Charlotte Motor Speedway is well known for hosting a 600-mile race on the NASCAR schedule. Their second date, usually a run of the mill “intermediate” 500-mile race in the Fall, has changed this year — welcome the “Roval,” a road course / oval hybrid. They’ll run a good portion of the track as nature intended before dipping into the infield for a myriad of twists, leaving us with a 17-turn “roval.” This layout hasn’t been on the Cup schedule at all, and nobody really knows quite what to expect. The winner will more than likely be the driver who keeps all four wheels on the ground most of the time, and doesn’t hit the garage for extensive repairs. This weekend? Easier said than done.
Here’s what to look for:
—Kurt Busch snagged the Pole, and he’ll be most comfortable with nobody in front of him to start the race. Probably don’t wanna be buried in the field on this one. They’ve had test and practice sessions leading up to this, but nothing quite matches race conditions. Sonoma (road course, which returns to its original layout for the 2019 race) ranks 3rd on Busch’s track list by Average Finish, but Watkins Glen (the other road course) and Charlotte are in the middle-to-bottom. Not entirely sure what we’ll see out of the #41 team, but it’ll be nice to watch!
—A.J. Allmendinger is the resident road course expert, and found out earlier this week he’ll be out of a job next year (Ryan Preece moves to the #47 for 2019 and beyond). Nothing catches eyes like a win, and he may have the lead in this one before we even hit Lap 2. Dinger starts Outside Pole tomorrow.
—Chase Elliott will start 4th, and won the race at Watkins Glen back in the Summer. He’s only ten points “safe” as of this writing, and will need to be up on the wheel tomorrow. The NASCAR Playoff races re-set the field every three weeks, this being the third. Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch secured themselves for the Round of 12 with their wins, could Chase Elliott lock in as well?
—Martin Truex Jr. won the Fall Charlotte race last year, and also the Sonoma race earlier this season. Two out of three ain’t bad, they say, but past success on other tracks isn’t a definitive indicator of a big points day here. He rolls off from Lucky 13.
—Kyle Busch crushed the Coke 600 back in May (all Stages led, and from the Pole), and leaves from P14 tomorrow. He has a way of putting his name in the recordbook; first “Car of Tomorrow” victory, first Toyota victory, 2018 regular season champion, and we shouldn’t be surprised if he adds “first Roval win” to that list as well.
Coverage of the race starts on NBC at 2:00pm, green flag scheduled for 2:19pm.