CONCORD, N.C. - The only night race of the Chase is on tap Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway and the electricity that usually surrounds racing under the lights is already in the air.
For whatever reason, night racing seems to ramp up the intensity level and drivers get "up on the wheel" a little further than they do when racing under the sun.
With the Chase bumping directly into the NFL season, you have to wonder why NASCAr doesn't look to shift more of its playoff schedule to prime time offerings? Rather than try to tackle the NFL's popularity for viewers on Sunday afternoon, racing on Saturday nights might draw more attention and a larger audience.
The knock on NASCAR competing on more Saturday nights has been from the local short tracks of the country, the majority of which make their bread and butter on Saturdays in the summer months. But as the season shifts to autumn, there are less of these weekly tracks in operation and less competition for race fan's attention.
Lowe's Motor Speedway was the first superspeedway to install lights, a practice now commonplace at places like Atlanta, Las Vegas, Chicagoland, Texas and Daytona. Adding more evening races in the championship season would be easy to do and something NASCAR is said to be studying.
Saturday night's race might turn out to be a study in the ongoing saga of how to beat Jimmie Johnson in the Chase. The two-time champion is the driver most everyone believes will be the one to beat Saturday at LMS, where he has won five Cup races in his career. Last week's Talladega tangle dropped Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle further behind JJ and another win by the No. 48 team with trouble to Edwards, Biffle or anyone else currently in the top five in the standings would be deadly to anyone trying to derail Johnson's quest for a third straight title.
An underlying storyline tonight is the feud between Edwards and Kevin Harvick, which if anything has gotten stronger as the weekend goes on. Harvick ramped up the rhetoric on Friday and there were some tense moments in last night's Nationwide Series race when the duo found each other on the race track. Neither is out of Chase championship contention at this point but should emotions get the best of either, the possible fireworks could possibly be the final blow.
It's a home game for most all the teams in the field, the majority of which are headquartered in the shadows of Lowe's Motor Speedway. We'll see if homefield advantage at what has been Jimmie Johnson's "house" is the story to follow tonight.