Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will help decide who wins this season’s Sprint Cup Series championship.
For two drivers, the race also will mark the start of their respective careers.
Kyle Larson and Brian Scott, who both are competing fulltime in the Nationwide Series, will make their first Cup starts this weekend.
They certainly are not the first to do so.
In fact, 62 other drivers have made their Cup series debuts at CMS. And with the area being home to a vast majority of NASCAR teams, there are likely to be many more.
But rarely have two such talented drivers elected to debut at the same time.
Each has a unique agenda.
Larson, 21, is in his first full Nationwide season running with Turner Scott Motorsports and recently was named to drive the No.42 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the Cup series beginning with 2014.
For Larson, the Charlotte race will be a chance to help prepare for what expects to be a drastically different racing battleground.
“I had definitely hoped to be able to run a few Cup races this season to help prepare me for next season,” said Larson, a native of Elk Grove, Calif. “I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can at Charlotte.
“It’s a whole different style of racing over there; a lot longer races for sure.”
Larson has spent some time in a Cup car, having tested at Rockingham Speedway and last week at Charlotte. He will start 21st.
Larson earned his first Truck series victory this season at Rockingham and won the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.
As a teenager, Larson raced open-wheel cars, including U.S. Auto Club midgets, Silver Crown and sprint cars. He also raced World of Outlaws sprint cars. He is considered by observers to be one of the most talented drivers to burst into NASCAR of late.
“My main goal is to try to finish the race,” Larson said. “I’d like maybe a top 17th or 18th-place finish. We were really good at Charlotte in the Nationwide race this spring. I’d say it’s in my top five of favorite tracks.”
When Scott signed a two-year deal with team owner Richard Childress this season, the plan was to hopefully prepare for an eventual transition to the Cup series.
Scott, 25, is in the midst of his most productive season of his four-year, full-time Nationwide career, although he has yet to win in the series. He does own a pair of wins in the Truck series.
“When I first started to talk to Richard, it was with the understanding my aspirations were to be able run in the Cup series,” he said. “We went into this season working on being able to do a handful of Cup races and looked at some races that could work and eventually we settled on Charlotte.”
Scott, who will start 19th for the 500, will run another full Nationwide season in 2014 with RCR and hopes to expand his Cup schedule further.
“I think Charlotte is a great place to make my first start,” Scott said. “Considering Richard Childress Racing won the Coca-Cola 600 in May, I think they have a good hold on the track and I should have a good starting point to try to get caught up on speed.”
Scott had not been in a Cup car this season until his RCR team participated in a recent test at Charlotte.
“The test went good. A lot of it trying to figure out the difference in cars between the series, how to get speed and then we actually started working on the car and eventually did some mock qualifying runs,” he said.
“We had some fun with it. We felt our speed was good. The guys seemed pretty excited and I am, too.”