|12/03/15||The Champion By NHMS Numbers|
|11/20/15||The Championship Four Preview|
|11/13/15||Phoenix: Three To Watch|
|10/30/15||Martinsville: Three To Watch|
|10/18/15||Kansas: Three To Watch|
|10/05/15||Charlotte: Three To Watch|
CHASE FANTASY: Charlotte
Whoops! The opening race of the Contender Round didn't go as planned for many drivers. Three favorites to make deep championship runs all wrecked and took a big hit in the point standings.
Brad Keselowski finished 36th. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 39th. And, Jimmie Johnson dropped to the bottom of the Chase standings with a 40th-place finish.
The good news: the new Chase Grid format will forgive that finish if any of these drivers win one of the next two races.
The bad news: with the biggest wild card of the Chase, Talladega Superspeedway, on the schedule for next week, this Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the best opportunity for a Chase driver to control his fate and clinch a spot to the next round.
Here's a look at which Chase drivers may or may not perform well at Charlotte:
Green Flag - Jimmie Johnson
The No. 48 team will have to throw everything it has into this race. Charlotte has hosted 111 races and Johnson sits alone at the top with seven wins at the track. If there was ever a time to step up, this race is the one. This isn't the biggest race of his career by any means, but a win could solidify his status as one of the greatest drivers ever, especially if he ultimately uses it as a springboard for his seventh Cup championship.
Caution Flag - Kasey Kahne
It's been a trying year for Kahne and a 22nd-place finish at Kansas put him back in the standings. He's only eight points out of the transfer into the Eliminator Round, but he can't afford to lose more ground with Talladega up next weekend. Kahne had five straight top-10s at Charlotte, including a win and two second-place finishes, before finishing 14th in the Coca-Cola 600 earlier this year.
Red Flag - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The No. 88 might need to put its eggs in the Talladega basket next weekend. Junior hasn't had the speed and dominance he showed earlier in the season, and his 19.4 career average finish at Charlotte doesn't give reason for optimism. He has five career wins at Dega, so his season isn't over, but it's going to be a tense couple of weeks in Junior Nation.