Eric keeps inching closer and closer to CJ now as the season is starting to wind down. Following a mega week of scoring 780 points compared to 410 by CJ and 370 by Greg, Eric comes through again and is rewarded for holding onto and believing in Bubba Wallace.
Wallace, won Monday’s rain shortened YellaWood 500 at Talladega to give Eric his 8th win of the season. He entered this past weekend’s race 290 points back and now leaves 190 points arrears with five races remaining. The good news is for him is that his two bottom drivers have scored win this season with Aric Almirola’s triumph in Loudon.
He also picked up a third place finish too by Joey Logano and seventh by Denny Hamlin. Chase Elliott (18th), Aric Almirola (26th), William Byron (36th) and Tyler Reddick (39th) rounded out his lineup on Monday.
CJ had two cars in the top five via Brad Keselowski (2nd) and Christopher Bell (5th) as well as a top 10 by Kevin Harvick (8th). Austin Dillon (11th) and Martin Truex Jr. (12th) gave him five of his drivers in the top 12 while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (16th) and Kyle Larson (37th) were his bottom two.
Greg had a more rough go of it with having Kurt Busch (4th) and Chris Buescher (6th) but the rest of his team finished outside the top 10. Ryan Blaney (15th) was next best for him followed by Kyle Busch (27th), Ross Chastain (33rd), Matt DiBenedetto (35th) and Alex Bowman (38th). That’s 4 drivers 27th or worse.
Now, we go to the ROVAL where Chase Elliott (Eric) has won the last two years here and has to enter as the one to beat because of that.
Elliott, has won six of the last 10 road course races in general with the only four that he didn’t win being this past February in Daytona when he led the most laps but was screwed for a caution being displayed for rain in which he was going to cruise to an easy victory. The other was a runner-up finishes in Sonoma and in Watkins Glen and a fourth place result at Indy which was only because of some late race fluky cautions. He had a top two car if not for that.
Who else can beat him on Sunday?
Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate in Kyle Larson (CJ) also should be a factor. He was runner-up to Elliott in COTA, won in both Sonoma and Watkins Glen and if not for late race contract with Alex Bowman (Greg) in Road America, he was going to finish in the top three or four that day as well. He was also third in Indy but for the same reasons as Elliott, the late race carnage hurt his strategy for an easy victory.
Elliott and Larson have finished 1-2 four times already this year with three of them being on road courses and if Indy went right, would be four.
Hendrick Motorsports has also won 8 of the last 10 overall road course races in general including four of the last five.
Counting Joe Gibbs Racing, them and HMS have combined to win each of the last 10 road course races and went 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 in Watkins Glen and were 1-2-3-4-5-6 in Indy before the late race cautions.
Throw in Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.) who was aligned with JGR, these three teams have won 13 of the last 15 road course races. The only ones they didn’t win was when Ryan Blaney (Team Penske) was victorious in 2018 on the Charlotte ROVAL when Truex was crashed in the final turn on the final lap and AJ Allmendinger at Indy when Denny Hamlin was spun out of the way by Chase Briscoe and that comes after the two HMS cars saw the strategy flipped or else it would be 15 straight.
Martin Truex Jr. (CJ) comes to mind as one of the top JGR drivers. While he’s had just two top five finishes in six road course races this season, he’s typically been the only other driver outside of Elliott to excel on them. He should have won this race in 2018 and was seventh in the last two years.
Denny Hamlin (Eric) is probably the next best that I feel good about in terms of favorites. He’s had four top eights in six tries this year himself in what should be five if the ending at Indy goes differently.
Kyle Busch (Greg) is a hard one to figure out here. In Charlotte, Busch has finished a dismal 32nd, 37h and 30th respectively. On road courses this season, he’s been 10th, fifth, third, fourth and 20th respectively and the only reason he was 20th in Indy was due to getting collected in that big late race crash when the curbing broke. He was in the top five at that point too. So, which is it? Past stats at Charlotte or current stats on the season? I’ll take the current.
These are your top favorites with Christopher Bell (CJ – win in Daytona, 2nd in Road America, should have been a top 3 in Watkins Glen) and William Byron (Eric, 6th the last 2 years, 6th in Watkins Glen, top 7 going in Indy) as the best sleeper options.
If anyone outside of these camps does win, I look to Joey Logano (Eric). He has three top four finishes in six road course starts this season and was runner-up last year. His teammate Ryan Blaney was runner-up in Indy, won the inaugural race here and has two top fives and three top 10’s in three ROVAL tries.
1 TEAM CJR – 6,630 points (13 wins)
K Larson… 1930 (7 wins)
M Truex Jr… 1170 (4 wins)
K Harvick… 1025
C Bell… 710 (1 win)
A Dillon… 590
B Keselowski… 390
R Stenhouse Jr… 205
Traded Drivers… (460/1 win)
Waived Drivers… (150)
2 TEAM ES – 6,430 points (8 wins)
D Hamlin… 1510 (2 wins)
C Elliott… 1330 (2 wins)
J Logano… 930 (1 win)
W Byron… 865 (1 win)
D Wallace Jr… 735 (1 win)
T Reddick… 480
A Almirola… 475 (1 win)
Waived Drivers… (105)
3 TEAM GDP – 5,140 points (9 wins)
R Blaney… 1080 (3 wins)
Kyle B… 1000 (2 wins)
A Bowman… 885 (3 wins)
C Buescher… 450
M DiBenedetto.… 400
Kurt B… 240
R Chastain.… 235
Traded Drivers… (595/1 win)
Waived Drivers… (255)
Weekly Race Points Standings
Week 31 Talladega
1 Eric 580
2 CJ 490
3 Greg 230
Overall Driver Standings (Top 10)
1 K Larson… 1930 (CJ)
2 D Hamlin… 1510 (Eric)
3 C Elliott… 1330 (Eric)
4 M Truex Jr… 1170 (CJ)
5 R Blaney… 1080 (Greg)
6 K Harvick… 1025 (CJ)
7 Kyle B… 1000 (Greg)
8 J Logano… 930 (Eric)
9 A Bowman… 885 (Greg)
10 W Byron… 865 (Eric)