Oct. 10, 2021
Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the sixth race of the NASCAR Playoffs and the final race in the Round of 12 which means four drivers get chopped from the playoffs after the race. It’s also the final of a record seven road course races in the season.
The 2.28-mile 17-turn course combines Charlotte Motor Speedway’s infield course with the high-banks of the oval layout. There probably couldn’t be a more lame name for this type of layout, but Roval has grown on me, and now it is what it is. But why doesn’t Daytona International Speedway call it a Roval when they do almost the same thing?
Anyway, it’s not an easy course to drive, and throwing the banking and need for speed there, also gives the car chief some extra work to do in setting up the car. Playoff points leader Denny Hamlin explains the difficulties of the layout.
“There are a lot of interesting things about the Roval – how narrow the track is, so there’s a lack of passing zones,” Hamlin said. “There’s not really a lot of run-off areas. So, there are a lot of challenges with the track itself and why it’s such a wild card. It’s very intricate in that sense. We don’t have as many playoff points as we’ve had in the past, so we’re going to have to be very smart with how we race that track.”
Hamlin is +950 at Circa Sports to win at the Roval and he’s +14000 at Caesars sportsbooks. His Darlington and Las Vegas wins during the playoffs were his first wins of the season. The low downforce race package with engines producing 750 horsepower being used this week has been Hamlin’s best package among the three used this season. His best Roval finish in three starts has been 12th. It sounds like he’s got an agenda for staying clean and gathering points.
NASCAR Bank of America Roval 400 Analysis
That’s the thing about these playoff races, especially at a turn race like this where four drivers get cut. The drivers all want to win, but they’re more realistic. Let’s get a top-10 and advance. But some drivers know they have an edge over the other drivers because of their road racing skills and for Chase Elliott, he’s sitting right on the edge of being chopped tied with Kyle Busch in the seventh and eighth positions (3,084 points). Elliott is the absolute best on road courses and Circa Sports has him the +250 favorite to win Sunday.
“I feel like we have just had a good road course package,” Elliott said. “Like I’ve said for years now, I don’t feel like what I do is anything special. I just think we have a good package and Alan (Gustafson) has done a really good job of honing in on the things that matter at a road course and we’ve just kind of hit on things that work.’
Elliott has won the last two races on the Roval and his seven road course win in 18 Cup starts is the most among active drivers. He’s averaged a 7.6 finish in those starts. One more road victory and he’ll tie Tony Stewart for the second-most all-time with eight wins. Jeff Gordon has nine Cup wins on road courses, the most in NASCAR history.
“When you are a young guy and you come into new situations and the foundation is built there for you, it makes it a lot easier for a guy to learn,” Elliott continued. “I think I came into a great foundation and I was able to really work on myself because we have a solid package and as we improve, the cars and I improve, I think we just landed in a solid place. Does that mean we will be good there forever? No, but I certainly feel that we can improve upon where we’ve been and I can do a better job. We will see where we shake out.”
His only two wins this season have come on road courses using the 550 HP package and it’s also Elliott who has advanced the last two seasons to the Round of 8 by winning the sixth playoff race, Kansas in 2019 and the Roval last season.
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My thoughts on why we have seven road courses on the season when the last three decades have seen only two per season, and three with the Roval the last three seasons, is solely because of Chase Elliott and his skills on the road courses. Nobody else comes close to him, and it’s harder for everyone else to win. Huge edge and part of the reason you should feature Elliott at the top of your weekly betting portfolio.
It is my contention that NASCAR feels like they blew it with NASCAR’s other legacy, son of a past champion, Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was the most popular driver as Elliott is now, but NASCAR didn’t stack the deck for Junior as they’ve done with Elliott. For Earnhardt, the move would have been to race at Talladega four times, twice in the playoffs, and throw Daytona in as well. That might have surely made Earnhardt Jr. a Cup champion.
Elliott won a Championship last season and he’s got his sights on winning another this season and he’ll get that boost needed by winning Sunday, or at least I think so.
And Elliott is right about their set-ups. Hendrick Motorsports has the best set-ups and that’s been the case not only on the road course but also all 17 races using the 750 HP. Elliott two wins with it, Kyle Larson four wins with it, and Alex Bowman two wins with it.
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Larson also won his first two road courses of his Cup career and they came at the transitional courses of Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels explains part of the secret to their success.
“We’ve got the (No.) 9 team’s notes and they’ve won the last two years on the Roval,” Daniels said. “We’re going to study our notes from all the road courses this year and anything we can apply from the high banks of Daytona (road course) and put the best race package together that we can.”
Larson is +510 to win at Circa Sports and he’s been very good in two previous Roval starts.
Two Hendrick teammates need a look at the notes as well because they’re the first two in line to be eliminated on Sunday. William Byron and Alex Bowman both know they likely have to win to advance and I like that type of pressure. They have a mission, either win Sunday or put off winning a championship until next season. Do or die. The desperation always feels good when betting because I know they’d bump their grandma out of the way to win this race.
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Bowman should feel confident because he’s run well at the Roval, averaging a 4.6 finish in three Cup starts there.
"We are going into this weekend's race at the ROVAL knowing that we most likely need to find victory lane in order to advance,” Bowman said. “We have finished well here before, so we really need to focus on what we can control. The Ally team has been working hard on this road course Chevrolet and I know we will have a shot at it on Sunday."
Caesars has Bowman +4000 to win and Circa Sports has him +2900.
Joe Gibbs Racing has been almost as good as Hendrick with the 750 HP package. They have six wins combined, led by Martin Truex Jr. with four. Christopher Bell and Hamlin each have one win as well.
The thing about Truex is that he used to be the King of the road courses after Stewart and Gordon retired. He has four road course wins and should have won the inaugural Roval race in 2018 but Jimmie Johnson raced him hard on the final turn and wrecked him which allowed third-place Ryan Blaney to scoop the win. I feel like all three of Blaney’s wins this season were of the scoop nature, like a buzzard eating scraps. Blaney is +2600 to win this week.
Truex is +510 to win at Circa Sports and +600 at Caesars sportsbooks.
Martin Truex, Jr. was the last driver to win the Charlotte Oval before it trasnformed into the Roval in 2018. (AP)
Christopher Bell is sitting 10th in points and needs something good to happen which is likely because of this week’s race package that has been his best. In 17 races with it, he has a win on the Daytona road course, fourth at Richmond, fourth at Nashville, runner-up at Road America, runner-up at New Hampshire, and third in the second Richmond race. Caesars sportsbooks have him +1600 to win Sunday.
I believe only a few drivers can win the race, but you never know with weather and then crazy stuff like what happened to Truex while leading late at the Roval in 2018. But a couple longshot drivers have caught my attention for Sunday.
Let’s begin with Ross Chastain who Caesars has at +5000 to win. His team has this week’s race package figured out: seventh at Richmond, third at Darlington, eighth at New Hampshire, runner-up at Nashville, seventh at Road America, seventh at Sonoma, fourth at COTA to name a few highlights. That’s some championship racing numbers. If you have a $5 spot burning a hole in your pocket, invest in Chastain,
Chase Briscoe is +4700 at Circa Sports to win and I like him to compete for it. He was stellar on the roads last season in the Xfinity Series and was ninth at Watkins Glen this season, sixth at Road America, and sixth at COTA. The best thing about him this week is that he’s pumped for the race.
“I’m super excited,” Briscoe said. “The Roval is where I got my first Xfinity win and led a ton of laps there in the Xfinity car in the last two races where it felt like we were the car to beat but threw it away, so I’m excited to get there in the Cup car. The competition is going to be a lot tougher. The other Chase (Elliott) seems to be really good at the Roval, so we’ll see what we can do. I feel like we’ll have a pretty good shot. We’ll have to drive through a lot of cars but, not being in the playoffs, we can do some things strategy-wise to steal some track position. Then I think we’ll be fast enough to stay up there. The road courses have been our strongest all year long, so we’ll continue to build on that and hope to do really well this weekend.”
That’s all I got for now, good luck in all your betting ventures this week.
Bank of America Roval 400