m. ET
Johnson hinted that there is no place like home.
“I’m excited to be racing at home in Charlotte this week,” Johnson said. “It’s just 30 minutes from the house, and I can get home quickly and see everybody and sleep in my own bed.”
Johnson has momentum and many past CMS wins to boost his confidence. “The track has been really good to us over the years and I certainly need another strong performance there the way things are going in the Chase right now.”
Kenseth seemed to have similar thoughts.
“I love racing at Charlotte and I’ve had some success there in the past,” Kenseth said. “A 1.5-mile track—those are the types of tracks that, typically, we’ve run decent, so hopefully we can have a good run, stay up front, and stay in the running for the Chase.”
Harvick is returning to CMS with the Kansas win under his belt and the memory of a CMS win this spring.
“Good pit strategy, that’s what we hit on last time we were at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Harvick said. “Gil made the right call at the end to have a good restart. Once in the right spot, we were able to hold the lead and able to pick up the win.”
Like Johnson and Harvick, Gordon brings momentum to home turf.
“I am looking forward to this weekend's race,” Gordon said. “We ran well here in May, and we've had some great runs since the Chase started. I like how this team is performing and the effort they are putting in right now. I'm having a lot of fun”.
Kyle Busch is positioned ahead of brother Kurt, but Kansas crashed Kyle’s momentum.
“We’ve run well there in the past and like going there,” Busch said. “It’s a fun place to race and adds to the excitement of spending some time at home.”
Kyle’s memory might be somewhat stronger than his momentum.
“Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons,” Busch said. “Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins.”
Sparks may fly high this fall at CMS as well.
Fans without tickets to one of the 140,000 seats can catch the hometown action on the 1.5-mile quad-oval track with 24-degree banking on ABC TV.
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained firsthand or from official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.