Charlotte In the Rear-View

It’s time to put a nice little bow on everything that happened in NASCAR’s backyard.

This weekend, the NASCAR traveling carnival made its annual October stop at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500. It was the 30th race of the season, fourth race of the Chase and first of the Contender Round.

It was supposed to go green just past 7:00 p.m. on Saturday night but unyielding rain showers forced NASCAR to push the race to the following day at 12:30 p.m.

Under clear blue Carolina skies, Matt Kenseth led the field to the green flag at 12:32 p.m. Eastern time. The field didn’t make it halfway down the backstretch before the first caution of the race flew for debris on the front. It came from the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota of Jeb Burton when the field accordioned back and he rammed the back of the No. 35 Front Row Motorsports Ford of Cole Whitt.

The race restarted on lap five and it remained under green until the competition caution on lap 26. J.J. Yeley was tagged for his crew being over the wall too soon and restarted the race from the rear of the field. The race restarted on lap 31. Yeley was posted for an unapproved adjustment on his car during his pit stop. He was forced to hit pit road and fix the problem.

Kasey Kahne made contact with the wall on lap 41, pitted from 12th and rejoined the race in 41st two laps down. It went from bad to worse when he suffered a right-front tire blowout and slammed the wall on lap 61. This brought out the third caution of the race.

Kahne said that he didn’t “know why either one of those tires went down. Obviously, we were doing something wrong to have two tire failures like that. It’s discouraging, but that’s the way it goes.”

Greg Biffle was busted for speeding on pit road and restarted the race from the rear of the field.

The race restarted on lap 66. Four laps later, Carl Edwards tapped the back of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and sent him into the wall. Earnhardt eventually cut down his right-front tire and slammed the wall a few laps later. This brought out the fourth caution of the race.

He said that Edwards “got a great run on us and drove down into one and got in the back of us a little bit. I don’t know if I cut him off or not. But he drove in there pretty hard and ran over the left rear quarter panel of the car and got in the fence.”

Joey Logano opted to stay out under the caution and assumed the lead.

After the race restarted on lap 81, not much really happened. The lead only changed during the lap 120 pit cycle. Debris on the backstretch brought out the fifth caution on lap 167.

The race restarted on lap 174. Kenseth drifted up in front of Ryan Newman and was hooked into the wall exiting Turn 4.

Kenseth said that his situation “just kind of snowballed, you know. We were real fast out front. We were kind of tight in traffic and got behind pitting, and then I missed the pit stall trying to come around the 21 and had to back up in the pit, and that put us back there, so just kind of snowballed. But with Ryan, I honestly don’t know. I’ve got to look at it. He went up like I thought he was broke, so I went up through the middle, and I thought I left him plenty of room and then next thing I know, I was pointed at the fence.”

Justin Allgaier laid oil on the track when his engine expired on lap 182, bringing out the race’s seventh caution. On the ensuing restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., riding the high line, drove through the uncleaned oil and made contact with the wall. Earnhardt spoke on the incident after the race.

“We all hit the wall. I hit the wall, Brad hit the wall. Then we went another lap and I pitted and a bunch of other guys hit the wall. There was oil down there. It wasn’t Speedi Dri,” he explained. “I’ve raced this for 20 years. I know what oil and Speedi Dri is. We hit fluid and flew into the freaking wall hard. That’s not Speedi Dri. It was oil up there. There were some shadows cast by them billboards across the track and that may have made it difficult for them to see. Justin blew a hose. He didn’t knock a hole in the bottom of the engine that would just leave a track of oil. He blew a hose or something that is going to spray oil and throw oil all about the race track and up the race track. Maybe it was two-and-a-half car lengths wide how much oil was on the track. You can put it where the car went. You got to get out there maybe and feel around, get your hands on the track.”

After the race, Managing Director for the Sprint Cup Series Richard Buck said that they (NASCAR) “looked everywhere, including putting people on the ground and walking the area where they said the oil was and there was no oil. I don’t know that you say that anybody misread anything. We all did our jobs. We actually had a human being, protected by the trucks, walking that area to make sure. We do everything we can to bring the surface back to a raceable condition. I think we’ve got an excellent record with that. Sometimes with these lubricants and things that they use, there is some staining to the track, and we’ll go back and do a double-check on that … to make sure that we have got all the fluids. We did that today and we feel absolutely confident that there was no oil on that very top groove or down below or anywhere else.’’

Now I’m not going to sit here, play armchair-spotter and say there was oil. Depending on what brand these teams use, it can be any color. Some brands of motor oil are black and some are a bit clearer. I have no reason to doubt “June Bug”. He’s been racing in the Sprint Cup Series since 2000. I also have no reason to doubt Richard Buck. But I will say that given some teams – especially teams one or more laps down – have a propensity to “call out” debris to get a timely caution, it wouldn’t shock me if NASCAR views those drivers as the boy who cried ‘wolf.’

But I digress.

Another thing that happened under this caution period was the two Kyle’s (Busch and Larson) making contact and Larson getting spun out on pit road. It looked like to me that Larson made the last second decision to hit pit road and Busch made the last second decision to stay out. Both were tagged for commitment line violations as both ran into the orange commitment cone and restarted the race from the rear of the field.

After the lap 201 restart, the race proceeded more orderly until the next cycle of green flag stops on lap 231. During these stops, Sam Hornish Jr. took the lead for the first time this season. The ninth and final caution of the race flew with 95 laps to go when Kenseth suffered a right-front tire blowout and slammed the wall in Turn 3. Hornish pitted under the caution and the lead cycled back to Joey Logano.

The race restarted with 88 laps to go. Jimmie Johnson was running third when his engine blew up on the backstretch. He would go on to finish 39th.

Martin Truex Jr. kicked off the final round of stops with 52 laps to go. Sam Hornish Jr. took the lead with 50 to go and led until he pitted with 34 to go. He finished the race in 19th and his 22 laps led were the most laps he’s ever led in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Logano regained the lead and drove away from Kevin Harvick to score his 12th career victory.

If the NASCAR community were playing a drinking game where we took a shot every time someone said Talladega in the last seven days, we’d all be dead from alcohol poisoning. Logano said after the race that this makes Talladega easier.

Logano left Charlotte with a six-point lead over Kevin Harvick in the points standings.

Chevrolet left with a 47-point lead over Toyota in the manufacturer standings. With 23 cars in the field representing the bow ties, Chevrolet really has a race and a half lead over Toyota. If it had been a Toyota car that won and scored max points (48), the lowest the highest finishing Chevy could’ve possibly finished would’ve been 23rd and gained 21-points. To put this in simpler terms: If Toyota doesn’t close the gap to within 22-points by Phoenix, Chevrolet will clinch their 13th consecutive manufacturers title simply when the green flag flies.

So that should just about wrap up everything that happened in Charlotte.

Next up, NASCAR heads to America’s heartland to race at Kansas Speedway. Coverage of the Hollywood Casino 400 begins at 2:00 p.m. on NBC. The Motor Racing Network will be on the air at 1:00 p.m.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this fact. There is a persistent storm at Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela. Lightning storms occur for about 10 hours a night, 140 to 160 nights a year, for a total of about 1.2 million lightning discharges per year.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

Tucker White
Tucker White
I've followed NASCAR for well over 20 years of my life, both as a fan and now as a member of the media. As of 2024, I'm on my ninth season as a traveling NASCAR beat writer. For all its flaws and dumb moments, NASCAR at its best produces some of the best action you'll ever see in the sport of auto racing. Case in point: Kyle Larson's threading the needle pass at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2021. On used-up tires, racing on a worn surface and an aero package that put his car on the razor's edge of control, Larson demonstrated why he's a generational talent. Those are the stories I want to capture and break down. In addition to NASCAR, I also follow IndyCar and Formula 1. As a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Tennessee, I'm a diehard Tennessee Volunteers fan (especially in regards to Tennessee football). If covering NASCAR doesn't kill me, down the road, watching Tennessee football will. I'm also a diehard fan of the Atlanta Braves, and I lived long enough to see them win a World Series for the first time since 1995 (when I was just a year old). I've also sworn my fan allegiance to the Nashville Predators, though that's not paid out as much as the Braves. Furthermore, as a massive sports dork, I follow the NFL on a weekly basis. Though it's more out of an obligation than genuine passion (for sports dorks, following the NFL is basically an unwritten rule). Outside of sports, I'm a major cinema buff and a weeb. My favorite film is "Blazing Saddles" and my favorite anime is "Black Lagoon."

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