Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Dover last week gave him four for the season which ties Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch for the most in the series. It was his third win in the past five races which make him the driver to beat in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Even if Truex hadn’t won at Darlington, Chicago and Dover the past five races, he’d still be the favorite just because of what he did May 29 in the first Charlotte race. It was the most dominant win in the history of Charlotte’s storied history. In NASCAR longest race of the year – the Coca-Cola 600 – Truex led 392 of the 400 laps on the 1.5-mile high-banked tri-oval.
Only three other drivers led among the eight laps that Truex didn’t. That’s almost four hours of racing where Truex was out front. That’s what he does better than anyone and he’s red hot right now. Since winning at Darlington five races ago he’s led a lap in the last five races totaling 521 laps. In the seven races on 1.5-mile tracks, he’s led 817 laps – tops in the series.
So when looking at his chances for Sunday, there aren’t really any reasons to suggest he won’t win. Sure, anything can happen. But each of three victories in the last five races have attributes that can be applied to Charlotte.
Darlington’s high banking on the 1.3-mile layout can be used somewhat as can Chicago’s 1.5-mile layout and Dover’s high banks. Oh yeah, and did I mention he led 392 freaking laps the last time at Charlotte?
While I may paint a picture of Truex being invincible this week, it’s no fun betting the 4-to-1 favorite to win a race among 39 other drivers, with 12 of them having a legitimate shot to win. His Gibbs teammates is where you want to look first as his top competition beginning with Kyle Busch who surprisingly has never won at Charlotte in 25 Cup starts.
Matt Kenseth has two wins, Carl Edwards has won once and Denny Hamlin has a strong 12.3 average finish, but no wins in 22 starts.
Kevin Harvick has the best look among Chevrolet drivers as he’s finished ninth or better in 11 of his last 12 Charlotte starts, which includes three wins. He’s been runner-up in his last two starts at Charlotte.
Since 2014, if we look at all the results at 1.5-mile track and throw Darlington in as well, Harvick has averaged an 8, 9 finish with four wins and led a series high 2,074 laps.
Jimmie Johnson was one of the three drivers other than Truex to lead at Charlotte in May, finishing third. He has a series-leading seven Charlotte wins, the last coming in 2014. The reason to suggest he’ll be a strong contender Sunday is because of what a recent Chicago test session did for his team in the Sept. 18 race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Truex won that race and Johnson settled for 12th, but he also led a race-high 118 laps. He had the best car despite the results.
Brad Keselowski has two wins on 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas & Kentucky) and his only Charlotte win came during the 2013 Chase. He finished fifth in May’s Coca-Cola 600.