Charlotte Weekend Preview
Oct. 8, 2015
NASCAR Wire Service
Harvick starts next leg of title defense
Kevin Harvick claims he feels pressure.
But it doesn’t seem like it.
In a must-win situation on Sunday at Dover, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion led 355-of-400 laps on his way to Victory Lane, punching his ticket to the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“We're still in the battle and still looking forward to the challenge of just trying to make it to the next round,” said Harvick after the race. “We lived to fight another day.”
Now, Harvick has the same amount of points as the 11 other drivers remaining in NASCAR’s playoffs (3,000), heading into the first race of the Contender Round – Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7 p.m. on NBC), an event he won last season on the road to his first title.
In 29 career starts at CMS, Harvick owns three wins, five top fives and 12 top 10s. It took Harvick 10 years to get his first win at Charlotte (May 2011), but he has placed in the top 10 in nine of his last 10 races there.
“I'm 100 percent good with (my history at Charlotte), especially the last three or four years at Richard Childress Racing we were able to perform there and win a couple races,” Harvick said. “It's been very good to us since I've been at Stewart-Haas Racing. It just took a long time to figure out.”
Harvick’s win at Dover was his third consecutive victory in a Chase cutoff race. He has shown a penchant for excelling under pressure and in the limelight. The Bank of America 500 is the only night race in the Chase and Harvick’s four wins in “prime time” since 2013 are the most in NASCAR.
“I would never say that I don’t feel pressure,” Harvick said. “I think how you act in those pressure types of situations can be altered in those situations. I think as you look at the pressure it can be motivating or devastating. Fortunately, at this particular point, the pressure has been motivating.”
JRM’s Elliott and Smith making last-ditch efforts at XFINITY Series championship
JR Motorsports has kicked its performance up a notch lately.
Since the July 4 race at Daytona, JRM drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith lead the NASCAR XFINITY Series in points earned. Smith ranks first with 516 points, followed by Elliott with 509. In third is current series leader Chris Buescher with 490 points earned.
With five races left in the season, Elliott (-24 points, second in the series standings) and Smith (-36, third) are within striking distance of Buescher. They get their next chance at decreasing Buescher’s lead in Friday’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 p.m. on NBCSN).
Elliott, the defending series champion, leads all drivers with 22 top-10 finishes and is tied with Buescher for the most top-five showings (11). He has been crippled by three finishes of 24th or worse. The 19-year-old Chevrolet driver placed eighth at Charlotte in May.
“With five races remaining we need to come out prepared, just like we did last week at Dover – even though we didn’t qualify or practice due to weather,” Elliott said. “The car we rolled off the truck was solid and that’s what it will take this week at Charlotte to stay ahead in the game.”
Smith, fresh of his second win of the season at Dover, rides to Charlotte with an eight-race top 10 streak. He posted a career-best fourth-place finish at the 1.5-mile track in May.
“I can say this with certainty: this has been my best year at JR Motorsports as a driver and speed-wise,” Smith said. “I feel like we’ve had the most speed in the races of all the years I’ve been here. We keep winning races, and we’ll be right back in the title hunt.”
“That’s kind of our motto right now, to just keep winning races and good things happen. We’re going to some tracks that we’re excited about, and we’re going to work hard and see how it all shakes out.”
NASCAR Race Weekend Guide
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Race: Bank of America 500
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBC, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 501 miles (334 laps)
What to Watch For: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series kicks off its Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. ... Carl Edwards tries to sweep Charlotte after winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May. ... The Team Penske duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski is in the Contender Round together for the second straight season. ... Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne are the most likely non-Chase drivers to win at Charlotte with seven and four wins, respectively, at the 1.5-mile track.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Race: Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Date and Time: Friday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. ET
Tune-in: NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps)
What to Watch For: Chris Buescher has led the championship points standings for the last nine races and looks to close the door with five races left. ... Daniel Suarez leads Darrell Wallace Jr. by 25 points in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award standings and will try to continue to pull away. ... Austin Dillon attempts to complete the series season sweep of Charlotte on Friday. ... Last weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner John Wes Townley and NCWTS standings leader Erik Jones are scheduled to compete in Friday’s XFINITY Series race.