Charlotte Roval Playoff Race Eliminates 4 Drivers, Allmendinger Wins

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Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC — October 8, 2023

Six spots are still up for grabs ahead of Sunday’s Round of 12 finale. William Byron (Texas) and Ryan Blaney (Talladega) have already earned their spot into the next round via wins, and Denny Hamlin appears to be well on his way to the Round of 8 as he enters Charlotte 50 points above the elimination line.

Last year’s Roval winner, Christopher Bell, is in a much-improved spot compared to last year, as he holds a 22-point advantage over the elimination line. A trio of stout road-course drivers, Chris Buescher (+19), Martin Truex Jr. (+17), and Kyle Larson (+15) sit just below Bell.

The final transfer spot is separated by a mere two points between Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick. As a three-time winner on road courses, Reddick owns the clear advantage over the 2012 Cup champion heading into the weekend.

Bubba Wallace (-9), Ross Chastain (-10), and Kyle Busch (-26) failed to capitalize at Talladega, and all three will have an uphill battle to climb as none of the three has proved to be formidable on the Roval. Of those three, Wallace owns the best average finish on the road course with a 20.4 mark.

Track Facts

Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959, and the track’s first NASCAR Cup Series race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson. But it wasn’t until 2017 that the track underwent renovations to add what is now known as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL), a 2.32-mile, 17-turn, multi-elevational road course that incorporates the oval portion of the track.

This season will be the sixth time the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (2018-2023), and the 2.32-mile track has occupied two different spots on the series postseason schedule – from 2018-2019 the Charlotte Road Course hosted the third race in the Playoffs (Round of 16 elimination race) and from 2020-2023 the sixth race in the Playoffs (Round of 12 elimination race).

— All five races at the Roval were won by drivers under the age of 30.

— Hendrick Motorsports drivers have won three of the five races at the Roval.

— A playoff driver has won all five Roval races.

— The driver who led the most laps won only one of the five Roval races.

(Via Racing Insights)

How the 12 Playoff Drivers have performed at the Charlotte Roval.

Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish
William Byron 5 1 0 0 2 1 14.6
Denny Hamlin 5 0 0 1 1 0 12.8
Christopher Bell 3 0 1 1 2 0 11
Ryan Blaney 5 0 1 2 4 0 9.8
Chris Buescher 5 0 0 1 2 0 12.8
Martin Truex Jr 5 0 0 0 2 0 14.8
Kyle Larson 4 0 1 1 1 0 18.5
Brad Keselowski 5 0 0 1 1 1 17.6
Tyler Reddick 3 0 0 1 2 0 7.3
Bubba Wallace 5 0 0 0 1 1 20.4
Ross Chastain 4 0 0 0 0 0 26.5
Kyle Busch 5 0 0 2 2 2 21.2

 

Today’s Race

Tyler Reddick sits on the pole for the Bank of America ROVAL 400. Christopher Bell starts beside Reddick on the front row. They look to race 109 laps split into Stages of 25/25/59 laps, with NASCAR mandating the return to the caution flag being displayed at road course Stage breaks during the playoffs.

Kyle Larson wrecked his car in practice, was not able to qualify, and will go to the rear of the field at the start of the race.

In an effort to create less of a log jam entering the turn into the infield portion of the course, the restart zone has been positioned at the exit of the chicane on the front stretch. During Saturday’s Xfinity race, the change worked well. However, it makes lane choice a bit more interesting as the cars fire off from an accelerating sweeping left turn to a hard-braking tight left turn between the flag stand and the infield entrance at the end of the pit road.

Stage One

Tyler Reddick(45) got a big jump at the start and held a comfortable margin over Christopher Bell(20) all the way around the track. Everyone negotiated lap one without incident. Erik Jones(43) was the first driver to spin. He got turned around exiting the front chicane. No damage to Jones’s race car, and he rejoined the contest at the rear of the pack.

Bell inched closer to the leader during the middle laps of the Stage. But, with a clear racetrack ahead of Reddick, no one was going to make a serious bid for the top spot.

Tyler Reddick / Lasco Press Photo

As the race neared the completion of Stage One, it will be interesting to see which teams opt to pit prior to pit road closing with two laps to go. Stage points are so important it is unlikely any of the leaders will forfeit points for track position.

Ryan Blaney, a former winner at the Roval, was the first playoff driver to pit with nine laps to go in the Stage. Of course, Blaney has already advanced to the Round of Eight with his victory last week at Talladega.

Brad Keselowski(6) and Kyle Larson(5) stopped with five laps to go. William Byron(24), Chris Buescher(17), and Kyle Busch(8) came one lap later. Denny Hamlin(11) pitted with three to go, and Christopher Bell(20) gave up the second spot to pit just prior to Reddick crossing the start/finish and the pit lane closing.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 10
2 23 Bubba Wallace (P) 9
3 1 Ross Chastain (P) 8
4 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 7
5 20 Christopher Bell (P) 6
6 99 Daniel Suarez 5
7 9 Chase Elliott 4
8 8 Kyle Busch (P) 3
9 54 Ty Gibbs 2
10 16 AJ Allmendinger 1

(P) Playoff Drivers

No Ford Drivers finished in the top ten at the end of the Stage, only the second time that has happened this season.

Bell’s pit strategy was close to perfect. He returned to the track in fifth place. When Reddick, Bubba Wallace(23), Ross Chastain(1), and Martin Truex Jr.(19), who stayed out for the Stage points, came to pit road, Reddick inherited the lead.

Stage Two

Daniel Suarez(99) restarted beside Bell and fell ten car lengths behind the leader when they exited the infield portion of the course. The four drivers who stayed out to get the maximum points all started lower than 20th when the race went back to green.

Chase Elliott(9) moved into the second position as he looks to earn his first win of 2024. Elliott did not qualify for the playoffs. However, his #9 car is in the running for the owner’s championship for Rick Hendrick.

On lap 35, Elliott became the new leader as he passed Bell exiting the infield in turn one of the oval. Elliott’s lead grew to over three seconds by lap 40.

Chase Elliott / Lasco Press Photo

Behind the leader, AJ Allmendinger(16) moved into second, and Ty Gibbs(54) ran third, just ahead of Bell. Kyle Busch(8) held down the fifth position. Pit stops began on lap 43, allowing Reddick, Buescher, Larson, Chastain, and Wallace back into the top ten.

With 59 laps in the Final Stage and a stop for fuel required, there will be plenty of time to make passes and recover track position for the points chasers.

Corey LaJoie(7) and Josh Bilicki(78) got together with three laps to go in the Stage. Bilicki spun and brought out the caution flag, freezing the field and giving the Stage win to Elliott. Something Chase was not looking for as he was preparing to pit when the yellow closed pit road.

Stage Two Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 9 Chase Elliott 10
2 20 Christopher Bell (P) 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin (P) 8
4 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 7
5 5 Kyle Larson (P) 6
6 1 Ross Chastain (P) 5
7 23 Bubba Wallace (P) 4
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 3
9 34 Michael McDowell* 2
10 8 Kyle Busch (P) 1

(P) Playoff Drivers  *Ford Mustang Drivers

Hamlin’s eight points earned in the second Stage have locked him into the Round of Eight based on points alone.

The Final Stage

Elliott restarted in 26th position after the Stage ending stops. Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs lead the field back to the restart.

Allmendinger became the new leader when he passed Busch on lap 57. William Byron(24) moved into contention, taking over third from Gibbs.

Green flag pit stops began with 40 laps to go. Almost the entire field came to the pit road with 38 laps to go, as it was reported Michael McDowell had a flat tire, and there was a potential for the yellow flag to come out.

McDowell had trouble exiting the front stretch chicane. Denny Hamlin checked up and was hit in the rear spinning the #11 car around. Hamlin was able to get his car straightened out and back on track. McDowell circled the entire track and made it back to the pit road without further incident.

On lap 75, Hamlin got loose in the front chicane and was slammed by Mike Rockenfeller(42). Damage to the right rear of Hamlin’s car sent him to pit road for repairs. Fortunately for Hamlin, his clinch to advance by points had already locked him into the Round of Eight.

On the restart, Allmendinger was the leader, but Gibbs, starting beside him, was able to stay door-to-door into the first turn. Using the preferred line, Gibbs took over the lead. Allmendinger fought back and made the pass back to the front as they entered the backstretch chicane.

Hamlin’s crew was unable to repair his car under the time limits of the damaged vehicle policy, and he was retired to the garage. The intensity was ratcheting up, and Michael McDowell got shoved into an infield wall suffering significant body damage. The caution waived again.

Allmendinger and Gibbs again lead the field to green, with Byron and Kyle Busch in the row behind them. This time, Allmendinger was able to clear the Gibbs car. Busch worked his way past Byron and back in the pack; they raced three wide.

Tyler Reddick, the pole sitter, had worked his way back into the top ten. He was running sixth when the caution came out again for Andy Lally(15), hitting the wall and breaking a rear toe link.

The top four remained the same, heading to the restart with 22 laps to go. Allmendinger drove away as Busch and Gibbs beat on each other for the second spot. Gibbs eventually prevailed.

Heading into the backstretch chicane, traffic stacked up, and Bubba Wallace locked up his wheels, sliding through the safety bypass. Wallace had to pull over and stop on the front stretch to avoid a penalty for shortcutting the circuit.

The mistake dropped Wallace far back in the running order and out of contention to advance. The situation was compounded by Wallace having to pit to replace flat spotted tires. Brad Keselowski(6), running in the 30th position, has also dropped out of contention along with Ross Chastain in 31st. Kyle Busch must find a way to get to the front and post a win, or his playoffs are also over.

The Finish

With 15 laps to go, Daniel Suarez spun and brought out the caution. Will enough cars pit to bring the struggling playoff drivers back into contention? The answer was no. Only seven cars from the rear of the pack came to pit road.

Kyle Busch will have to be ultra-aggressive on the restart to bring chaos to the front of the field. He lines up behind Allmendinger, with Byron behind Gibbs.

Both Allmendinger and Busch clear Gibbs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s (47) car caught fire just after the restart and stopped on the track. Stenhouse escaped the inferno which brought out another caution flag.

The restart will line up Allmendinger and Busch on the front row. Busch certainly realizes this is the best chance he has to go for the win. Expect fireworks as the two drivers dive down into turn one with just ten laps to go.

Kyle Busch spun the tires on the restart. He tried to slow Allmendinger down with a couple of body shots just as they crossed under the flag stand. But, the poor start cost him a position and likely the race as William Byron passed him in turn one as Allmendinger jumped out to a ten-car-length lead.

AJ Allmendinger / Lasco Press Photo

Byron wants the five playoff points that go with the win. They could be the difference that sends him to the Championship Four at Phoenix. He closes on the leader, and Busch sits watching the fight unfold. If the two tangle and Busch can take advantage, it may be the only hope he has to win.

Allmendinger holds off the charge as Byron cannot get to his rear bumper. Busch finishes third and is eliminated. Interestingly, had Busch been able to pull off the win, it would have eliminated his teammate Martin Truex Jr. the regular season champion.

Playoff Standings

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings heading into the Round of Eight.

Pos. Driver Points Status
1 William Byron 4041 +20
2 Martin Truex Jr. 4036 +15
3 Denny Hamlin 4032 +11
4 Kyle Larson 4024 +3
5 Chris Buecher* 4021 -3
6 Christopher Bell 4016 -8
7 Tyler Reddick 4016 -8
8 Ryan Blaney* 4014 -10

*Ford Mustang Drivers

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

POS CAR DRIVER DELTA LAPS
1 16 AJ Allmendinger 109
2 24 William Byron (P) 0.666 109
3 8 Kyle Busch (P) 3.094 109
4 54 Ty Gibbs 3.418 109
5 22 Joey Logano 4.070 109
6 45 Tyler Reddick (P) 5.168 109
7 17 Chris Buescher (P) 5.898 109
8 48 Alex Bowman 6.812 109
9 9 Chase Elliott (P) 7.992 109
10 1 Ross Chastain (P) 10.438 109
11 41 Ryan Preece 11.057 109
12 12 Ryan Blaney (P) 11.413 109
13 5 Kyle Larson (P) 11.821 109
14 3 Austin Dillon 12.188 109
15 20 Christopher Bell (P) 12.664 109
16 23 Bubba Wallace (P) 13.133 109
17 7 Corey LaJoie 13.917 109
18 6 Brad Keselowski (P) 14.556 109
19 4 Kevin Harvick 15.301 109
20 19 Martin Truex Jr. (P) 15.808 109
21 10 Aric Almirola 17.128 109
22 31 Justin Haley 18.835 109
23 51 Todd Gilliland 21.283 109
24 21 Harrison Burton 22.586 109
25 2 Austin Cindric 22.977 109
26 78 Josh Bilicki 24.804 109
27 62 Austin Hill 25.175 109
28 14 Chase Briscoe 26.180 109
29 42 Mike Rockenfeller 26.314 109
30 38 Zane Smith 27.281 109
31 77 Ty Dillon 31.038 109
32 34 Michael McDowell 51.381 109
33 99 Daniel Suarez 56.751 109
34 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -13 96
35 15 Andy Lally -25 84
36 43 Erik Jones -30 79
37 11 Denny Hamlin (P) -33 76