Three things to watch
1. Kevin Harvick won the Charlotte race in May and will start second on Saturday night. He’s rollin’.
2. Jeff Gordon has won five times at Charlotte but no victories since 2007. He starts on the pole for the ninth time at CMS.
3. Kyle Larson will join the Cup series fulltime in 2014 but makes his first career start at the track on Saturday night. Also making his first start is fellow Nationwide series driver Brian Scott.
Observations• When Darlington (S.C.) Raceway lost its traditional Labor Day weekend Cup series race date, it looked like it had found a very viable alternative in the Saturday night of Mother’s Day weekend. In fact, more fans attended races held on Mother’s Day weekend then its traditional date on Labor Day weekend. Now, Darlington is moving again – to a mid-April date that also conflicts with the Master’s in nearby Augusta, Ga., and college spring football games at South Carolina and Clemson. Sorry, but this looks like nothing more than setting up the track for failure. I would not be surprised to see that by 2015, Darlington may be gone altogether from the schedule.
• Is it a coincidence that two drivers who have struggled in qualifying much of their respective careers – Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick – are each enjoying one of their best seasons, in part because they have dramatically improved their qualifying efforts? Probably not. Asked about the issue on Friday, Kenseth said, “People who say ‘Qualifying doesn’t matter’ are generally people like me who have been bad qualifiers.”
• Denny Hamlin, who’s season was derailed by a back injury early in the year, really needs a change of fortune. Over the last five races his average finish is 21.8. Perhaps he can find it Saturday night at CMS, the site of his most recent top-five finish back in May.
Wheeler turns attention to short tracks: Longtime track promoter H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler is continuing his work in racing with the formation of a new company which will cater to the 1,500 short tracks across the country.
Wheeler, former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and his son, Trip, announced this week the creation of Speedway Benefits Inc., which hopes to serve as a collective to help tracks sell advertising and buy material as a group.
"It is a gap in the market and that is what it takes today find that missing link," said Trip Wheeler. "The short tracks of America are spread out throughout the country and all need help in selling and buying and that is what we will offer."
The company’s initial goal will be signing up 500 tracks by Jan. 1. Humpy Wheeler will serve as chief executive officer and Trip Wheeler as the company’s president.
Another Irvan in racing: Jared Irvan, the 15-year-old son of former NASCAR standout Ernie Irvan, will make his fulltime debut in racing next season driving in the Pro All-Star Series South, a late-model series.
Jared is currently a sophomore at cfa Academy in Concord and has driven go-karts, Midgets and Legends cars.
"It’s an honor to be able to follow in my dad’s footsteps," Jared said. "He is not only my dad, but also my coach, and he brings so much knowledges from his years in racing against the best in the sport."
Roush taps Reed for Nationwide ride: Ryan Reed will run fulltime in the Nationwide Series next season with Roush Fenway Racing in the No. 16 Ford.
Reed, who is a Type 1 diabetic, will be sponsored by the American Diabetes Association’s Drive to Stop Diabetes campaign.
"Ryan has shown a tremendous amount of talent in the race he has competed in for us this season," said team owner Jack Roush. "His ability to not only battle the odds, but win out over the elements is a testament to the competitor that he is."
Darlington swaps Cup date: Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Kansas Speedway will swap their spring Cup series race dates, both tracks announced on Friday.
Darlington, which has hosted a Saturday night race on Mother’s Day weekend the past nine seasons, will move its date to Saturday, April 12, next season. Kansas’ spring date will become a night race and be held on Saturday, May, 10.
Myers wins at Charlotte: Burt Myers scored his second victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway Thursday night in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Series race.
Myers was running second to Ryan Preece when Preece slowed suddenly on Lap 136 and went to the pits, the victim of a flat tire. Myers inherited the lead and held on to win by two seconds over second place finisher Kyle Ebersole.
Three picks for your fantasy team:
Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr.