CONCORD, North Carolina — I wrote earlier this week how I expected Team Penske to be the sleepers of the weekend. While Chevrolet has won 11 straight races on the road courses in the NASCAR Cup Series, if anyone was going to halt that string, it was going to be among the Penske camp and their trio of Ford’s.
All 3 of their drivers made the final round of qualifying on a sunny afternoon in Charlotte on Saturday. In fact, they all will start in the top 3 rows with Joey Logano scoring his 25th career Busch Pole Award with a time of 103.424 mph in his No. 22 Ford.
Row 3 will feature both of his other teammates with Austin Cindric (102.743 mph) and Ryan Blaney (102.685 mph) starting 5th and 6th respectively.
Logano has never finished outside the top 10 on a ROVAL before including a runner-up here in 2020. He was also 6th in Indy this year and 3rd in Watkins Glen too. Cindric has finished 8th, 5th, 7th, 2nd and 13th on 5 road courses in 2022. For Blaney, he won the inaugural race here and has finished 8th, 5th and 9th respectively since. Blaney also has a pair of 6th place finishes on road courses this season as well.
All 3 need solid days on Sunday to get by. Blaney sits +32 while Logano is +18. Cindric is below the cutline at -12 but is tied for the first spot out. Making up 12 points can easily be done.
However, 2 of the drivers he needs to make up points out start in front of him. William Byron (103.300 mph) shares the front row with Logano while Daniel Suarez (+12) starts in 3rd in his No. 99 Chevrolet.
Byron and Suarez make up the final two spots in points heading to Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN) elimination race.
Tyler Reddick (103.088 mph) rounded out the top 6 in qualifying in his No. 8 Chevrolet. He’s won 2 of the last 3 road course races on the season and had a top 3 car here last year.
Last weeks winner Chase Elliott has won 2 of the last 3 ROVAL races and starts 9th. Defending race winner and the winner of the last road course race at Watkins Glen, Kyle Larson, rolls off 18th. AJ Allmendinger has won 3 straight Xfinity Series races here and will roll off 7th.
For Toyota, they struggled again. Christopher Bell did qualify in 8th, but the rest of them are 14th (Bubba Wallace), 16th (Ty Gibbs), 19th (Martin Truex Jr.), 20th (Kyle Busch) and 24th (Denny Hamlin).
The road courses have been dismal for them. Truex Jr. has finished 7th, 26th, 13th, 21st and 23rd on them. Hamlin was 18th, 31st, 17th, 14th and 20th. Kyle Busch 28th, 30th, 29th, 11th and 32nd. Bell being 3rd, 27th, 18th, 12th and 8th. 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.
That’s why I’m punting on them despite some up and down success on the ROVAL.
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.
3 drivers didn’t make a qualifying lap with Aric Almirola and Josh Williams having problems from practice while Conor Daly also didn’t turn a lap in his Cup Series debut after a crash in practice on oval Turn 3 out of the bus stop when his No. 50 Chevrolet wouldn’t turn.
Row 1: Joey Logano (P), William Byron (P)
Row 2: Daniel Suarez (P), Tyler Reddick
Row 3: Austin Cindric R (P), Ryan Blaney (P)
Row 4: AJ Allmendinger, Christopher Bell (P)
Row 5: Chase Elliott (P), Ross Chastain (P)
Row 6: Michael McDowell, Cole Custer
Row 7: Justin Haley, Bubba Wallace
Row 8: Austin Dillon, Ty Gibbs
Row 9: Chase Briscoe (P), Kyle Larson (P)
Row 10: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch
Row 11: Chris Buescher, Kevin Harvick
Row 12: Harrison Burton R, Denny Hamlin
Row 13: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones
Row 14: Joey Hand, Ty Dillon
Row 15: Noah Gragson, Corey LaJoie
Row 16: Brad Keselowski, Todd Gilliland R
Row 17: Daniil Kvyat, Mike Rockenfeller
Row 18: JJ Yeley, Louis Hezemans
Row 19: Aric Almirola, Josh Williams
Row 20: Aric Almirola