All eyes on three: Keselowski, Dale Jr., Johnson at center of tonight’s Bank of America 500


The mission is simple for Chase contenders Brad Keselowski, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

For these three drivers, only a win in tonight’s Bank of America 500 will erase their wrecks during last weekend’s Contender Round opener at Kansas, which have put them at the bottom of the Chase Grid.

Failing that, a Top-5 finish may be enough to at least put them closer to where they need to be.

Kasey Kahne is also below the cutoff with them at eight points behind Jeff Gordon. But it’s Keselowski (-22 points), Earnhardt (-25 points), and Johnson (-27 points) that will have the majority of the attention throughout tonight.

It’s likely safe to assume that not many of us were thinking the latter three – Keselowski and Johnson, the last two Sprint Cup champions, and Earnhardt, the sport’s most popular driver – would be in a spot like this during the Chase.

Many of us were thinking these three would do enough to be part of the final four in the Championship Round at Homestead. And that could still happen.

But right now, the citizens of Brad Nation, Jimmie Nation, and Junior Nation are sitting on pins and needles.

As for their drivers, they know how big tonight is.

“For us, this is a very Homestead-like weekend,” Keselowski said on Thursday after qualifying. “We need to perform. This is our last chance to really control our destiny in the Chase for this round and we want to make the most of this opportunity.”

Out of Keselowski, Earnhardt, and Johnson, the Team Penske driver may have the best chance tonight to win and advance.

He is the defending champion of this race and in 2014, he’s shown that he can win anywhere, at any time, with that No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

On the other side of the coin, Earnhardt’s never won a points race at Charlotte and Johnson’s still hunting for that extra burst of performance that will put him back on form.

However, Earnhardt is the only one of the four Chasers currently below the cutoff that will have a Top-10 starting position tonight (Earnhardt, 9th, Keselowski 17th, Kahne 19th, Johnson 21st).

The finish is what counts, of course, but Junior fans should keep this stat in mind: 75.6 percent (84 of 111) of all the Cup races at Charlotte have been won from a Top-10 spot on the grid. And considering that he’s in go-for-broke mode, he figures to have a say in the outcome.

That brings us to Johnson. He won the Coca-Cola 600 in May, and we know better than to count out a seven-time victor at Charlotte.

But he’s starting from mid-pack, and he had another problem on Friday when he scraped the wall during final practice. Johnson avoided having a backup car called in for him, but can he move forward tonight from 21st?

Then there’s the one issue that could potentially impact everyone on the grid: Tires.

Keselowski and Earnhardt had tires fail on them before they crashed at Kansas, and they weren’t the only ones to suffer failures last week. Speeds are up at Charlotte this weekend over those from May, and that’s caused Goodyear to warn the teams about putting too much load on the right-front tire.

It will be interesting to see how the teams react. If they heed Goodyear’s warning, how much more conservative will they be with air pressures and set-ups? Or will they continue to aggressively push the envelope?

Keselowski’s spotter, Joey Meier, may have provided the answer from the 2 team’s perspective this morning on Twitter:

Peacock to stream all Supercross and Motocross races in 2023, plus inaugural SuperMotocross Championship

Peacock Supercross Motocross 2023
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

NBC Sports and Feld Motor Sports announced that Peacock and the NBC family of networks will stream all 31 races of the combined Monster Energy Supercross, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and the newly created SuperMotocross World Championship beginning January 7, 2023 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California and ending October 14 in the place where Supercross was born: the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The combined series will create a 10-month calendar of events, making it one of the longest professional sports’ seasons in the United States.

The agreement is for multiple years. The season finale will air live on Peacock and the USA Network.

Peacock will present live coverage of all races, qualifying and heats across both series. The 31 total races will mark a record for the combined number of Supercross and Pro Motocross events that NBC Sports will present in a single season.

NBC, USA Network and CNBC will provide coverage of all races, including the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs and Final, through 2023 and beyond. For more information about the Peacock streaming service, click here.

“With our wide array of live and original motorsports offerings, Peacock is a natural home for Supercross and Pro Motocross races,” said Rick Cordella, Chief Commercial Officer, Peacock. “We’re looking forward to providing fans with an easily-accessible destination to find every race all season long, including the exciting finish with the newly formed SuperMotocross World Championship.”

MORE: A conversation about media rights created the new SuperMotocross World Championship Series

The NBC family of networks has been home to Supercross for the past several seasons and this is a continuation of that relationship. The media rights for both series expired at the end of 2022, which allowed Supercross and Motocross to combine their efforts.

In fact, it was that conversation that led to the formation of the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX).

The SMX series will begin on September 9, 2023 after the conclusion of the Pro Motocross season. Points will accumulate from both series to seed the SMX championship, which creates a record number of unified races.

“The SuperMotocross World Championship adds a new dimension to the annual Supercross and Pro Motocross seasons that will result in crowning the ultimate World Champion,” said Stephen C. Yaros, SVP Global Media and Supercross for Feld Motor Sports. “We are thrilled to be extending our relationship with NBC Sports so our fans can watch all the racing action streaming live on Peacock and the option to also watch select rounds on NBC, USA Network and CNBC.”

Complete 2023 coverage schedules for Supercross, Pro Motocross and the SuperMotocross World Championship on Peacock, NBC, USA Network and CNBC will be announced in the near future.