NASCAR Pre-Race Media: 5 burning questions for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN)

Will Chevrolet Sweep The Road Courses For 2022 Season?

Chevrolet has won each of the 5 road course races in 2022 and the final 6 of 2021 for 11 straight wins on these tracks. Factor in the 2019 race at Watkins Glen (2 races in 2019) and the 2 races (Daytona, Charlotte) in 2020 and you get Chevy scoring 15 wins in the last 16 road course races in general.

Can they end up on top on Sunday afternoon on the ROVAL? They’ve won 3 straight here too.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 10: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 10, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

What’s The Best Strategy?

If the 5 road races this season are any indication, the race winner won’t score stage points in the opening stage. Just one of the winners have even led a lap in that stage. 3 of the last 4 didn’t lead a lap until the final stage.

However, this week may look different. How do you run this race?

There’s plenty of drivers on the cut line needing stage points including a tie for the final spot right now. But are you punting on a win and a guaranteed spot into the Round of 8 by doing so? It’s becoming increasingly clear that you don’t want stage points in the opening stage, but do on Stage 2.

In Stage 2, the eventual race winners finished: 8th (COTA), 4th (Sonoma), 10th (Road America), no points (Indy) and 8th (Watkins Glen). The 4 years this race has occurred, the winner finished in the top 2 in 3 of the 4 second stages. Ryan Blaney won the second stage in 2018, Elliott won it in 2019 and he was second in 2020 while Kyle Larson was 6th last year.

Also, 3 of the 5 races saw the winner not only take over the lead in the final stage, but they dominated it enough to lead the most laps for the race in it.

So it’s all about positioning yourself for that final stage track position and speed. Are you giving up too many points while doing so?

Which is why I have my eyes on who scores stages points and who doesn’t? For drivers like Ryan Blaney (+32), Ross Chastain (+28) and Denny Hamlin (+21) they likely want to score as many stage points as possible in Stage 1 because it could almost certainly clinch them spots into the Round of 8.

Then you have drivers like Joey Logano (+18), Kyle Larson (+18), William Byron (+11), Daniel Suarez (+12), Chase Briscoe (-12) and Austin Cindric (-12). They likely want stage points in both stages.

Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell (-45) are in a different scenario. Bell isn’t focusing on points. He just needs to win. Elliott will likely only do what’s best to position him for either A. a stage win and an additional playoff point and B. a race win. He’s racing for playoff points on Sunday.

Which is why I’m mainly watching the end of these stages to see if any of these drivers punt on stage points for track position after the stage break or not focus long term and instead take the points while they can get them.

Did Toyota Figure Out Their Deficit?

The road courses have been dismal for the Toyota camp. However, there wasn’t a lot of time between June and August for them to get things turned around. We were racing every week at that point and had 4 of the 6 road courses run between the end of June and the middle of August. We’ve now had 2 months away from road courses. Was that enough time for Toyota to get their cars better on them?

They better hope so. They knew the importance of the next road course on the schedule was in being the Round of 12 cut race.

The thing is, it’s not like their 2022 road course results can get much worse.

Martin Truex Jr. has finished 7th, 26th, 13th, 21st and 23rd on them. Denny Hamlin was 18th, 31st, 17th, 14th and 20th. Kyle Busch 28th, 30th, 29th, 11th and 32nd. Christopher Bell being 3rd, 27th, 18th, 12th and 8th. Bubba Wallace was 38th, 36th, 35th, 5th and 35th. The 45 ride which is now the 23 was 32nd, 18th, 23rd, 17th and 16th between Kurt Busch and Ty Gibbs.

Bell won the Daytona ROVAL a year ago, and on the Charlotte ROVAL, he was eighth. Truex Jr. should have won the inaugural race here, was 7th in the two races after that but 29th a year ago. Busch was 32nd, 37th, 30th and 4th here while Hamlin was 12th, 19th, 15th and 5th.

CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – OCTOBER 10: A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 10, 2021 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

How Will The Race Look?

It’s no secret, road courses and short tracks have looked the worse in terms of the racing package this season. Which leads me to wonder, how will a ROVAL look? Indianapolis was just alright back in July. If Charlotte looks pedestrian or even a stinker, the question has to come up on if they should run twice here on the oval again?

This intermediate package for the Next Gen has worked. The Coca-Cola 600 produced one of the better races on the oval here in a while. 31 lead changes with a margin of victory of .119-seconds.

It makes you wonder if we could just race twice here on the oval again. However, with NASCAR taking more and more dates away from tracks with 2 races, would Charlotte balk at that in order to keep being unique too?

I don’t necessarily see NASCAR putting 2 oval races at Charlotte and one of which being in the playoffs, especially with Texas being there too.

Texas lost a date already. Bristol has the dirt race for the spring weekend. 2 of the same races at Charlotte may not be enough.

However, this is NASCAR’s base though and 2 races including 1 in the playoffs makes the most sense too no matter what layouts they use.

Goodyear has made rain tires, can they make an option tire too?

Is An Option Tire Needed For NASCAR Races?

Formula 1 has it. They’ve got like three options for tires during the course for a race weekend. The NTT IndyCar Series has it to. They have a Black tire (primary) and Red tire (alternate). The options for both series are for alternate tires to be faster in speed but fall off faster too. The primary tires are slower, but they last longer.

It calls for strategy options. Is it time for NASCAR to find one?

Several drivers I talked to say it couldn’t hurt and would be an interesting wrinkle to improve the racing on these tracks. It would allow for strategy plays and ones that would spice the racing up.

I mean, with a new car now, this may be the time to try it. It could help shake up the field with varying strategies and help add another layer to help road courses out some.

It could create some drama that keeps you in turn from the start to the finish. I mean, the INDYCAR races that I cover are wild due to this. Pit strategy and tire options are a real thing and help play the race out differently than it normally would be.

I mean, with stages now, it’s completely altered the way road racing has evolved. In the past, you could go off strategy on road courses and create some new ways to the front. Now, everyone knows when at least two of the cautions are coming and plan accordingly.

With two different tire options for a race, it could shake that up some in the middle of these stages I feel.

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