Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Bank of America Roval 400 was the first elimination race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff round of 10 races as four drivers of the 16-driver playoff field saw their championship hopes fade away with the waving of the checkered flag.
Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Eric Jones were eliminated from advancing to the Round of 12 that will begin this Sunday with the running of the Dryden 400 at Dover International Speedway as their Charlotte finishes did not provide them with enough points to crack the top 12.
Chase Elliott won on the Roval for his third win of the season but it came with plenty of drama as he drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into a tire barrier on lap 65 which left him in 37th place. Some timely cautions waved which allowed him to work his way back to the front and finally making the pass for the lead on lap 104 of the 109-lap event.
He was followed across the finish line by his HMS teammate Alex Bowman who had a very eventful weekend that began with him having to go to a backup car after crashing in the closing seconds of the final Cup practice on Saturday.
The move to the backup car had him starting at the rear of the field where he spun on the first lap in the backstretch chicane. His troubles continued as he was caught up in a wreck on lap 23 and on lap 42 he turned Bubba Wallace which would lead Wallace to throw a cup of water in his face as he sat beside his car after the race.
Through all of the problems that he faced, Bowman’s second-place finish was good enough for him to advance after entering the race in a very tight battle with Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Aric Almirola for the final transfer spot. Newman made a mistake in the backstretch chicane with only three laps remaining that left him with a 32nd-place finish and a 14th-place finish in the point standings.
The 12 remaining drivers will now advance to the second round of the playoffs that will feature races at Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway.
Three completely different layouts that includes Dover’s all-concrete 1-mile oval followed by Talladega’s high banked 2.66 mile tri-oval where there will be a premium on how a driver’s car performs in the draft with the elimination race taking place on the mile and a half track at Kansas.
While 12 drivers advance to the Round of 12, not all drivers will enter with the same chance of advancing after Kansas as each driver’s Playoff Points goes with them as they begin the three-race stretch starting at Dover.
Each of the 12 drivers advancing will have their point totals reset to 3,000 but only Clint Bowyer in 12th will actually take the checkered flag with the 3,000 point total as the rest of the field has collected at least one Playoff Point over the course of the season.
Kyle Busch as he did entering the playoffs continues to lead the way with 46 Playoff Points followed closely by Martin Truex Jr., who won the first two playoff races to raise his Playoff Point total to 41. Both of those totals should be enough that each driver could withstand one bad race and still advance into the next round. Busch and Truex have a cushion but the same can’t be said for the bottom five drivers who enter the Round of 12 with six or fewer Playoff Points. Kyle Larson in eighth leads the group with 3,006 followed by Alex Bowman’s 3,005, Ryan Blaney’s 3,004, William Byron’s 3,001 and Clint Bowyer’s 3,000.
Just like in the opening round, a driver does not have to worry about points if he can capture one of the three checkered flags. A win automatically moves you on through to the next round and it also will add five Playoff Points to your total to begin the final three-race round before the title race at Homestead.
Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.