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AP

Sunday's Cup start moved up for rain

Profile image for Jenna Fryer
Jenna Fryer, AP

CONCORD, N.C. -- Rain has wreaked havoc with NASCAR's opening race of the second round of the Cup Series playoff.

All practice was canceled Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and the start of Sunday's race has already been moved up an hour to give NASCAR a bigger window to complete the 500-mile event.

It's not the chamber of commerce weekend that Charlotte officials had hoped for when they rearranged the schedule. This event has traditionally been held on Saturday nights but was washed out last year by Hurricane Matthew.

Held the next day, on a gorgeous Carolina afternoon, the race was one of the more competitive events of the season. Drivers felt that running in the afternoon improved the on-track product, and Charlotte officials adjusted by moving the event to Sunday.

Now, Hurricane Nate is expected to spoil the day.

The track had a different struggle Friday after drivers discovered officials had not properly applied traction compound to the track. It required a second application in the turns, but not before it caused Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and David Ragan to wiggle exiting Turn 4 and hit the wall during practice. Earnhardt and Busch had to move to backup cars.

Charlotte officials figured out that they had not applied enough of the PJ1 sticky substance in that turn, and drivers had asked about it after the dicey practice session.

"The stuff that they sprayed down, it has had a bad reaction to the sun or something that has made it really slick," Earnhardt said after Friday's crash. "Something has made it to where it doesn't have grip; it's the opposite."

Now the rain will wash some of the substance away, and with all practice canceled Saturday, drivers won't know what to expect when the race does begin. Earnhardt crashed in the opening moments of Friday practice, and said he'd avoid the top line of the track where the compound is until another driver demonstrates there's no danger.

Things to watch at Charlotte:

Gibbs out front

It was little surprise to see a pair of Toyotas sweep the front row in qualifying. The cars, though, weren't the usual suspects.

Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth gave Joe Gibbs Racing the top two starting spots for the race. The stronger Toyotas in qualifying this year had belonged to Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch.

Life is good

Truex has been difficult to catch this season and leads the series with five wins, 19 stage victories and 59 playoff points. So he's had very little to complain about from his spot out front.

"It feels really good," he said. "It's been a great season and you know it's been really cool to be kind of the guy to beat or to have the most stage wins, the most points, the most wins, all that stuff."

But Truex knows how quickly it can change. He dominated the first round of the playoffs last season, only to falter in the second round. He was eliminated at Talladega last year after winning two of the first three races of the playoff.

Raised stakes

Talladega is next on the calendar, and it's typically a race that can destroy a driver's championship chances. With that in mind, the remaining 12 drivers in the playoffs are determined to get strong finishes at Charlotte.

It means the racing at Charlotte should be aggressive, which Ryan Blaney says has been the case through the first three playoff races.

"It's intense, for sure. From Lap 1. That's the way it's supposed to be. [It's] supposed to be 'on-go' from the drop of the green flag," Blaney said. "There shouldn't be any riding around. There is a lot more give in the regular season and there's not much of that in the postseason, and that's good. That's how it should be, and that's how I like racing."

Bank of America 500 Lineup

FRIDAY QUALIFYING; RACE TODAY

AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY

CONCORD, N.C.

(CAR NUMBER IN PARENTHESES)

1. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 191.598 mph.

2. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 191.489.

3. (4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 191.394.

4. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 190.941.

5. (14) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 190.584.

6. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 190.557.

7. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 190.409.

8. (41) Kurt Busch, Ford, 190.362.

9. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 190.221.

10. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 190.067.

11. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 189.813.

12. (10) Danica Patrick, Ford, 189.215.

13. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 190.000.

14. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 189.813.

15. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 189.707.

16. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 189.580.

17. (78) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 189.500.

18. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 189.208.

19. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 189.201.

20. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 189.168.

21. (37) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 188.904.

22. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 187.422.

23. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 187.285.

24. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 185.644.

25. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 189.221.

26. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 188.996.

27. (13) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 188.409.

28. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 187.728.

29. (32) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 187.220.

30. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 187.039.

31. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 186.851.

32. (72) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 186.297.

33. (51) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 184.388.

34. (15) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 184.131.

35. (55) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 183.045.

36. (66) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 182.420.

37. (33) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 181.165.

38. (77) Erik Jones, Toyota, 0.000.

39. (23) Corey LaJoie, Toyota, 0.000.

40. (83) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 0.000