Elimination awaits 4 drivers at Roval

By Pete Pistone  () 

Last week’s YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway lived up to expectations as being one of the wildest races on the NASCAR playoff schedule. But the Cup Series drivers and teams won’t have much time to catch their breath with Sunday’s return to Charlotte Motor Speedway’s “Roval.”

NASCAR introduced the world to a new term in racing with the debut of the Roval two seasons ago. Now in Year 3 of the unique track’s existence, Sunday’s Bank of America 400 also carries significant playoff implications.

Charlotte Motor Speedway created a 2.28-mile, 17-turn road circuit utilizing portions of the existing 1.5-mile oval to create a hybrid track now known as the “Roval.” The last two seasons it has produced dramatic races, and the potential for another is high.

Sunday’s return visit has again generated great anticipation, and despite having a year under their belts, drivers once again face extreme uncertainty. Although the circuit has been tweaked with a change to the backstretch chicane, teams will have to tackle the Roval using notes from last year, a race that produced mayhem and several accidents.

Four drivers will be eliminated from the playoff picture after Sunday’s race, which ends the second round. That added element should bring another layer of drama into the proceedings and make Sunday about as unpredictable as any race on the schedule.

Here are the favorites for the Bank of America Roval 400:

CHASE ELLIOTT

Despite a small sample size since the Roval is only two years old, Elliott has been a major player in both outings. He finished sixth in the inaugural race in 2018 and won last year. Elliott already has a road-course win this year at the Daytona hybrid and has won a couple of races at the twisting Watkins Glen circuit. Right now Elliott is NASCAR’s “King of the Road.”

RYAN BLANEY

Although his championship hopes ended when he was eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago, Blaney is looking to win as much as he can to close the season. He has a great shot at the Roval, where he won the inaugural race. He finished eighth last year.

KEVIN HARVICK

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s name doesn’t pop to the top of NASCAR’s best road racers often, but Harvick has been stellar at the Roval. After finishing ninth two years ago, he was third last season while also leading 34 laps. He has been a bit off in recent weeks and is looking to recapture some lost momentum as the playoffs reach their midpoint.

ALEX BOWMAN

A sleeper in the field out of the Hendrick Motorsports camp, Bowman did a great deal of road racing before reaching NASCAR’s top tier. His Roval average finish is a series-best 3.0 after runs of fourth and second.

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