Under the Lights at Charlotte
Blake Smith is here with
Weekend Preview: Bank of America 500
For the first time since the 1979 Southern 500, there will not be an Earnhardt in the Sprint Cup Series field. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has been sidelined for the next 2 weeks due to a concussion he received last Sunday in the Talladega race. Regan Smith will replace Earnhardt both this week at Charlotte and next week at Kansas. Smith, who was scheduled to make his debut in James Finch’s #51 this weekend has been replaced by A.J. Allmendinger in that machine. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has told reporters that he plans to not be at the track this weekend.
With the help of pastry chef Duff Goldman, Hendrick Motorsports unveiled Kasey Kahne’s Time Warner Chevrolet in a unique way on Wednesday night. The new paint scheme was first unveiled as a life-size replica cake, made by Charm City Cakes. After the curtain was raised, Kahne drove the actual car onto the stage next to it’s delectable counterpart. Kahne is debuting the Time Warner Chevrolet in this weekend’s Bank of America 500.
The 2013 Sprint Cup cars are on the “fast track” as teams prepare for next season’s new body designs. Last week, the cars were tested at Talladega and on Tuesday, they were tested at a Goodyear tire test at Texas Motorspeedway. Juan Montoya, Paul Menard, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle were on hand to test the new machines.
Qualifying for the Bank of America 500 was held Thursday night under the lights at Charlotte Motorspeedway. Greg Biffle broke Elliott’s Sadler’s previous track record with a lap of 193.708 MPH. Mark Martin, who will be making his 850th start this weekend qualified 2nd with “Rocketman” Ryan Newman in the 3rd position. Kurt Busch, who is behind the wheel of the #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet qualified 21st. Regan Smith in the #88 Chevrolet qualified 26th and A.J. Allmendinger in the #51 qualified 38th.
Teams will have 2 more practice sessions on Friday to prepare for Saturday night’s race. Crew Chief’s will have to hypothesize on a setup with information gained during the day time practices as well as information learned during May’s Coca-Cola 600. Crews will have to build adjustability into the cars as the track will change throughout the night.
Mark Martin has brought the same chassis that he finished 34th with at Charlotte back in May. Third-place qualifier, Ryan Newman has brought a new chassis this weekend to the event, which was recently tested at the wind tunnel. The May Charlotte winner, Kasey Kahne has elected to bring Chassis 5-729. Kahne last ran this car at Michigan in August.
My pick for this week’s Bank of America 500 is the 2nd place finisher in the Coca-Cola 600, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin who has a great record at the track, also has last year’s Sprint Cup Series Championship crew chief, Darian Grubb on the pit box. Look for the FedEx Toyota in Victory lane on Saturday night.
Tune into Saturday’s coverage of the Bank of America 500 beginning at 5:30 on WBKR and WBKR.com. For a complete wrap up of the weekend and interview with the winners, tune into “NASCAR Live” with Eli Gold beginning at 6PM on Tuesday.