Thrilled to have Saturday night NASCAR at Charlotte

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I couldn’t be more thrilled that we have a Saturday night NASCAR at Charlotte this week just because the past few Sundays with NFL playing at the same time have made my NASCAR experience less enjoyable.

You walk in most sports books and the race isn’t even on TV because of all the games, and most in the crowd only want football.

Not all, though. I have viewed NASCAR on an NFL Sunday at Green Valley Ranch and the Westgate over the past couple of years.

If I stay at home, I only have two TV’s in one room, and NFL coupled with playoff baseball has made it tough for NASCAR to find much love from me at the same time. So in the process of needing to see what happened in the race, I have to stay up later to watch the replay (I’m not a DVR capable guy).

So when I see Saturday night racing, even though it’s on another 1.5-mile track, I get excited. And if it had to be one 1.5-track, I’m glad it’s Charlotte, which has been running twice a year since 1960.

This is the track where Elvis Presley filmed ‘Speedway’ with Bill Bixby and Nancy Sinatra. How could this not be my favorite track?

Last week’s race at Kansas was the eighth piece to the 1.5-mile puzzle. A total of 11 will be run on 1.5-mile tracks. Another Penske Ford – Joey Logano – won giving them five of the eight wins so far. We saw Kevin Harvick lead some laps again, but still be kept out of victory lane in the eight races.

We also saw Kyle Larson (2nd) be fast, Kyle Busch (3rd) show up for his best career Kansas finish and Ryan Newman (6th) look like a contender. That’s six straight top-15 finishes for Newman on a 1.5-mile track.

We can use everything we saw last week and apply it to Charlotte this Saturday night, as well what we learned on the other 1.5‘s this season. Charlotte and Kansas run much different, with Charlotte being faster, but the required set-ups do apply for both.

The most recent runs would be most relevant, but there’s also a Charlotte race from late May. Jimmie Johnson won that race during a stretch of winning three of four races, but he hasn’t won since.

Johnson is currently sitting 12th in points of this Chase stage after finishing 40th at Kansas. That was the first of the three races in this stage of 12 drivers competing to advance. After Charlotte and Talladega, four more drivers will be eliminated and Johnson is certainly looking like a great candidate to exit.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 11th in points after his 39th-place finish and Brad Keselowski finished 36th to be 10th in points. For Keselowski, who leads the series with five wins, he’s on the short end of the stick too.

It’s almost like the standings have been turned upside down. Top-5 in the standings are Logano, Kyle Busch (-6), Carl Edwards (-9), Newman (-9) and Denny Hamlin (-11). That same kind of final result after Talladega next week is going to ruin a lot of people’s Chase bracket, including mine.

This week I’m going to look for Penske and Hendrick drivers to contend. Why not? They have won all eight races at this distance this season. I also think we can maybe take a poke at a Joe Gibbs, Richard Childress or Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

The favorites look to have the edge again here, but those drivers in the 12-to-1 odds bracket up to 40-to-1 aren’t far behind. Keselowski won this race last season.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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