Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will take to the new Charlotte Motor Speedway road course in Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400.
Ten drivers entered in the 109-lap race have won a Cup Series road course event led by Kyle Busch, who tops all active drivers with four wins. But the Charlotte road course is not a traditional road course as it uses both the infield road course and portions of the 1.5-mile oval. With that said, there is a great amount of uncertainty surrounding the race at the new 2.28-mile, 17 turn track
"I think the hardest part is just trying to understand the different dynamics between the slow sections in the infield portion of the track versus the high-speed and high-banked portion of the oval track you are slipping on every corner, there’s not a corner where you aren’t necessarily feeling really good about," Busch said. "It’s going to be a technical challenge all the way around."
Video: A Lap Around the Roval
Busch, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr., already have a guaranteed spot in the second round of the playoffs based on their performance in the first two races in the Round of 16. For Kevin Harvick, all he has to do is start the race and he will advance.
"It feels pretty good," Busch said. "We can go in there with no worries and try to go and race our own race and see what we can get out of there and maybe we can get our M&M’S Camry to victory lane."
Truex has not finished worse than second in the last three road course races, that includes wins at Watkins Glen (2017) and Sonoma earlier this season.
"I’ve always said I really enjoy the road courses," Truex Jr. said. "But what we’ve accomplished recently at the road races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen really can’t relate to the Roval. It’s just different and I wish we had more practice time on the Roval. I am not sure how the race will shake out, just too many unknowns at this time."
Driver Stats at Last Five Road Course Races
Ordered by Average Finish
|Driver||Wins||Top 5s||Top 10s||Laps Led||Avg. Start||Avg. Finish|
|Martin Truex Jr.||2||3||4||116||5.2||9.6|
Three of the four drivers currently below the cutoff line in the playoff standings have won a road course race. Denny Hamlin, who sits 16th in the standings, is the most recent to win among the group, that includes Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson, with his victory at Watkins Glen in 2016.
"At this point in the season, we need a win, and that’s how we can continue to chase down a championship," Hamlin said. "We obviously have not been performing the way we’ve hoped to in this first Round (of the Playoffs), but anything can happen at the Roval this weekend. When we tested there earlier this year I thought we were one of the best cars, we just need to set ourselves up to qualify well so we can be out front."
Since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017, Bowyer has posted a 5.2 average finish in four road course starts, which ranks second among all drivers in that span.
"You have to go into this weekend with a positive attitude," Bowyer said. "You can’t beat yourself before you get there. We’ve had a lot of success on road courses at SHR and I have no doubt we can do that again this weekend."
Active Road Course Race Winners
|Driver||Wins||Last Road Course Win|
|Kyle Busch||4||Sonoma 2015|
|Martin Truex Jr.||3||Sonoma 2018|
|Kevin Harvick||2||Sonoma 2017|
|AJ Allmendinger||1||Watkins Glen 2014|
|Clint Bowyer||1||Sonoma 2012|
|Kurt Busch||1||Sonoma 2011|
|Chase Elliott||1||Watkins Glen 2018|
|Denny Hamlin||1||Watkins Glen 2016|
|Jimmie Johnson||1||Sonoma 2010|
|*Kasey Kahne||1||Sonoma 2009|
|Joey Logano||1||Watkins Glen 2015|
*Not entered in the Bank of America Roval 400
Chase Elliott, who is ninth in the playoff standings, is the most recent winner at a road course – Watkins Glen. He also leads the series in stage points earned at the two road courses this season.
"I think that survival will be key there and hoping that you can just not crash by yourself," Elliott said. "I mean, heck, I spun out a couple of times by myself and a lot of guys have gone off track not even racing anybody. Just lining up and getting in line and making laps and trying to be solid. I don’t know, we will see where we stack up pace-wise when we get there and then we can adjust how we want to approach the race."
A number of drivers crashed during testing, which mainly consisted of single-car runs. The race will be the first time a full field of cars will be on the 2.28-mile track in race conditions.
"This weekend’s race should be interesting, for sure," said Kyle Larson, who is seventh in the playoff standings. "We tested at the Roval and were pretty fast, but like a lot of teams also wrecked a car. My guys do a really good job of getting our cars ready to race, no matter how we unload, so with a lot of unknowns this weekend I’m sure they’ll be working hard to get our Chevy where it needs to be for Sunday."
Larson was also one of the drivers that participated in the Goodyear tire test along with Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch and Paul Menard.
"I crashed in two of the three tests," Menard said. "The third one was OK."
This season no driver has recorded stage points in all four stages at road courses. Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Keselowski, Ryan Newman and Chris Buescher have finished in the top 10 in three of the four stages.
Daniel Hemric will be making his second Monster Energy Cup Series start, and first on a road course. He will also get extra track time in race conditions in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.
Top 10 in Stage Points Earned at Road Courses in 2018
|Driver||Stage Points||Stage Wins|
|Martin Truex Jr.||16||1|
Since the first test at the Roval in 2017, the layout of the track has evolved along with the Goodyear tire combination. The tire combination that will be used this weekend is the first time this tire has been raced in NASCAR competition. Along with the tire test, Goodyear supported the organizational test dates in July. Wet weather radials are an option if it rains.
Teams will get one practice in on Friday before qualifying sets the lineup for the Bank of America Roval 400. Two more practices will be held on Saturday.
"I think track position is going to be critical," said Allmendinger, who won at Watkins Glen in 2014. "It’s going to be tough to pass anywhere on the track. Tires are going to be important as they started to go away pretty quick during the test. But, I think in the infield, passing is going to be tough. You’re going to see that fine line between bouncing off each other in the infield to make a pass."
MRN.com Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Martin Truex Jr.
Pete Pistone: Kyle Busch
Tyler Burnett: Kyle Larson