"There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home."
NASCAR is clicking its collective ruby-red slippers this week as the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series gear up to compete at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The 1.5-mile quad-oval - along with Darlington, Daytona, and Atlanta of NASCAR's original four tracks built for speed - is nestled right in the hub of NASCAR Nation. Nearly every trace team is based in general area of the track (the only notable exceptions being the Wood Brothers, which remain in Stuart, VA where they've been based for their entire existence, and Denver-based Furniture Row Racing), and most of the drivers make their full-time homes or divide their time with a residence in the Charlotte area.
There's something to be said for sleeping in your own bed, and being so close to the race track affords the drivers and teams - used to sleeping in a motorhome or a motel on the eve of their day in the sun or their night in the lights - to do just that.
Races at Charlotte are a big deal for the sport's unsung heroes. Know those "boys back at the shop" that the drivers always make a point to thank? They are the mechanics, fabricators, engine tuners, etc. who make those race cars perform at such a high level. Unfortunately, they rarely get to travel to the track as part of the road crew; there's only so much space available on charters and in motels and in the hauler and pit area at the track, and only the folks essential to that car getting around the track during the weekend usually make the trek to the race.
Since the crew men for all the teams live near the shop where they work and thus near the track, they get to see their handiwork in action first-hand when the circuit visits Charlotte.
Matt Kenseth, coming off a big win this past weekend in Talladega, is the defending winner of Saturday evening's Bank of America 500. Another win might not do much to rehab his championship dreams for 2012 - realistically, his hopes are all but dashed - but it would help to make sure he departs Roush-Fenway Racing at season's end on the highest note possible.
Carl Edwards won last year's edition of the Dollar General 300, but he isn't competing in Friday's Nationwide Series event. Elliott Sadler holds a nine-point lead in that division on defending champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Kenseth's replacement in the No. 17 Sprint Cup machine for 2013). Austin Dillon (16 points behind Sadler) and Sam Hornish Jr. (35 back) are the only drivers within one race's worth of points of the lead with just five races remaining.