Matt Kenseth and Ryan Blaney enter the second round of the NASCAR playoffs at Charlotte Motor Speedway hoping to start off strong again.
Matt Kenseth has yet to win a race this season but is heading to Charlotte with a string of top-12 finishes through the first three races of the playoffs.
Kenseth finished ninth at Chicagoland, third at New Hampshire and 11th at Dover. Those finishes might be good enough for the first round, but with six drivers already entering with 15 playoff points or more, stronger finishes might be required.
Charlotte Motor Speedway might be the right place to start for that.
Kenseth won at Charlotte Motor Speedway twice. His first career victory came during the Coca-Cola 600 in 2000 and his second win in 2011 in the fall race while driving for Roush Fenway Racing.
“Charlotte has gotten pretty rough over the last couple of years and you need to be able to have your car handle well to get through the bumps, and both ends of the track are quite different,” said Kenseth in his pre-race advance.
“Charlotte might also be pretty different this weekend since it’s moving to a day race rather than the Saturday night race that we typically have there in October. If you lose that track position at Charlotte, it’s not easy to get it back. I feel like qualifying is extremely important there, strategy, pit stops, restarts, all those things will all be more important than ever in order to fight to keep that track position.”
If track position will be key, then Matt Kenseth will have a good head start as he will start from the second position for Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
In his first NASCAR playoffs, Ryan Blaney survived the first round with finishes of 11th at Chicago, ninth at New Hampshire and 23rd at Dover.
“It is definitely not the day we wanted, and we got trapped a lap down early, didn’t fire off very good,” Blaney said in his post-race release following Dover. “At least we got our car a little better the last 100 laps or so, but then we had an issue and I had to take it easy toward the end.”
Heading into Charlotte, where Blaney finished 24th earlier this year in the Coca-Cola 600, will be a welcome change at a 1.5-mile speedway. Blaney has finished 15th or better in five of the 1.5-mile speedways this season.
“Charlotte, we had a broken axle earlier this year but we were pretty decent in that race before that happened,” said Blaney after the race at Dover. “The 1.5-mile tracks seem to be our strong suit, and hopefully we can keep that up and keep making that our strong suit.”
Ryan Blaney will roll off from the 15th starting position for the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Follow Matt on Twitter, @mattlovisa.