Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick is a super-elite performer at Charlotte who’ll be tough to beat. He’s a three-time winner who’s performed at an extremely high-level. Since 2013 in 9 of the last 10 races he’s finished in the top ten. Over that stretch minus fall 2016 (problems) he has a 6.4 average finish and a 5.9 average running position. Last fall Harvick had a great car. He won Stage #1, won Stage #2, earned the best driver rating, had a 2nd place average running position, led a race high 149 laps and finished 6th when the checkered flag waved. I will note he was better than his result. With 10 laps to go he had a slow pit stop that dropped him from 2nd to 6th. Last spring Harvick had a strong showing. He started on the pole, finished 8th, earned the 4th best driver rating and led 45 laps. In the race on lap 124 while he was running in the top five he made an unexpected pit stop which was a setback. In fall 2016 Harvick had a strong car but finished 38th after having electrical problems. In the race Harvick started on the pole, led 12 laps but around lap 156 while he was running in 4th he had electrical issues which marked the end of his race. In spring 2016 he finished 2nd and had a 4th place average running position. This year at 1.5 mile tracks nobody has been better than Harvick. He has 3 wins and has finished in the top 2 every race. Additionally in the combined races he has a 3.5 average finish and has led a series best 561 laps. On Sunday look for Harvick to finish in the top five and be a serious threat to win.
Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. will be a favorite to win at Charlotte. He won here last fall and since 2015 he’s finished in the top five in 5 of the last 6 races. Over that six race stretch he has the best driver rating, a 4.3 average finish, a 5.0 average running position and has led 847 laps. That’s 599 laps more than Joey Logano who’s led the 2nd most laps. Last fall Truex Jr. was a little off early, but as the race went on his car got tuned to his liking. When the checkered flag waved he finished first, earned the 2nd best driver rating and led 91 laps. Once he was out front nobody was going to beat him. Last spring Truex Jr. was the class of the field but he lost the race on fuel mileage. When the checkered flag waved he finished 3rd, earned the best driver rating, had a 2nd place average running position and led 233 laps. I will note on the final lap Kyle Busch got around him, but at that point I don’t think Truex was trying hard. In fall 2016 Truex Jr. finished 13th but he was better than his result. During the final round of pit stops he had a slow stop that dropped him from 3rd to 16th. In spring 2016 there’s no debate Truex Jr. had the best car and he raced his way to victory lane. He started on the pole, earned a perfect driver rating and led a record 392 laps. This year at 1.5 mile tracks Truex Jr. has been strong. At these venues minus Texas he has a 3.7 average finish and has had a result in the top five every race.
Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch will be a contender at Charlotte. He’s never won here but, he’s performed at an extremely high level. Since October 2007 he’s finished in the top eleven 76% percent of the time. Last fall Kyle Busch had a strong car but finished 29th after spinning three times. His first spin happened on lap 137 and at that time he was running in 2nd. Busch never really seemed to like his car, but he certainly wasn’t lacking speed. In Stage #1 prior to his problem he finished 5th. Last spring, Busch had a great car. He started 2nd, finished 2nd, earned the 2nd best driver rating, had a 4th place average running position and led 63 laps. Additionally he won Stage #1, finished 4th in Stage #2 and finished 2nd in Stage 3. In fall 2016 Busch had a good car. He earned the 3rd best driver rating and finished 6th. What makes his performance a little more impressive is that his race wasn’t incident free. Around lap 90 while he was running in the top five he made an unexpected pit stop under green that dropped him a lap down. In spring 2016 he was top ten good but with 7 laps to go while he was running in 10th he got into the wall. This year at 1.5 mile tracks Busch ranks as one of the best. This year at tracks of this length he has 1 win, a 5.0 average finish and a 5.5 average running position. On Sunday look for Busch to finish in the top five and be a threat to win.