NASCAR Bank of America 500 Preview: Playing the Game of Fuel Management

Shannon BaxterContributor IOctober 14, 2011

CONCORD, NC - MAY 29: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser/Armed Forces Chevrolet, races with Dale Earnhardt Jr,, driver of the #88 National Guard / AMP Energy Cherolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2011 in Concord, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jerry Markland/Getty Images

There have been nine different winners in the past nine races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so predicting the winner is like finding a needle in a haystack. This race will mark the halfway point in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the battle has never been so close.

Last time we came to Charlotte in May, fans felt heartbreak all over the world. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. gambled on fuel mileage in the closing laps of the race, trying to conserve enough fuel for the end. 

Unfortunately, his gamble did not pay off and he ran out of fuel on the last lap of the race. This paved the way for Kevin Harvick to win the race and move to second in the standings. Will Dale Jr. take the gamble this time to try and end his 122 race win-less streak?

"You don't want to finish outside of the Top 10 over some silly gamble," Earnhardt said this week.

"Last time we made the choice to stretch the fuel and the repercussions weren't that severe. If you can take a two tire gamble, it's worth taking if you're trying to steal a win. You're going to take more severe gambles than you normally would, but nothing stupid."

Earnhardt is currently ninth place in standings, 43 points behind leader Carl Edwards.

Jimmie Johnson comes into Charlotte sitting third in points at a track that he is known to dominate. Charlotte Motor Speedway has been considered "Jimmie's House" because of his six wins here and 10 Top 10 finishes.

Johnson has previously won this race during the Chase for the Championship three times. You can't count out his teammate Jeff Gordon either with five wins at Charlotte, including his first career victory in 1994. Gordon was the youngest driver to win here and that stat still stands today.

Starting on the pole for the Bank of America 500, Tony Stewart has been excelling in the Chase so far this season. Stewart has one win at this track and 11 Top 10 finishes. He has two wins this season and resides seventh in points, 19 points behind the leader.

AJ Allmendinger could be a dark horse for the race, after starting on the front row for the Coca Cola 600 earlier this year. He ran in the Top 5 throughout most of the race and finished the night out strong in fifth position. Although he did not make the Chase this year, he is in a tough battle with Clint Bowyer for 13th position in the standings.

It's going to be a wild race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night. Make sure you tune into ABC to watch all the action!