(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) Expect the intensity to pick up a tick in the opening race of the second round of NASCAR's playoffs. The event at Charlotte Motor Speedway ended last year with mild-mannered Matt Kenseth jumping Brad Keselowski, who had already drawn the ire of Denny Hamlin.
Why will drivers be more amped than usual Saturday night? Because a win will earn a championship contender an automatic berth into the third round and relieve the pressure for ominous races at Kansas and Talladega.
"I think if you can win in a first round situation, you can definitely put yourself in a position to get those guys on the team that mental break that they're going to need just because of the detail and things that it takes on a weekly basis when you have to run all three weeks at that level," reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick said.
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