The 2nd round of the Monster Energy Cup series playoffs begins this weekend for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Charlotte, NC is home base for almost all of the NASCAR teams and is also home to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Last week, Kyle Busch passed Chase Elliott at the end of the race to deny the young driver his first Monster Energy Cup victory. Also, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Newman, and Kasey Kahne were eliminated from the playoffs.
This 2nd of four rounds of the NASCAR playoffs will have the three races at Charlotte, the volatile Talladega, and Kansas. Charlotte Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile quad oval intermediate track. In the Spring race, Austin Dillon used a calculated fuel strategy to win the race, holding off hard-charging Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr to capture his first ever Monster Energy Cup win and an automatic bid to the playoffs.
My Top 5 Drivers for the Bank of America 500
Martin Truex Jr.($10,900): The top driver on the leaderboard is Truex Jr., and he is a must-start every week in Cash and GPP formats. Truex dominated the Spring race leading 233 out of the 400 laps, but eventually finished 3rd. He decisively won the Spring 2016 race by destroying the rest of the field by leading 392 of the 400 laps.
Kyle Larson($10,400): Another top performer this year, Larson’s team has consistently provided him with a fast car. He had the fastest speed in the first practice at Charlotte and will start 10th on Sunday. In the Spring race, Larson crashed from a flat tire, but was competitive and reached 2nd place at one point. Charlotte isn’t one of his best tracks, but he is a good pivot off of Kyle Busch, who will be highly owned for this race.
Kevin Harvick($10,200): Harvick is a top performer at this track. In his last 14 starts, he has an incredible twelve Top 10s, which includes three trips to victory lane. He won the pole in the Charlotte Spring Race, as well as last year’s Fall race. Harvick has had a great week of practice thus far, with having the 3rd fastest time in the first practice. He also qualified for the 3rd position for this race.
Denny Hamlin($9,200): Hamlin is due to win at this track. Like Harvick, he has twelve Top 10s in his last fourteen races. Joe Gibbs racing has been dominating lately after the season’s slow start. Hamlin has shown some serious speed in the practice and qualifying sessions and will start at the pole position on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski($9,900): Keselowski is a steady finisher at Charlotte. He has finished in the Top 10 in four out of his last five races at Charlotte. In the Spring race, he could not avoid a stalled Chase Elliott and rear-ended him, ending his day in 39th. Keselowski starts in the 6th position on Sunday. He did win the Fall Charlotte race in 2013.
Matt Kenseth($8,600): I will stick to the top manufacturer and select another Toyota driver in Matt Kenseth. This savvy veteran has seven Top 10s in his last nine races at Charlotte, and has won twice at this intermediate track. He starts in the first row next to his teammate by qualifying 2nd. He is a bargain price at $8,600.
Erik Jones($7,900): Keeping with the Toyota theme, Erik Jones finished 7th in his only Monster Energy Cup race in the Spring. His team was not able to get his car thru inspection to complete a qualifying lap and will start in 38th on Sunday. I like Jones here as he can gain some serious Place Differential points as I expect him to work his way into the Top 15 from the 38th position.
Joey Logano($9,600): Logano has had a tough year ever since his encumbered victory early in the year at Richmond. He is a top driver who should be in the playoffs. However, he has tasted victory at Charlotte in the Fall of 2015, and does not have the pressure to advance in the playoffs. Starting in the 28th position, he is a long shot to win this race, but he will be low owned and a great GPP play.