Larson Overcomes the Roval’s Challenges, Elliott and Harvick Feud Continues

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — October 10th, 2021

The Bank of America Roval 400 today from Charlotte Motor Speedway is the elimination race for the Round of 12 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. After the road course takes its toll on the drivers fighting to advance there will be 8 survivors still in the running to become the 2021 NASCAR Cup Champion.

Denny Hamlin is the only driver locked into the Round of 8, clinch scenarios are as follows.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the eighth winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott or Kyle Busch.

Kyle Larson: Would clinch with 34 points.
Joey Logano: Would clinch with 35 points.
Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 35 points.
Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 36 points.
Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 41 points.
Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 47 points.
Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 47 points.
Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Alex Bowman: Could all only clinch with help.

If there is a new winner from Kevin Harvick or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance into the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the seventh winless driver in the standings.

Kyle Larson: Would clinch with 41 points.
Joey Logano: Would clinch with 42 points.
Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 43 points.
Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 43 points.
Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 48 points.
Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 53 points.
Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 54 points.
Kevin Harvick, Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Alex Bowman: Could all only clinch with help.

Last year’s champion, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Busch are on the bubble with a 9 point advantage over Kevin Harvick who currently is the first driver out. Christopher Bell, William Byron, and Alex Bowman, likely need a win to advance.

Elliott is the defending champion of the race and is going for his 3rd win in a row at the Roval, he starts 8th today.

Points are Critical

In its short history, 3 years, the Roval has produced exciting racing and historic results. The debut of the Charlotte Roval didn’t disappoint as Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. wrecked each other in the final chicane heading to the checkered flag, allowing Ryan Blaney to sneak past both and win the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400.

Blaney put himself in a position to win thanks to some sound strategy that enabled him to stretch his fuel mileage and win Stage 2. He found himself in 25th place with 38 laps to go after a trip to pit road but cycled his way back up to the front before being in the right place at the right time.

Jimmie Johnson, trying to break a 58-race winless streak, was determined to pass Truex to capture the checkered flag. The incident cost him dearly, he missed advancing in the playoffs by a single point.

More History from 120 Years Ago This Sunday

The Ford racing program was born on Oct. 10, 1901, when Henry Ford and his hand-built race car named Sweepstakes beat Alexander Winton at the Detroit Driving Club in front of approximately 8,000 spectators.

The 10-lap race represented Ford’s only time competing as a driver and even though he fell behind at the start, Sweepstakes was built for endurance and steadily gained ground before eventually passing Winton with two laps to go. Ford won $1,000 and a cut-glass punch bowl, but, more importantly, used the notoriety achieved to attract enough investors to start the Ford Motor Company in June 1903.

Today’s Race

Denny Hamlin(11) starts on the pole today, with Brad Keselowski(2) beside him on the front row. Joey Logano(22) and Christopher Bell(20) follow on row 2. Stages are set for 25/25/59 laps, a total of 252.88 miles or just over 400 Kilometers. A competition caution is scheduled for after 10 laps for crews to look at their race cars and make necessary adjustments.

Hamlin took the lead at the drop of the green flag and held it until the yellow displayed. Several drivers pitted early, before the competition caution, to improve their track position.

Joey Logano(22) and Ryan Blaney(12) did not pit during the caution. They inherited the front row when everyone else pitted under the yellow.

Stage 1

Blaney drove past Logano when the race restarted to take the race lead. Fighting for positions on the restart, Keselowski got hit in the rear by Alex Bowman(48) and spun in the infield portion of the course. By the time Brad could right his car and rejoin the race he was at the rear of the field.

Twenty laps in, Ryan Newman(6) cut a right rear tire after contact and a spin into the grass. The tire went down just after the entrance to pit road and he hit the front stretch wall. The caution came out for the 2nd time.

The scramble for positions on the restart brought AJ Allmendinger(16) to the front of the pack. Chase Elliott raced to the rear bumper of AJ’s car by the final lap of the Stage and made the pass to take the much-needed 10 Stage points and another playoff point added to his ongoing total.

Chase Elliott at the Roval / NASCAR Photo

Stage 1 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 9 Chase Elliott (P) 10
2 16 AJ Allmendinger 9
3 12 Ryan Blaney (P)* 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 7
5 22 Joey Logano (P)* 6
6 1 Kurt Busch 5
7 18 Kyle Busch (P) 4
8 24 William Byron (P) 3
9 34 Michael McDowell* 2
10 4 Kevin Harvick (P)* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Kevin Harvick’s 10th place finish earned him a valuable bonus point as he tries to climb into the top eight to advance.

Stage 2

The race restarted on Lap 30 with Allmendinger in the lead, he has yet to make a pit stop as multiple pit strategies are being employed. Kyle Busch(18) and William Byron(24), both on fresh tires, passed AJ and pulled out to a comfortable lead.

Bowman reported an electrical issue, it appears the alternator on the race car has failed and the battery is not being recharged. That could be a terminal problem for Bowman’s slim playoff hopes.

Kyle Larson, Bowman’s teammate, running in the 3rd position, also reported electrical problems as his battery is dropping volts. Chase Briscoe spun exiting the front chicane and brought out the caution on Lap 33 allowing both Larson and Bowman to pit for service.

Larson’s crew changed the battery on his car and took a quick look under the hood to report the alternator belt had come off. Bowman’s crew also checked the engine compartment of his race car to find the alternator belt still in place.

On Bowman’s car, the voltage is dropping slowly and his crew is unsure of the problem. Larson crew will try to repair the alternator belt issue during the Stage ending pit stop after Lap 50. The extra pit stops sent both drivers to the rear of the field. Unbelievably, Larson currently sits below the cut line due to his running position.

With six laps to go in the Stage, Kyle Busch led, Harvick, Elliott, Byron, and Austin Dillon made up the Top 5.

Crazy pit stop timing brought many cars to pit road and jumbled the standings with two laps to go in the Stage. Elliott passed Harvick for the 2nd spot, Harvick gave Elliott a tap to the rear bumper indicating the feud carried over from Bristol is still not done.

Busch held on for the Stage win, the 10 bonus points helping his effort to advance to the next round.

Kyle Busch at the Roval / NASCAR Photo

Stage 2 Results

Position Car Driver Points
1 18 Kyle Busch (P) 10
2 9 Chase Elliott (P) 9
3 4 Kevin Harvick (P)* 8
4 12 Ryan Blaney (P)* 7
5 22 Joey Logano (P)* 6
6 5 Kyle Larson (P) 5
7 2 Brad Keselowski (P)* 4
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3
9 48 Alex Bowman (P) 2
10 24 William Byron (P) 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

All 10 positions offering Stage bonus points went to playoff drivers.

The Final Stage

Bowman had the battery replaced on his car during their team’s pit stop. But, the alternator is operating at less than ideal efficiency. Larson’s crew successfully changed the alternator belt on his stop.

Byron and Dillon led the field to the restart with Hamlin in 3rd. Larson starts the Final Stage below the cut line, his crew assured him the issue was repaired.

The Harvick/Elliott rivalry reared its head for real shortly after the race went back to green. On the next to last turn before exiting the infield portion of the course Harvick stayed in the gas and ran into the rear of Elliott’s car sending it into the wall rear first. Extensive damage to the #9 car sent Elliott to the pits for repairs.

Harvick at the Roval / NASCAR Photo

Elliott remained on the lead lap and exceeded the minimum speed to get off the damaged vehicle clock and remain in the race. Allmendinger, an early leader, had his engine expire and retired from the race.

As a result of multiple trips to the pits, Elliott dropped to the rear of the field. With Byron in the lead, the playoff picture scrambled again. Both Harvick and Elliott were running below the cut line. NBC’s broadcast of the race caught radio conversation between Elliott and his crew. They stated that if Byron dropped from the top spot Harvick would move above the cut line. However, if Elliott wrecked Harvick, Chase would move ahead of the #4 car in the standings. If the scene plays out, how will NASCAR respond?

Late Pit Stops

Green flag pit stops began with 34 laps to go in the race with the leaders all pitting together. Gasmen have to make sure they get fuel tanks full as the mileage window had just opened. If there is overtime some cars may run short. But, new tires were important to not lose time to those drivers that were pitting.

Hamlin inherited the lead until he pitted with 29 laps to go and Byron resumed the top spot. Elliott pitted and was able to remain on the lead lap in 30th position, still below the cut line. Unfortunately, the tape job on his rear bumper came loose and it began flapping in the wind.

Elliott’s bumper finally ripped off bringing out the caution with 22 laps to go. A rear bumper is not required to stay in the race at the Roval and the caution will bring Elliott back in touch with the field. Crew chiefs now must make a crucial decision on what to do, stay out or come to the pits.

Almost everyone came to pit road including the leader. Hamlin and Matt DiBenedetto(21) stayed on the track and led the field back to green. Hamlin held on through the first lap while DiBenedetto faded quickly. Tyler Reddick(8), Byron, and Larson trailed. Keselowski spun and dropped back taking him below the cut line.

Byron got bumped by Reddick coming into the front chicane and spun. He dropped to the 12th position after stopping to serve the penalty for not completing the two corners. With Byron out of the lead and Keselowski dropping down, both Elliott and Harvick are above the cutoff position.

Late Caution

With 16 laps to go, Joey Hand(52) went hard into the wall as cars went four-wide diving into the infield portion of the course. The caution waved again allowing everyone another chance to reset before the sprint to the finish.

The race restarted with 14 laps to go, Hamlin and Larson side-by-side to the green flag. Hamlin held off the charge of Larson who got passed by Reddick. Meanwhile, back in the pack, Elliott made a pass to get behind Harvick. Kevin must have seen him coming and overdrive the 1st turn heading into the infield. Harvick hit the wall destroying the front end of the car and ending his playoff hopes. Elliott’s comment to his spotter, “That’s Karma.”

The caution waved for the 9th time and the playoff positions were clarified. Harvick is out, Byron, Bell, or Bowman need a win to advance. Keselowski is the driver sitting on the bubble. The race restarted with 8 laps to go, Hamlin and Larson on the front row, Reddick and Byron in row 2.

Larson moved Hamlin out of the lead. Reddick and Byron followed. The Top 3 pulled out to a large advantage on the rest of the field. Truex was spun off contact with Hand and he dropped to the bubble.

Earlier in the race, Larson fell below the cut line with a mechanical problem. With a heroic effort by his crew, he remained in the race. Circumstances afforded him a chance late in the race to vie for the win and Larson took advantage of the opportunity. Byron could not capitalize on his position and overdrove several corners resulting in spins that dropped him to 11th at the finish.

It’s on to Texas, Kansas, and Martinsville to see which four drivers make it to the Championship Round at Phoenix.

Playoff Standings

Rank Driver Points Status
1 Kyle Larson 4065 +42
2 Denny Hamlin 4030 +7
3 Martin Truex Jr. 4029 +6
4 Ryan Blaney* 4024 +1
NASCAR Playoffs Round of 8 Cut Line
5 Kyle Busch 4023 -1
6 Chase Elliott 4022 -2
7 Joey Logano* 4013 -11
8 Brad Keselowski* 4008 -16

*Ford Mustang Drivers

With Larson surviving, he takes a commanding lead into the Round of 8. It is a wide-open competition heading to Texas with any driver having a realistic chance to advance.

Results of the Bank of America Roval 400 from Charlotte Motor Speedway

Position Car Driver Behind LAPS
1 5 Kyle Larson (P) 109
2 8 Tyler Reddick 0.782 109
3 17 Chris Buescher 9.309 109
4 18 Kyle Busch (P) 11.292 109
5 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 11.757 109
6 21 Matt DiBenedetto 12.956 109
7 22 Joey Logano (P) 14.024 109
8 20 Christopher Bell (P) 14.714 109
9 12 Ryan Blaney (P) 15.905 109
10 48 Alex Bowman (P) 16.545 109
11 24 William Byron (P) 18.310 109
12 9 Chase Elliott (P) 19.159 109
13 99 Daniel Suarez 20.023 109
14 23 Bubba Wallace 20.516 109
15 3 Austin Dillon 20.949 109
16 34 Michael McDowell 22.061 109
17 43 Erik Jones 23.109 109
18 41 Cole Custer 23.781 109
19 37 Ryan Preece 24.175 109
20 2 Brad Keselowski (P) 24.563 109
21 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 26.259 109
22 14 Chase Briscoe 27.041 109
23 42 Ross Chastain 28.049 109
24 10 Aric Almirola 28.430 109
25 1 Kurt Busch 29.060 109
26 38 Anthony Alfredo 29.376 109
27 52 Joey Hand 34.054 109
28 15 Josh Bilicki 34.472 109
29 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 35.172 109
30 0 Quin Houff 48.336 109
31 78 Scott Heckert 63.619 109
32 66 Timmy Hill -1 108
33 4 Kevin Harvick (P) -11 98
34 53 Garrett Smithley -13 96
35 7 Corey LaJoie -16 93
36 51 Cody Ware -19 90
37 77 Justin Haley -43 66
38 16 AJ Allmendinger -52 57
39 6 Ryan Newman -90 19