The Roval Sends 8 Drivers onto Round 3 of the Playoffs, Chase Elliott Wins

0
277
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — October 11, 2020

The NASCAR Cup series will likely make history today at The Roval. Thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Delta, at least part of the race is expected to be run in the rain. A first for the Cup Series. Think about that, it’s an elimination race for Round Two of the playoffs, on arguably the most difficult course the Cup cars run on, and they are doing so in the rain.

NASCAR has laid out the protocol for drivers to follow racing under these circumstances

“In the event of inclement weather, each series’ race director can declare a “wet” start or “damp” start, according to the NASCAR Rule Book. A wet start means that the entire racing surface is covered in moisture; a damp start means that the track has areas of moisture, but that other areas are dry. The race director can also declare the conditions not race-ready if heavy downpours cause puddles and impaired visibility.

For a wet weather start:

  • All vehicles must mount rain tires, activate their rear flashing light, and have a working windshield wiper installed.
  • Normal starting procedures follow.

For a damp weather start:

  • All vehicles may elect to install rain tires at the crew chief’s discretion. The rear flashing light must be activated, and windshield wipers may be installed.
  • Any team making a pit stop for rain tires on subsequent pace laps will forfeit their starting spot.

After the green flag, teams are permitted to change tires — to treaded rain tires or dry-weather slicks — at the crew chief’s discretion.

It should be a wild afternoon.

The wet track at Charlotte / NASCAR Photo

Lots of News This Week

Clint Bowyer announced his retirement this week. He is transitioning to the broadcast booth with Fox and will be a lively addition to the crew that televises the NASCAR Cup Series the 1st half of the year starting at Daytona. Great move! A Bowyer press conference is always an exciting event, you never know what’s going to come out of it. Here’s predicting race viewership will be up in 2021 with Clint behind the microphone.

Clint Bowyer on The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway / NASCAR Photo

Alex Bowman is moving to 48 car in 2021. We’re not sure of the strategy to that move within the Hendrick Motorsports organization. But, now the 88 car has an open seat or the 4-car team ahs a new number coming to join the 9, 24, and 48.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame announced that it will postpone the Induction Ceremony and Induction Week events for the Class of 2021. The decision was made in partnership with NASCAR after very thorough and thoughtful conversations regarding how best to plan and execute one of the sport’s most cherished moments while facing the ongoing uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Induction Ceremony, which was set to take place on Friday, February 5, 2021, is now anticipated for early 2022. The Class of 2021 consists of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Red Farmer, the late Mike Stefanik, and Landmark Award recipient Ralph Seagraves.

Today’s Race

The Bank of America 400 from The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL is 109 laps and 252.88 miles around the 2.28-mile 18-turn road course. Stages are 25/25/59 laps and the defending champion is Chase Elliott(9) who starts on the front row today next to pole-sitter Denny Hamlin(11).

As we mentioned, today’s race is an elimination event for the playoffs. Four drivers will be knocked out as the Championship battle moves to Round 3 with just eight drivers still in the mix for the final at Phoenix. Kurt Busch(1) and Hamlin have advanced to the next round via wins at Las Vegas and Talladega. Kevin Harvick(4) is essentially in on points, he needs just 8 today.

Clint Bowyer(14) and Aric Almirola(10) likely need wins to get in. Four drivers, Alex Bowman(88), Joey Logano(22), Austin Dillon(3), and the defending Cup Champion Kyle Busch(18) are contending for the final two advancement positions based on points. Of course, anyone can move to the next round with a win.

Rank Driver Points Status
7 Alex Bowman 3075 22
8 Joey Logano* 3074 21
Cut Line
9 Austin Dillon 3053 -21
10 Kyle Busch 3053 -21
11 Clint Bowyer* 3036 -38
12 Aric Almirola* 3026 -48

*Ford Mustang Drivers

What It Takes for Drivers to Advance

Per NASCAR, here are the clinch possibilities going into The Bank of America 400.

Can clinch via Points

If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 6th winless driver in the standings.

o Kevin Harvick: Would clinch with 8 points

o Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 35 points

o Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 44 points

o Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 49 points

o Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 54 points

o Joey Logano: Would clinch with 55 points

o Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola: Could only clinch with help

If there is a repeat winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 7th winless driver in the standings. They would also clinch if there was a new winner among Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman or Joey Logano and being ahead of the 6th winless driver in the standings.

o Kevin Harvick: Would clinch regardless of finish

o Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 15 points

o Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 24 points

o Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 29 points

o Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 34 points

o Joey Logano: Would clinch with 35 points

o Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola: Could only clinch with help

Stage 1

Erik Jones(20) could not get his car started during the prerace, an electrical issue forced a crew member into the car to make repairs and he had to be push started. NASCAR sent Jones to the rear of the field for working on the car prior to the start.

Brad Keselowski(2) led Lap 1, outracing Denny Hamlin exiting the “bus stop” chicane on the backstretch. Ty Dillon(13) started 17th and after three laps he had driven to the 3rd spot behind Keselowski and Elliott.

This week’s competition caution came after 10 laps. After starting on ‘wet tires,” crews had the option of switching to slicks or keeping the treaded Goodyear’s. Ty Dillon and Ryan Newman(6) were the only drivers to switch. Newman spun on a wet patch, Dillon tip-toed his way around as the track continued to dry and ultimately took the lead.

As the laps in Stage 1 wound down more drivers came to pit road to put on slicks. John Hunter Nemechek(38) came off pit road after changing over to slicks and spun into the grass. He lost 2 laps trying to get out of the slippery quagmire and brought out the caution with 3 laps left in the Stage.

Ty Dillon held on for the Stage win when the race went back to green with a lap to go in Stage 1. Interestingly only one playoff driver, Joey Logano earned Stage points. Newman recovered from his spin to finish 6th and Jones fought his way back from starting dead last to get the final Stage point for 10th place.

Ty Dillon wins Stage 1 at The Roval / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 13 Ty Dillon 10
2 95 Christopher Bell 9
3 21 Matt DiBenedetto* 8
4 24 William Byron 7
5 66 Timmy Hill 6
6 6 Ryan Newman* 5
7 12 Ryan Blaney* 4
8 22 Joey Logano (P)* 3
9 43 Bubba Wallace 2
10 20 Erik Jones 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage 2

With everyone now on conventional slick tires, William Byron drove off with the lead at the beginning of Stage 2. He was followed by Christopher Bell (95), Joey Logano(22), Ryan Blaney(12), and Matt DiBenedetto.

Turns 3 & 4, on the road course, have the most standing water. Keselowski spun there and blocked the track for Dibenetto and Jones. They had to wait until Keselowski to get going again to resume racing.

Halfway through Stage 2, Blaney moved to the bumper of Byron and passed for the lead heading off the oval onto the road course with 11 laps to go. Six playoff drivers had returned to the Top 10 for the chance to score playoff points, including must-win driver Clint Bowyer in 8th.

Drivers began pitting under green with five laps to go in the Stage, forfeiting Stage points for track position to begin the final segment of the race. JJ Yeley(77) spun off the course into the grass forcing NASCAR to bring out another late Stage caution. Pit strategies are all over the board which will again scramble the bonus points at the end of Stage 2.

The restart came with 2 laps to go with the Ford Mustangs of Blaney and Logano leading the field. Kyle Busch(18) cut down a tire on the restart and was passed by most of the field as he limped around to the pits. Possibly ending his hope of advancing in the playoffs.

Blaney took the green and white checkered flag for the Stage win. Five playoff contenders earned bonus points in this Stage

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 12 Ryan Blaney* 10
2 9 Chase Elliott (P) 9
3 95 Christopher Bell 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 7
5 22 Joey Logano (P)* 6
6 88 Alex Bowman (P) 5
7 24 William Byron 4
8 8 Tyler Reddick 3
9 34 Michael McDowell* 2
10 2 Brad Keselowski (P)* 1

 

The Final Stage

William Byron and Christopher Bell(95) fight for the lead on the restart and Byron prevails heading into the road course portion of the track. Several cars have trouble during the first few turns with Hamlin making contact and sliding off course, Alex Bowman(88) wrinkles a fender and drops back slightly off the pace. Fortunately, Hamlin is locked into the next round. Bowman now sits on the Bubble 20 points to the good. Elliott pitted as the race went back to green to tighten a loose wheel dropping him to the rear of the pack.

At the start of the Final Stage, the same four drivers that began the day below the cut line are still in that position. Should Bowman stumble, Austin Dillon(3) is the guy 20 points behind the final playoff spot running in 12th. Bowyer runs in 3rd and is still in the mix for the win and you’re in possibility.

Ty Dillon spun into the grass and brought out the caution with 45 laps to go, outside the fuel window to finish the race. About half of the field pitted, but not the three leaders, Byron, Bell, and Bowyer.

Back to racing, Bowyer slips past Bell to take over the 2nd spot. Racing for 19th position, Kyle Busch gets into the back of Austin Dillon and spins him around. Dillon hits the front stretch wall and flattens two tires. He has to be pushed to the pits for service and likely sees his chance to move forward to the next round disappear.

William Byron(24) and Clint Bowyer(14) race for the lead at Charlotte / NASCAR Photo

All the leaders come to pit road for fuel and tires to finish the race. Bowman is complaining of feeling ill. Stomach problems are making his race miserable just as it comes down to the money laps. Bubba Wallace(43) clips Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47) on the restart when he overdrives into Turn 1. The incident at the front of the pack stacks up the field, Bowyer runs into the back of Keselowski damaging the power steering on the 14 car and dropping Bowyer to the rear of the lead lap.

Blaney led the first lap back under green until he lost it entering the infield course too fast and spun into the grass. Ryan Preece(37) inherited the lead and Bowman got feeling better in a hurry running in 2nd. The Top 5 were Preece, Bowman, Elliott, Logano, and Jones. Kyle Busch had worked his way back up to 6th and as he approached Jones, Erik moved over to let his teammate to pass.

Late Lead Changes

With 28 laps to go Bowman drove to the lead, Elliott followed. Logano took over 3rd, with Kyle Busch 4th. Two laps later, Elliott grabbed the top spot. Kyle Busch moved to 9th in the standings as Austin Dillon, Aric Almirola, and Bowyer are having trouble.

The yellow came out with 24 laps to go for debris on the track and Matt Kenseth(42) stuffing his car into a track barrier. Most of the field pitted, but Kyle Busch opted to stay out and inherited the lead. A strange decision considering it is assumed he does not have enough fuel to finish the race. Adding to the drama, rain is threatening and because the race started on rain tires NASCAR will not throw a caution when it comes. If everyone has to pit to change tires it could prove to be an advantage for Busch.

Defending Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch / NASCAR Photo

If Busch wins, the battle for the final playoff spot will come down to Logano vs Bowman. Joey is 6 points up at this point in the race. Jones passes for the lead, but can’t hold it for long as Elliott takes the top spot. Kurt Busch moves up to 3rd, Logano 4th, and Kyle Busch 5th.

With 12 laps to go, Brennan Poole stalled on the track and brought out the 9th caution of the day. The leaders stayed on the track for the sprint to the checkered flag.

The Finish 

Elliott holds the top spot are they race into the road course portion on the restart. Logano passes Jones for 2nd and Blaney returns to the Top 5 despite his troubles earlier in the race. Kyle Busch is 7th, Bowman is on the bubble 26 points ahead of the M&M car of Busch.

Chase Elliott wins at The Roval / NASCAR Photo

Kyle Busch is forced to pit for fuel with 2 laps to go and his chance to advance to the next round of the playoffs disappears. The defending champion is out in Round 2. Elliott holds on for the victory, Logano is 2nd and Erik Jones comes in 3rd.

Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer, and Aric Almirola join Kyle in not making it out of the Round of 12.

Playoff Standings

Points reset and Round 3 starts next week at Kansas. Texas and Martinsville follow as the playoff contenders are trimmed to four drivers at Phoenix. Harvick and Hamlin just need 3 solid runs to advance, with regard to the final two spots available it’s up for grabs.

Rank Driver Points Status
1 Kevin Harvick* 4067 +45
2 Denny Hamlin 4053 +31
3 Brad Keselowski* 4035 +13
4 Chase Elliott 4026 +4
Round 3 Playoff Cut Line
5 Joey Logano* 4022 -4
6 Martin Truex Jr. 4016 -10
7 Kurt Busch 4011 -15
8 Alex Bowman 4009 -17

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of The Bank of America 400 at The Roval in Charlotte

Position Car Driver Behind Laps
1 9 Chase Elliott (P) 109
2 22 Joey Logano (P) 3.895 109
3 20 Erik Jones 6.737 109
4 1 Kurt Busch (P) 10.699 109
5 12 Ryan Blaney 11.415 109
6 24 William Byron 12.953 109
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 14.080 109
8 88 Alex Bowman (P) 14.775 109
9 41 Cole Custer 15.038 109
10 14 Clint Bowyer (P) 15.476 109
11 4 Kevin Harvick (P) 15.897 109
12 8 Tyler Reddick 16.802 109
13 48 Jimmie Johnson 17.426 109
14 37 Ryan Preece 18.469 109
15 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 18.790 109
16 10 Aric Almirola (P) 19.429 109
17 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 20.139 109
18 2 Brad Keselowski (P) 21.940 109
19 3 Austin Dillon (P) 22.227 109
20 17 Chris Buescher 22.481 109
21 43 Bubba Wallace 24.752 109
22 21 Matt DiBenedetto 26.814 109
23 13 Ty Dillon 28.652 109
24 95 Christopher Bell 29.122 109
25 96 Daniel Suarez 30.080 109
26 27 Gray Gaulding 33.211 109
27 32 Corey LaJoie 35.979 109
28 0 Quin Houff 37.255 109
29 53 James Davison 43.984 109
30 18 Kyle Busch (P) 44.542 109
31 6 Ryan Newman 74.449 109
32 34 Michael McDowell 93.126 109
33 51 Josh Bilicki 34.117 108
34 42 Matt Kenseth -1 108
35 77 JJ Yeley -1 108
36 38 John Hunter Nemechek -4 105
37 15 Brennan Poole -14 95
38 66 Timmy Hill -52 57