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Erik Jones

The rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing is as good an underdog pick as any. Jones drives for a

team that dominated last year’s Coca-Cola 600, and he was one successful move from taking the lead – and possibly the victory

– in the Monster Energy Open in May. The Bank of America 500 requires more patience than aggression, but Jones possesses a

rare combination of the two. Jones’ Toyota could be in the hunt in the closing laps of a race that has its own history of upstart

winners. Remember Jamie McMurray in 2002?

Jimmie Johnson

The seven-time and defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion won last

year’s Bank of America 500 – his eighth points win at the track. Johnson’s Playoff spot is sealed, but his championship hopes

will receive a major boost if he captures win No. 9 on Oct. 8. Johnson is at his best when the stakes are highest, and they won’t

get much higher than during the win-and-advance Playoffs. Any short list of Bank of America 500 favorites has to include the

driver of Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt will go for his long-awaited first points race win at Charlotte Motor

Speedway in his final Charlotte start as a full-time driver. The veteran from nearby Kannapolis won the Monster Energy All-Star

Race as a rookie in 2000, but his closest bid for victory in a points race came in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600. He’s the sentimental

favorite, but Earnhardt’s also in Hendrick Motorsports equipment with a point to prove he’s still got plenty left in the tank.

Kyle Larson

In his fourth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Larson has firmly established himself

as an elite driver and the top shoe at Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson led the series points standings for most of the season’s first

half with no sign of slowing down. Now that he’s entering his prime, Larson’s got his sights set on winning at every track. He

won an unforgettable Monster Energy Open in 2016, but the California native will enter the Bank of America 500 still chasing

a points win at his adopted home track.

Kyle Busch

This year’s Monster Energy All-Star Race winner finally registered a “W” at Charlotte. He’s

seeking a points victory at the track in which he’s seen lots of success in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck series. As

many times as Kyle and brother Kurt have visited the winner’s circle at Charlotte, it’s amazing that the Busch family has yet to

capture the victory in a Bank of America 500. Busch could drive his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota into victory lane this fall.

4 | Globe

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