TRACK: Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL (2.28 mile Roval) DISTANCE: 109 Laps — STAGE 1: 25 Laps, STAGE 2: 25 Laps, FINAL STAGE: 59 Laps, MILES (248.520 Miles)
WHO WILL WIN BANK OF AMERICA ROVAL 400?
Definitely the favorite. He won in Sonoma and Watkins Glen, should have won in COTA but finished second with the rain ending the race short of the scheduled distance, should have had a top three in Road America and was third in Indy in what should have been a win with the fastest car.
He’s won the last two ROVAL races, was sixth in the prior one and has four top two finishes in his last five road course starts on the season in what should be a top two in all if things went properly.
He’s had a top 10 in all three ROVAL starts including a runner-up last year. Logano, also has three top four finishes in six road course starts this season.
Martin Truex Jr.
He should have won the inaugural race. He was seventh in the two races since. This season, he has three top 10’s in his last four road course starts.
This is a hard one to figure out here. In Charlotte, Busch has finished a dismal 32nd, 37th 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.
Same for him as Busch. On the ROVAL, he’s finished 12th, 19th and 15th respectively. On road courses this season, he should have five top eight finishes in six tries.
He was sixth in his last two ROVAL starts, sixth in Watkins Glen and had a top six or seven car at Indy before that fluke crash at the end.
He’s a previous winner here including three top eights in as many tries. On the last road course in Indianapolis, he was runner-up.
He won the Daytona ROVAL, was runner-up in Road America and had a top three car in Watkins Glen.
He was fifth in 2018 and fourth last year to go along with four top six finishes in six road course races this season.
Oddly enough, these have become his best tracks this season. Chastain has three top seven finishes in his last five road course starts.
Who To Fade?
He’s not been his best on road courses including the ROVAL. He was fifth in 2019 but his other two results are 31st and 18th respectively. On the season, Keselowski was fifth on the Daytona ROVAL but 19th, 15th, 13th, 35 and 24th respectively every where else.
While he was ninth in 2018 and third in 2019, Harvick has no top five finishes in six road course appearances in 2021 including three of his last five results being 22nd or worse.
These are his better tracks. Almirola’s three ROVAL finishes are 19th, 14th and 16th respectively. This season, his road course finishes are 17th, 26th, 23rd, 14th, 16th and 19th respectively.
The final race of the Round of 12 is here. 1 driver (Denny Hamlin, ) already know that he’ll be in the third round of the Cup Series playoffs via his win two weeks ago at Las Vegas. 11 more drivers will fight for six spots. Four go home with three likely facing must wins.
Five of the last seven years have seen someone new bump their ways back in on the final race of the second round. Despite that, the largest margin someone made up without winning though was 19 points. So, for someone new to make it back in, it would have to be historic. Kevin Harvick is the only one that can via those trends as he’s -9. Christopher Bell (-28), William Byron (-44) and Alex Bowman (-52) are also on the outside looking in.
If they’ll bump their ways back in, they’ll have to get by the past two series champions who each hold the final two spots to the Round of 8. Plus, among the three ROVAL races, two of the three bottom drivers in the wildcard standings to advance to the third won, combined to win each of them.
But, it can be done. With this being a wildcard event, does that open up a chance for another surprise winner?
Trends say, no. Chase Elliott 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 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 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. 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 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 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 (win in Daytona, 2nd in Road America, should have been a top 3 in Watkins Glen) and William Byron (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. 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.
The 3 years this race has occurred, the winner finished in the top 2 in all three second stages. Ryan Blaney won the second stage in 2018, Elliott won it in 2019 and he was second in 2020.