And then there were 11: with this week’s announcement that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would be sidelined for two races after suffering his second concussion of the season in the closing-lap wreck at Talladega
, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion will be crowned from the remaining 11 drivers.
As the Chase for the Sprint Cup heads to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday Night’s Bank of America 500, Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle
has the pole. Biffle, who sits ninth in points, needs a strong finish to climb his way back into contention. That could be a tall order, since Biffle has yet to win at Charlotte in Sprint Cup competition.
Jimmie Johnson, who currently sits second in points, has won at the 1.5-mile track six times, the highest number for any driver still active. Johnson starts from fifth on Saturday night, but a lot can happen over the course of 500 miles.
Clint Bowyer, who sits in fifth spot in Sprint Cup points, starts from the fourth spot on the grid. Like polesitter Biffle, Bowyer has never won at Charlotte, but could certainly benefit from a win on Saturday to elevate him in the standings.
It’s not a good idea to count out Jeff Gordon, either, especially given his recent podium finishes in New Hampshire, Dover and Talladega. Gordon, now sixth in points, knows what it’s like to win at Charlotte, since the Hendrick Motorsports driver has done so five times in his career.
While it won’t impact the Chase for the Championship, it’s worth pointing out that Kurt Busch changes rides to drive for Furniture Row Racing, while displaced driver Regan Smith hops into car number 88 to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. over the next two races. Charlotte also marks the return of A.J Almendinger
, who will jump into Kurt Busch’s old car at Phoenix Racing
The weather looks to be clear for Saturday night’s race, which will air at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC television.