Bank of America ROVAL 400 Preview: Playoff Road Race

Bank of America ROVAL 400 Preview: Playoff Road Race

This article is part of our Weekly Preview series.

We've reached the cut for the second round in the Chase for the Cup. This weekend's event at Charlotte Motor Speedway is race number six of 10 in the playoff format which crowns the NASCAR Cup Series champion. This event signals the end of the Round of 12, as four drivers will be eliminated from the field of playoff drivers after this race. For this very crucial race, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway offer the fifth annual road course race at the North Carolina oval. Four seasons ago, the owners of Charlotte Motor Speedway constructed a 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course that incorporates most of the 1.5-mile oval and additional twists and turns on the infield for what the track calls a "roval" course. The configuration and type is very similar to the road course that Daytona International Speedway uses for both NASCAR and IMSA. This relatively new wrinkle in the Chase lineup of tracks will be a real curveball for the drivers this weekend, as most are out of their comfort zone on a road course as opposed to a true oval. The fact that most of the field raced on the Roval the last four seasons will help with some familiarity, but it's still a major departure from the typical weekly NASCAR track. When we add the newness of this event and course to the fact that it's a "cut race" in the Chase, the pressure to finish well will be enormous. The drivers who don't find bad luck

We've reached the cut for the second round in the Chase for the Cup. This weekend's event at Charlotte Motor Speedway is race number six of 10 in the playoff format which crowns the NASCAR Cup Series champion. This event signals the end of the Round of 12, as four drivers will be eliminated from the field of playoff drivers after this race. For this very crucial race, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway offer the fifth annual road course race at the North Carolina oval. Four seasons ago, the owners of Charlotte Motor Speedway constructed a 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course that incorporates most of the 1.5-mile oval and additional twists and turns on the infield for what the track calls a "roval" course. The configuration and type is very similar to the road course that Daytona International Speedway uses for both NASCAR and IMSA. This relatively new wrinkle in the Chase lineup of tracks will be a real curveball for the drivers this weekend, as most are out of their comfort zone on a road course as opposed to a true oval. The fact that most of the field raced on the Roval the last four seasons will help with some familiarity, but it's still a major departure from the typical weekly NASCAR track. When we add the newness of this event and course to the fact that it's a "cut race" in the Chase, the pressure to finish well will be enormous. The drivers who don't find bad luck and don't crack under the pressure will move on in the playoffs.

Since this is just the fifth race at a new NASCAR course, we have very little in the way of historical data to examine. That does put us at a bit of a disadvantage, though we're not completely unarmed with numbers, as we do have the loop data from the last four seasons at the Charlotte Roval. Those numbers along with the track records of historically strong road course drivers will form the backbone of our fantasy racing picks this weekend. In the table below are the driver's loop stats from last four Bank of America Roval 400's, sorted by driver rating.

DriverAvg. FinishQuality Passes# of Fastest LapsLaps LedLaps in Top 15Driver Rating
Chase Elliott5.01425864333113.9
Kyle Larson13.0765560248112.6
William Byron14.31293080358109.9
Ryan Blaney5.81202740328101.1
Kevin Harvick14.0101153434797.6
Tyler Reddick7.06513014097.5
Joey Logano7.3817828396.9
Martin Truex Jr.14.310221629992.7
Kurt Busch13.512012929990.1
Brad Keselowski18.596113927088.5
Kyle Busch25.880112529286.3
Alex Bowman6.0977222985.6
Christopher Bell16.0584613083.8
Denny Hamlin12.857172521782.3
AJ Allmendinger22.5383510375.6
Chris Buescher14.5633117474.3
Austin Dillon24.0682017773.7
Cole Custer13.524306570.6
Aric Almirola18.3720016066.8
Daniel Suarez23.3660021066.6

Since we're running just our fifth race on the Roval, we're going to be somewhat light on historical records this weekend. We have four races to examine, and that data while helpful can't be the entirety of our analysis. The road course at Charlotte will continue carving out its reputation and history this weekend. If we look back on last season's Bank of America Roval 400, we saw a very strong performance by Kyle Larson to win his first victory at the Roval. He would lead just 8 of the 109 laps, but overcome Denny Hamlin to secure the win down the stretch in that race. Thanks to the Next-Gen car, we have another new factor to consider heading back to the Charlotte Roval this weekend, and we could have another new winner to the track this Sunday afternoon. 

In addition to the last four races on the Roval, we're going to rely heavily on the road course statistics of 2022. NASCAR will be staging its sixth and final race of the season on a road course this weekend. When we combine that much road course action with the aforementioned Next-Gen car, this becomes some of the most important data we can examine for this race. With so many unknowns, there are sure to be some surprises and even some bad days for some of NASCAR's stars. We won't be surprised by anything we see this Sunday in the Bank of America ROVAL 400. So fasten your seat belts and get ready for some excitement, as NASCAR throws a major curveball at the competitors for this sixth race of the Chase for the Cup. The following are our picks for fantasy racing success at the Charlotte Roval.  

The Contenders – Drivers in the hunt for the win

Chase Elliott – He's been the most dominant road course driver of the last few seasons, with seven of Elliott's 18 career wins coming on road course tracks. While he's winless this season on the road circuit, he's managed to maintain a high performance level despite the Next-Gen car. Elliott has two poles, 91 laps led, one runner-up finish and four Top 10s in five road course starts this season for a stellar 6.8 average finish. He's a two-time winner at the Charlotte ROVAL and knows better than anyone what it takes to win at this facility. Coming off the big Talladega win this past week, a lot of pressure is off the No. 9 Chevrolet team. A relaxed Elliott will be a dangerous driver in the Bank of America ROVAL 400.

Ryan Blaney – Blaney is in a good points position coming to Charlotte this week, but he'd still love to snag that playoff-advancing victory in this cut to the Round of 8 in the Chase. The Penske Racing star won the first-ever race on the Roval in 2018 and has been a very consistent performer here ever since. Blaney boasts 40 laps led, one win, two Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in his four starts at the Charlotte road course. That equates to a strong 5.8 average finish that even rivals Chase Elliott's stats at the Roval. Blaney and the No. 12 Ford team have been decent road circuit performers this season in the new-generation stock car. He won the pole at COTA, has led 22 combined laps and cracked the Top 10 twice for a reasonable 14.6 average finish across the span. This is probably Blaney's favorite road course, so we should see him battling for the win Sunday afternoon.           

Kyle Larson – Larson's victory in this event one year ago sort of come out of the blue. He had led a number of laps in prior starts but just had never put it all together to challenge for the win at the Roval. Larson solved that puzzle in last season's battle at Charlotte. It was one of his instrumental victories that led to the 2021 Cup Series championship for the No. 5 Chevrolet team. Larson won the last time out on a road circuit in August's Go Bowling at the Glen. He also won a pole position at Sonoma earlier this season and cracked the Top 5 at Road America. This is typical of Larson's career on these types of tracks. He's sort of an up-and-down performer, but he brings race-winning capability to certain tracks. It's pretty clear that the reigning champion likes this challenging circuit in Charlotte, and he'll be a top contender to win the Bank of America ROVAL 400.

Tyler Reddick – The playoffs may be over for Reddick, but he's still racing hard and trying to get the best points finish he can in 2022. The Richard Childress Racing youngster comes to the Charlotte Roval this weekend looking for his third road-course victory of the season. Reddick snagged wins at Road America and the Indy GP circuit and he's led a combined 58 laps on road courses this season. Overall he's collected three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes while notching a strong 9.8 average finish on these circuits in the Next-Gen car. Reddick finished runner-up in this event one year ago, so the young driver knows what it takes to succeed on the Roval.

Solid Plays – Near locks for a Top 10 with an outside shot to win

Ross Chastain – The Trackhouse Racing veteran endured a late-summer slump but has firmly shook that off as the playoffs got underway. Chastain is now in great position to advance into the Round of 8 and a good performance Sunday at the Charlotte Roval should be forthcoming. The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet hasn't done anything to distinguish himself on the Roval in three prior starts, but Chastain has been strong on road circuits in general this season. He led a dominating 31 laps at COTA earlier this season and grabbed a thrilling victory, and he's also nabbed three total Top 10s on these style tracks for a robust 12.0 average finish. With advancement in the playoffs on the line, Chastain should be a Top-10 performer at the Charlotte road course.

Austin Cindric – The Penske Racing rookie has been one of the more consistent road-circuit performers this season in the new-generation stock car. Cindric owns a steady 10.0 average start position, which means he qualifies reasonably well on these tracks. In addition, Cindric maintains his good track position throughout these races to nab an average finish of 7.0. He's collected two Top 5s (Sonoma and Indy GP) and four Top 10s for an 80-percent Top-10 rate at these circuits. This weekend will be Cindric's Cup Series debut at the Charlotte Roval, but do not fear. His four Xfinity Series starts at the North Carolina road course have netted amazing stats. Cindric owns two poles, 36 laps led, three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in NASCAR's junior circuit at the Roval. His 3.5 average finish across those four starts is as amazing as it sounds.       

Michael McDowell – McDowell rides a string of three great finishes into this weekend's Bank of America ROVAL 400. The Front Row Motorsports driver has been incredibly skilled and consistent this season on road courses. McDowell has grabbed finishes of 13th-, third-, eighth-, eighth- and sixth-place for an average finish of 7.6 in the Next-Gen car on these style tracks. Last time out in August, he led 14 laps and finished a brilliant sixth place at Watkins Glen. McDowell's four prior starts at the Roval have generally been efforts around the Top 15, but he should be incredibly improved in this outing. The No. 34 Ford team is putting some of the best cars of McDowell's career under him right now, so a career-best Roval finish should be in store this Sunday afternoon.

Daniel Suarez – The Trackhouse Racing veteran has been nearly as impressive as his teammate, Ross Chastain, on these winding circuits in 2022. Suarez grabbed a surprising victory at Sonoma in June as he led a dominating 47 laps and secured his first-ever Cup Series win. The driver of the No. 99 Chevrolet has also secured Top-5 finishes at Road America and most recently at Watkins Glen. His 12.6 average finish for the season in these five road course events is quite respectable and worthy of some praise. Suarez has made all four starts at the Charlotte Roval and earned his best finish at the track last season (13th-place). He should eclipse that mark in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400.

Sleepers – Drivers with good history at Charlotte & solid upside

Joey Logano – Logano is coming off a subpar performance at Talladega and will be looking to rebound at the Charlotte Roval. That's the primary reason why we've moved him into the sleepers list this week. The good news is that Logano is strong at this particular road circuit. The driver of the No. 22 Ford owns one Top-5 (a runner-up finish in 2020) and four Top-10 finishes in his four Roval starts. That works out to a dazzling 7.3 average finish across the span. Logano has been decent on road circuits this season with a pair of Top 10s in the five events to date, but the really good news is that those were Logano's last two starts (Indy GP and Watkins Glen) so he's been sharp of late. With a potential spot in the Round of 8 up for grabs, motivation won't be an issue for this driver and team.    

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing star hasn't been a strong road course performer in 2022. The new Next-Gen car has presented too many challenges for Hamlin, who's managed just a 20.0 average finish thus far on this style of track. However, the playoffs are well underway and Hamlin still has a fighting chance of advancing. That factor alone should spur Hamlin to a good finish Sunday afternoon. Fortunately for the No. 11 Toyota team, Hamlin has won the last two pole positions at the Charlotte Roval, with his best performance at the track coming last season. The veteran driver led 25 of the 109 laps and finished a Roval-best fifth-place in this event one year ago. That experience should benefit Hamlin greatly in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400.

Erik Jones – Just about everything Jones has touched of late has turned to gold. He won a few weeks ago at the Darlington oval and he's riding a pair of sixth-place finishes at Texas and Talladega into this Sunday's road racing event. The Petty GMS Racing veteran has been pretty decent on the road courses in 2022, with two Top-10 and three Top-15 finishes for a respectable 16.4 average across the five events. His last time out in this style of racing was in August at Watkins Glen, where Jones earned a hard-fought 10th-place finish in the Go Bowling at the Glen. If Jones hopes to set a career-best Roval mark, he's going to have to aim high. He finished third-place in this event two seasons ago.

AJ Allmendinger – Allmendinger has always been a top performer in road racing, and that success has translated well with the new Next-Gen car. After a bumpy start in this style of racing at COTA earlier this season, Allmendinger has rebounded to post three-straight Top 10s at Road America, Indy GP and Watkins Glen, finishing a brilliant runner-up at the latter race. The Kaulig Racing veteran will be eager to get on the track this weekend at Charlotte. His two career starts on the Roval have netted one Top-10 finish (2018) and his Xfinity Series career at the Charlotte oval has netted a perfect three victories in three starts between 2019 and 2021. Allmendinger knows this facility like the back of his hand and should have a very high ceiling for the Bank of America ROVAL 400.  

Christopher Bell – With playoff hopes still intact, but somewhat beat up after Talladega, Bell comes to the Charlotte Roval looking to extend his 2022 playoff drive into the Round of 8. It will take a strong performance by Bell and some luck regarding the other playoff hopefuls to race his way into the next round. Fortunately for the No. 20 Toyota team, this young driver has some road-racing skill. Bell qualified fourth and finished eighth in this event one season ago for his first career Top 10 at the Charlotte road course. He also has a pair of Top 10s (COTA & Watkins Glen) and three Top 15s on the road-racing circuit in the next-generation stock car. His 13.6 average finish is pretty respectable, and with everything on the line, we expect Bell to turn in a gutsy performance this Sunday afternoon.

Chris Buescher – Buescher has been wildly inconsistent of late, with a victory and Top 10s bookended and intermingled with finishes outside the Top 20 across the last two months. That indicates the risk associated with Buescher and the No. 17 Ford team. However, when we look at the Roush Fenway Keselowski veteran's road racing stats this season, you can't argue with results. Buescher has logged one Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes across the five events to post a strong 9.6 average finish in this style of racing. That coincides nicely with his last outing at the Charlotte Roval. Buescher earned a stellar third-place finish in this event one year ago. He should put his skills on display again in this sixth race of the Chase for the Cup.

Slow Down – Drivers to avoid this week

Kyle Busch – After last week's disappointment at Talladega we have to be very reserved about Busch this week. He limps into Charlotte mired in a five-race Top-10 drought, and it appears that morale has slumped to season lows for the No. 18 Toyota team. Road racing has never really been Busch's best with the exception of a couple different tracks like Watkins Glen. This season has amplified that weakness, as Busch has just one Top-15 finish in five starts and a disappointing 26.0 average finish on these style tracks in 2022. He also has one Top 5 and three finishes outside the Top 30 at the Charlotte Roval, good for an inflated 25.8 average finish. He's simply too risky to deploy in fantasy racing lineups this weekend.

Alex Bowman – Bowman had to step out of the car at Talladega last weekend due to concussion symptoms that were still plaguing him after his hard crash at Texas two weeks ago. We haven't been given a medical update on Bowman's status at the time of this writing, although we'd imagine his possibility of racing at Charlotte this Sunday is about 50/50. He's dropped to the bottom of the Chase point standings (12th place) and is facing elimination. If it were left up to Bowman to compete, he'd likely race this Sunday, but he likely wouldn't be 100-percent. Ultimately that decision may not rest in his hands but instead in the hands of the medical professionals. The cloudy situation is one best avoided in fantasy leagues.     

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex has been a top road-course performer for most of his NASCAR career. However, the Next-Gen car has put a bit of a damper on that good record. Truex has just one Top-10 finish in five starts this season and that came way back in the early-season visit to COTA. In the four races since that event, he's mostly finished outside the Top 20 on this sort of track. That's blown Truex's average finish up to an inflated 18.0 on these style tracks. The Joe Gibbs Racing star has two Top 10s in four-career starts at the Charlotte Roval, but his finish of 29th place in this event one year ago has put a sour note on his most recent work there. Truex makes for a risky fantasy racing play in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400. 

Bubba Wallace – Summer's hot streak has faded a good bit heading into the fall for Wallace. He's failed to crack the Top 15 in the last three races since his big Kansas victory and is searching for answers coming to the Roval this week. The 23XI Racing veteran has never really been a big road racing performer, and his stats this year bear that out. Wallace has one Top-5 finish alongside four DNFs on these style tracks in 2022, good for a disappointing 29.8 average finish. The Charlotte Roval has been nearly as tough the last four years for this veteran driver. Just one of Wallace's four starts at the Charlotte Roval have netted a Top 15 result, and he has three finishes outside the Top 20, leading to an average finish of 23.8. There are better options available this week, so keep Wallace on the bench for now.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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