HUNTERSVILLE – Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ most successful teams.
Both will seek success at their home track, Charlotte Motor Speedway, when the tour competes in the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 12.
JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are in the thick of the title hunt. They’ll be chased by a slew of competitive drivers when the green flag drops.
Here’s a look at some of the top competitors to keep an eye on during the race:
• Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota
Two poles, seven wins, 16 top-10s, 1st in points
Outlook: Three points separate Kenseth from Jimmie Johnson, the second-place man in series standings. Johnson has won five titles in the Chase for the Sprint Cup era. Kenseth hasn’t won a title since 2003, but this year is his best shot. His maiden season with JGR has been a dream. A win at Charlotte would be his series-high eighth checkered flag of the year.
• Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
Three poles, four wins, 18 top-10s, 5th in points
Outlook: Kyle Busch is already one of the most accomplished drivers in Charlotte Motor Speedway history. A Bank of America 500 victory would go a long way in helping Busch’s title hopes, which took a huge drop when he crashed and finished 34th at Kansas Speedway last week. He’ll be one of the favorites all weekend.
• Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota
Zero poles, zero wins, 15 top-10s, 9th in points
Outlook: Bowyer won last year’s Bank of America 500. He’s not won a race this season, but knowing he can win at Charlotte has to offer Bowyer a boost. He’s the only MWR car in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, but he’s also the only MWR car not to visit victory lane in 2013. Maybe a repeat win is in order for Team 15.
• Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford
Two poles, one win, 16 top-10s, 10th in points
Outlook: Logano is a newcomer to the Chase. Like Kenseth, he’s enjoying a career resurgence in his first season with a new team. Penske Racing’s youngest driver is also its only Chaser this year. Teammate Brad Keselowski won the championship last year, but Logano is Penske’s only shot at a crown this season. He has a lot of ground to make up, but six top-10s in nine Charlotte starts at least gives a good foundation for hope.
• Martin Truex Jr., No. 56 Toyota
Zero poles, one win, 12 top-10s, 16th in points
Outlook: Truex made the Chase. Then, he didn’t. NASCAR issued penalties after the Sept. 8 race at Richmond, which were severe enough to knock Truex out of a wild-card Chase berth after he initially qualified. His goal the rest of the year is to win races. Truex is a past winner of the non-points Sprint Showdown at Charlotte. A points-paying victory at Charlotte would be a nice consolation for not being in the Chase.
Other drivers to watch: Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, David Ragan