Dustin Off the Next Race: NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway

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Dustin Off the Next Race: NASCAR Banking 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway
(Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

This Saturday, NASCAR comes home to Charlotte, NC. The final night race of the year will be the NASCAR Banking 500 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway.

This is not only the last night race of the year, but it will be the last time this track will be sponsored by the Lowe's Home Improvement company. It was announced earlier this year that Lowe's will not renew its sponsorship of the track. Next year, it is expected that the 1.5-mile quad oval will be renamed the Charlotte Motor Speedway, as it was in years past.

The track is fast, wide, and has provided some spectacular moments in NASCAR. The majority of the teams are based in the area, so this return home comes at a great time.

Here's who I think will be the drivers to watch out for when the green flag falls Saturday night.

 

FAVORITES

JIMMIE JOHNSON

Of course, it's the obvious choice. This track is Jimmie's "House" and he intends to prove it once again.

Look at the statistics:  Five wins, eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. He's the dominant driver, and the No. 48 team is the dominant crew at this track.

Yes, he has not won at Lowe's Motor Speedway since 2005, but he has constantly been close to the front when it counted.

His win at California gave him a lot of momentum, and it will be a shock if Johnson does not do well at this track.

The No. 48 car is my pick for Saturday night, so keep your eyes on this team.

 

JEFF GORDON

Let's not forget about the other five-time winner at this track. Gordon finally broke a drought of bad luck at Lowe's Motor Speedway with his win in 2007.

Unfortunately, after that win, Johnson got a lot of momentum en route to his second of three titles.

However, Gordon will still be a factor when the race goes green. Gordon won at the Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, a track similar in configuration.

This team's 1.5-mile track program has greatly improved over the last two years, and this race could prove critical in the Chase for the Cup. Gordon currently sits fifth in points, and is within striking distance of the leaders.

The No. 24 DuPont/Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Chevrolet will be one to watch once the green flag falls.

 

KASEY KAHNE

Recently, this track has proved to be one of the best for Kasey Kahne. Two wins in the Coca-Cola 600, one win in this race, plus a victory in the All-Star race means that Kahne is a factor each time the series comes home to Charlotte.

Kahne won in Atlanta just over a month ago, which is also a similar track to the Lowe's Motor Speedway. However, that race was also run at night, just as it will be Saturday.

I would expect this team to run a similar setup as they did at Atlanta, with a few minor adjustments because of banking and handling.

The Chase has not been kind to Kahne, but this track could bring a change in momentum. There's not a better time for Kahne to get some momentum in his favor.

 

SLEEPERS

TONY STEWART

Why would I put "Smoke" in this category? It's pretty simple, on 1.5-mile tracks, Stewart only has three wins. When he raced for Joe Gibbs, he got the organization it's first 1.5-mile track win in Atlanta.

Then, as a team owner and driver, he won the All-Star race this year plus he took the win at Kansas.

I would not put it past this team to get a victory this Saturday night. With the Chase as close as it is this year, any driver in the top five can make a significant move.

Stewart is poised to make a move in the standings, so watch out, "Smoke" could ignite his run for the title at Charlotte.

 

JEFF BURTON

Does anyone remember who won this race last year? It could be because Richard Childress Racing has experienced such a down year, their last win as a team has fallen on the back burner.

But this time last year, Jeff Burton was in victory lane, celebrating a victory for his team.

Of course, this year has been a different story. There have been moments where the RCR teams have shown improvements, but they have no wins to their credit.

Maybe a return to the site of the organization's last win can provide a big boost in confidence. The Caterpillar Chevrolet could surprise a lot of people on Saturday night.

 

Coverage of the NASCAR Banking 500 only from Bank of America begins at 7 PM on ABC.

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