Race Day Schedule
7 am: Garage Opens
1:35 pm: Drivers To Cars
1:40 pm: Driver Intros
2:10 pm: Invocation
2:11 pm: National Anthem
2:18 pm: Command
2:30 pm: Green Flag
Coverage: 2 p.m. ET
Green Flag: 2:30 p.m. ET
Phone: NASCAR App
Race Distance: 109 Laps/252.88 Miles
Stage Lengths: 25-25-59
Competition Caution: Lap 10
Playoffs: Round 2, Race 3
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway
Who Wins Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400?
Just three non-Playoff drivers have won the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs:
- Jeff Gordon (2005) won the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway he was ranked 15th in the series standings at the time of the win.
- Clint Bowyer (2011) won the Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway he was ranked 13th in the series standings at the time of the win.
- Jamie McMurray (2013) won the Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway he was ranked 14th in the series standings at the time of the win.
As you can see, it hasn’t happened since the new format was adopted in 2014 and none of the previous three were at Charlotte on the ROVAL. So, that likely means the winner on Sunday will be among the 12 drivers left in the playoff field.
So, who’s the favorite?
Has to be Chase Elliott.
With a win this weekend, the Hendrick Motorsports driver could tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart for the second-most road course wins all-time in the NASCAR Cup Series with eight victories each. Elliott enters this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course leading all active drivers in road course wins with seven; including two earlier this season at the Circuit of The Americas (Austin, Texas) and Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin).
NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Cup Series in overall road course wins with nine victories (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); followed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart in second with eight road course wins (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, three). Chase Elliott is ranked in third with seven of his 13 career NASCAR Cup Series wins coming on road courses (Watkins Glen, two; Charlotte ROVAL, two; Daytona RC, one; COTA, one; Road America, one).
Looking to this weekend at the Charlotte ROVAL, Elliott is clearly the favorite. He leads all active drivers in road course wins (seven) and wins at the Charlotte Road Course (two). In three starts at the Charlotte Road Course, Elliott has put up two wins, two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish of 2.667 is the series-best. Plus, he leads the series in every key pre-race Loop Data category: Average Running Position of 8.028, series-best, Driver Rating of 124.5, series-best, 49 Fastest Laps Run, series-best, 278 Laps in the Top 15 (85.0%), series-most and 111 Quality Passes, series-most. He has also led the most laps in the series at the 2.32-mile track collecting 62 laps out front.
Elliott will start eighth in this weekend’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.
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.
So, who wins?
- 5 Larson – I think he gets it done and easily advances by.
- 9 Elliott – This will be their 5th 1-2 finish on the season, 4 of which on road courses with Larson beating him four times now.
- 12 Blaney – 3 top 8’s in 3 tries entering the ROVAL, 8 top sixes in his last 11 on the season including a runner-up in Indy.
- 11 Hamlin – The ROVAL hasn’t been kind to him over the last few years, but road courses have in general this season.
- 20 Bell – He won the Daytona road course, was runner-up in Road America and had a top three car in Watkins Glen.
Who Advances To The Round of 8?
We know Hamlin is already there and with my pick of Larson winning on Sunday, he is too. Elliott’s runner-up gets him by and now leaves five spots for the taking.
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?
I don’t think it does with Hendrick’s dominance so you can eliminate Bell, Byron and Bowman.
It’s now down to five spots among six drivers. Team Penske has struggled on road courses this season. But, I do feel like Blaney can get another top five and get himself by. That’s four spots left.
Joey Logano has just three top fives in his last 15 starts on the season and only five in his last 21 overall. His last three road course finishes on the year are – 15th, 22nd and 34th respectively. The thing is, he’s also +21 on the cutline entering the weekend.
Same for his teammate Brad Keselowski. He’s +20 but only has two top fives in his last 11 on the year and three in the last 20. His road course finishes this season are 5th, 19th, 15th, 13th, 35th and 24th respectively. In three ROVAL starts, he’s been 31st, 5th and 18th. Move him to the danger zone.
Martin Truex Jr. is +20 too and I feel surpasses both Logano and Keselowski. He’s been seventh twice on the ROVAL, has four top sevens in five playoff starts this season to go along with three top 10’s, two of which being third place finishes, in his last four road course starts. Move him to the Round of 8.
Kyle Busch has four top 10’s in his last five road course starts including three of the last four being in the top five at that. But, on the season, he’s had three finishes of 21st or worse in the playoffs and just one top five. On the ROVAL, he’s finished 32nd, 37th and 30th respectively.
Finally, that leaves Kevin Harvick who’s finished better than fourth just twice all year. He’s not won in over a full season either. But, he’s been consistent in the top 10. He was ninth, third and 11th in his three ROVAL starts and also in the top 10 in all five playoff races as well. The problem is, he’s been terrible on road courses this season. He has no top fives and four of his last five finishes being 14th or worse including three of 22nd or worse.
So, I feel like we can move Keselowski onto the Round of 8 due to his points cushion and he joins Hamlin, Larson, Elliott, Blaney, Truex Jr. and Logano. That means the final spot comes down to Busch vs. Harvick.
With the stat of someone new bumping their ways in, I’ll take Harvick to do just that leaving Busch, Byron, Bowman and Bell on the outside looking in. It’s a bad day to have your last name start with a B on Sunday it seems.
Five-times the winner of the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title later that season; once at Kansas Speedway, three-times at Martinsville Speedway and once at the Charlotte ROVAL:
- In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
- In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
- In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
- In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
- In 2020, Chase Elliott won at the Charlotte Road Course, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. It was the first of his three wins during the 2021 postseason.
The worst finish by a driver in the sixth Playoff race that went on to win the series title was:
- At Kansas Speedway (2012, 2017-2019) – Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Joey Logano in 2018 each finished eighth in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Kansas Speedway and then went on to win the title later those same seasons.
- At Talladega Superspeedway (2011, 2013-2016) – Jimmie Johnson in 2016 finished 23rd in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway and went on to win the title later that season.
- At Martinsville Speedway (2004-2010) – Jimmie Johnson in 2010 and Kurt Busch in 2004 each finished fifth in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Martinsville Speedway and then went on to win the title later that same season.
When the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course hosted the third race in the Playoffs (2018-2019) the winner in 2019, Chase Elliott, finished the season 10th in the final championship standings and the 2018 ROVAL winner, Ryan Blaney, finished the season 10th in the final standings as well.