The odds of Saturday night's Bank of America 500 coming anywhere close to the excitement of last week's race in Talladega was remote at best.
As expected the fifth race of the Chase was a laborious affair on the mile-and-a-half Charlotte Motor Speedway with most of the field spending the 500 mile grind strung out around the track.
Except for the opening laps of side-by-side racing between pole sitter Greg Biffle and Mark Martin, the attention of the night was focused on pit road or more specifically crew chief's calculators.
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Fuel mileage decided the outcome of the race with Clint Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie able to play the role of better mathematicians than their competitors.
While fuel mileage racing has always been part of motorsports, it's a acquired taste for most fans. The strategy and drama of these fuel affairs is intriguing. In fact without it, Saturday's race and the trip to Dover two weeks ago would have been completely forgettable.
But at a time of the season when the championship is on the line, hard racing and passing rather than crunching numbers is what should be on display.
Talladega created a great deal of controversy but it came on the heels of an electric day of racing.
The only electricity in Charlotte came from the system that lit up the track.
Clint Bowyer – The amazing season for Michael Waltrip racing rolled on with Bowyer's third win of the season on Saturday night. Bowyer is hanging on in the championship picture only 28 points out of the lead, something only the most ardent MWR supporters predicted.
Kyle Busch – Continues to knock down solid finishes as the season winds down and was in contention to perhaps steal a win on Saturday night. Busch came home fifth to cap off a solid first half of the Chase schedule.
Carl Edwards – Last year's championship runner-up hasn't made the Risers category much if at all this season. But Edwards was at the front of the field a great deal on Saturday night and ended up with a seventh place finish.
Brad Keselowski – Had a chance to increase his Chase lead but was bit by the fuel mileage game, something Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe have been pretty adept at this season. Ran out of fuel with 58 laps to go and was forced to settle for an 11th place finish.
Regan Smith – No storybook ending for Smith who got the call to drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 in place of the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. After climbing into the top 10, Smith was sidelined early with a blown engine. He'll get another shot next Sunday at Kansas.
Jeff Gordon – His hot streak came to an end when Gordon was hit for a pit road speeding penalty effectively knocking him out of the championship picture. An 18th place finish Saturday night after putting together three straight runs inside the top three.
“Thanks everybody for the opportunity. It's been fun getting back in. I'll drive my butt off.'' – AJ Allmendinger
"You guys are getting introduced to my type of luck." – Kurt Busch to his crew when debris stuck on the grille of his car
"I thought I nailed pit road, so I'm dying to know." – Jeff Gordon after speeding on pit road
"Really, it's just junk to tell you the truth." – Kevin Harvick
"I can't get you that, so I'm just going to run hard." – Brad Keselowski when told he needed to save four laps of fuel
On a scale of one to 10 "Pistone Pistons," I'll give Saturday's Bank of America 500 a five. Once again fuel mileage decides the outcome of the race and provided about the only drama of the night. Outside of the opening side by side duel between pole sitter Greg Biffle and Mark Martin, there wasn't much in the way of racing for the lead. After last week's Talladega excitement and yes controversy, Saturday night's stop in Charlotte was a let down. A 500 mile grind on a mile-and-a-half track doesn't exactly scream action in today's Sprint Cup Series and guess what? Another one lurks ahead next month in Texas.
DOWN THE ROAD
The season's second trip of the year to Kansas Speedway is really a visit to a brand new race track. Since the Sprint Cup Series competed outside Kansas City in April, the track has undergone a massive facelift with new paving as well as a reconfiguration that now features progressive banking through the corners. Teams will get an extra couple days of practice leading into next weekend's race schedule to try and get a handle on what some predict will be another Wild Card in the Chase scenario. Hopefully the work transformed Kansas into a something more in line with Homestead, by far the most competitive of the many mile-and-a-half tracks on the schedule.