Bank of America Roval 400

Four drivers will be chopped from the playoffs after Sunday’s Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 17-turn 2,28-mile road course that combines the infield road course with the speedway’s high banks. It’s the best of both worlds in NASCAR.
This will be the second year the Cup Series has ever run on the unique layout and it’ll be the third and final road course race of the season. It’s also the final of three races in the first round of the playoffs where 12 drivers will advance to the Round of 12 next week at Dover and four drivers will be eliminated.    
“It’s do-or-die time. It’s the playoffs,” said Clint Bowyer who sits four points behind the final transfer position. “You watch these football teams go through these playoffs and how exciting it is and it’s our turn to have those nerve-racking moments and do-or-die moments for your race team and your season, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Among the five drivers within 15-points of each other from 11th through 15th in the standings vying for the final two Round of 12 spots, Bowyer would be one of my choices to advance because his 11.9 average finish in 29 road starts is second-best among active drivers and his 11 top-fives are tied with Kurt and Kyle Busch for the most among active drivers. By the way, Kurt Busch is one of those five drivers looking to advance and finished fifth at the roval in his first try last season.
Kurt Busch and Bowyer are both listed by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook at 20/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $2,000) to win this week, and they can automatically get in by simply winning and get the automatic berth to the next round. But I have a feeling that both drivers are going to be conservative and be more focused on getting stage points and focusing more on where their closest playoff contenders are on the track. 
The driver sitting in last place in the playoff standings, Erik Jones, has to win to advance and I think he can based on finishing in the top-five in three of the last four races using the race package with 750 horsepower, which includes a fourth-place at Watkins Glen in August.

Jones is also listed at 20-to-1 odds to win. I like desperate drivers that have a car good enough to win. He’s part of the Joe Gibbs Racing stable that has won 15 of the 28 races this season. Last week at Richmond they finished 1-2-3-4.    
The unique thing about the 'roval' that is exciting is that the drivers are still getting used to it. Half the drivers are uncomfortable as it is making right turns on regular road courses, but when you mix in the high speeds around the speedway banking things get a little crazier. 
“Last year at the roval, I thought we were going to be all right and finish OK, but then we all decided to follow everybody else off a cliff. It was pretty ugly,” Kyle Busch said of the 14 car pile up with six laps to go.
“But overall, just – you try to go into that race,” Busch continued. “It’s a newer type of track, and I don’t know that everybody has got it quite figured out exactly, yet. With this new aero package, it’s going to be different and of course, too, with the new chicane it’s going to be different. We can go out there and attack it and try to get a win with our M&M’S Hazelnut Camry, try to get some bonus points, get ourselves a bit of a cushion there, I guess, moreover the rest of the guys.”
Busch has already advanced to the next round of the playoffs and he’s been stuck on four wins since June 2 at Pocono. But he can be a little more aggressive than most to go for the win. He’s got four road course wins over his career and was runner-up at Sonoma in June.
The winner of that Sonoma race was Martin Truex Jr. who the SuperBook has list as the 11/4 odds (Bet $100 to win $275) to win Sunday’s race. His last six starts on road courses have seen him capture three wins and two runner-ups. He’s got four road wins over his career.

He was leading at the Roval on the last turn of the last lap last season when Jimmie Johnson went his normal corporate code of cool on the track and spun both he and Truex out with some aggressive driving. Johnson, desperate for a win with a drought that is still active, went after it as I’ve never the seven-time champ before. I hated it for Truex, but it loved for Johnson and also the Roval. It turned out to be a great inaugural race, or at least very exciting and Johnson also learned a lesson.
"I learned to not wreck coming to the checkers (laughs) from last year,” said Johnson. He's listed at 30-to-1 odds to win on Sunday. “Seriously though, we had a good car in Sonoma (12th) and in Watkins Glen (19th) and great notes to lean on, so I am really looking forward to redeeming myself this race. We were so close last year, I believe we will be in the mix."
Ryan Blaney was running third on the last lap when Johnson and Truex spun out in front of him and became the beneficiary scooping up the win. In his next road races this season he’s finished third at Sonoma and fifth at Watkins Glen. He’s finished in the top-five in six of his 10 starts using the 750 HP package. His 20-to-1 odds to win this week are very attractive.
Truex has four wins using the 750 HP package, but it’s Denny Hamlin who has been the most consistent with it with nine top-fives in 10 starts which includes a fifth at Sonoma and third at Watkins Glen. In his last nine road course starts no driver has been more consistent than his 6th-place average.    

Top-5 Finish Predictions

1) #11 Denny Hamlin (8/1)
2) #20 Erik Jones (20/1)
3) #19 Martin Truex Jr. (11/4)
4) #9 Chase Elliott (8/1)
5) #12 Ryan Blaney (20/1)   

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