NASCAR Charlotte 2013 qualifying: Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson ready for showdown at Charlotte

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Qualifying for Saturday's big race takes place Thursday evening.

With just six races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, things heat up this weekend with the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Before the green flag drops on Saturday, though, the 43-car field will go through qualifying Thursday night at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Since there are only 43 cars in the field, all cars are guaranteed a spot in the starting lineup. Drivers will still be racing for all-important pole position, however.

Headlining the field are the 13 drivers in contention for the Sprint Cup Championship. Matt Kenseth, the Vegas favorite to take the checkered flag on Saturday, sits atop the standings with 2,183 points. Kenseth has won four of the eight races held on 1.5-mile tracks this season, giving him a leg up in the similarly distanced track at Charlotte. With three 1.5-milers remaining on the Chase schedule, he could have the inside track on the championship. He won the Bank of America 500 two years ago.

He'll have to stave off hard-charging Jimmie Johnson, however, who sits just three points back. Johnson has closed the deal in five of the past seven seasons, making him the overall favorite to lift the big trophy. He is a three-time winner at of the Bank of America 500, with his last victory coming in 2009.

Last year's winner at Charlotte, Clint Bowyer, currently sits 55 points off the Sprint Cup lead in ninth place. Jeff Gordon, who won the race in 1999 and 2007, is the only other of the 13 drivers in the Chase to have won the Bank of America 500.

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