On Sunday, the final race for NASCAR’s opening round of the playoffs comes to us live from the Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in Concord, North Carolina. However, unlike the previous decades’ worth of races run at CMS, this will be the first time that NASCAR runs a Monster Energy Cup Series race on the new “Roval” portion of the racetrack.
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The anticipation and excitement over “The Roval” is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in NASCAR. Drivers are anxious, NASCAR is nervous, and fans don’t know what to expect. Those are the ingredients for compelling television. Some pundits believe that the only way to win this race, is to survive the ensuing chaos.
The BOA Roval 400 is 400km/248.5 miles in distance, which breaks down as follows:
- 109 total laps
- Stage 1: first 25 laps
- Stage 2: second 25 laps
- Final Stage: remaining 59 laps
The race begins at 2 PM ET and will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Charlotte’s Hybrid Road Course: The Roval
The Charlotte Motor Speedway has been an iconic fixture for NASCAR since its inception in 1960. It was built as a 1.5 mile super speedway oval track that quickly gained acceptance from drivers and fans alike. For the following generations, Charlotte was a track where drivers and fans knew what to expect – exciting racing. However, that all changed by 2018, when CMS announced their new creation – The Roval.
This fascinating hybrid of road course and oval track racing quickly caught the attention of NASCAR teams, drivers and fans. It’s unlike anything NASCAR has ever seen before and it provides a challenge that the drivers have never experienced on any racing level.
NASCAR has two other road courses: Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. However, neither of these tracks compare to the complexity and ingenuity of The Roval.
About The Roval
The track is 2.28 miles long and consists of 17 turns that include both left and right turns. The track also has, according to CMS, “chicanes on the frontstretch and backstretch and a 45 foot elevation change.”
Practice Sessions at The Roval
In July, the first testing was done at The Roval and the track proved to be a monster. Fast forward to Friday, September 28th, NASCAR had practice sessions before the race weekend and a Tweet by Nascar on NBC summed it up best: “We’re not even through a practice session, yet the ROVAL has already chewed up and spit out many cars.”
Coming into CMS
Coming into the BOA Roval 400, 13 of NASCAR’s 16 playoff drivers are anxiously trying to move on to the next round. Unfortunately, only 9 of those 13 will advance as four drivers will be eliminated at the conclusion of Sunday’s race.
Last weekend, Kyle Busch ended up taking the checkered flag in Richmond for the Federated Auto Parts 400. In fact, the top 12 spots were all playoff drivers. That makes this weekend’s race even more competitive because there are so many drivers close to each other in the playoff standings. It also means that none of the playoff drivers must win this race to move on. However, they will want to win in order to automatically advance and not have to worry about where the other playoff drivers finish.
Current Playoff Standings
The following standings are based on points. Truex Jr. leads the standings in points and has moved on to the next round due to his accrued points and stage wins. Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have already moved on to the next round due to winning the first two playoff races.
- Martin Truex Jr. (2141 pts)
- Kyle Busch (2125 pts)
- Kevin Harvick (2113 pts)
- Brad Keselowski (2111 pts)
- Joey Logano (2018 pts)
- Aric Almirola (2079 pts)
- Kyle Larson (2073 pts)
- Kurt Busch (2071 pts)
- Chase Elliott (2066 pts)
- Austin Dillon (2066 pts)
- Alex Bowman (2061 pts)
- Ryan Blaney (2060 pts)
- Clint Bowyer (2056 pts)
- Jimmie Johnson (2054 pts)
- Erik Jones (2039 pts)
- Denny Hamlin (2031 pts)
Storylines to Watch
For many pundits and fans, this race brings a lot of excitement due to the unknown. With that said, the following storylines will be worth watching this Sunday:
- Will The Roval “chew up and spit out drivers”?
- Will a playoff driver win this race?
- Who will get eliminated from the playoffs?
- Can anyone conquer The Roval?
Bank of America Roval 400 Betting Odds
The following Bank of America Roval 400 betting odds are courtesy of 5Dimes:
- Kyle Busch +450
- Martin Truex Jr +600
- Chase Elliott +700
- Clint Bowyer +700
- Kurt Busch +700
- Kevin Harvick +1000
- AJ Allmendinger +1000
- Brad Keselowski +1200
- Joey Logano +1500
- Kyle Larson +1800
- Jimmie Johnson +1800
- Erik Jones +1800
- Ryan Blaney +2500
- Denny Hamlin +3000
- Daniel Suarez +3000
- Jamie McMurray +3000
- Alex Bowman +3000
- Michael McDowell +6000
- Chris Buescher +8000
- Aric Almirola +10000
- Paul Menard +10000
- Ryan Newman +10000
- William Byron +20000
- Austin Dillon +30000
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr +30000
- Trevor Bayne +30000
- Regan Smith +50000
- Ty Dillon +50000
- Darrell Wallace Jr +50000
The Favorites to win The Roval
According to 5Dimes, the following drivers are odds on favorites to win the BOA Roval 400:
Kyle Busch (+450)
Busch is one of three drivers coming into this race with no pressure, since he already advanced to the next round. However, he can still accrue more points which will give him a larger cushion over other drivers in the next round.
Kyle has shown a great deal of success on road course tracks in his career. For his career, Busch has won twice at Sonoma and at Watkins Glen. With that said, Busch is going to have some work cut out for him as he’s starting 14th in the race on Sunday due to an average run in qualifying. He’s sandwiched in there with a few other playoff drivers.
If any driver can conquer a new race track, it’s definitely Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr (+600)
Truex Jr. came in 3rd place last weekend and is building some momentum for the latter rounds of the postseason. In two playoff races so far, Truex Jr. has won 3 of the 4 stages. As mentioned, his current points total already advances him to the next round.
Like Busch, Martin also has wins at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The defending champ has shown the ability to excel at road courses, while still hanging with the other top drivers on the oval tracks.
With no pressure on Truex this weekend, could we see the #78 in victory circle at Charlotte Motor Speedway?
Chase Elliott (+700)
After a crashing in Vegas during the opening round of the playoffs, and finishing near the back of pack, Chase Elliott bounced back in a big way last weekend by finishing 4th at Richmond. This weekend, Chase has already put his stamp on the race as a potential winner by qualifying 4th. It should come as no surprise considering that Elliott won at Watkins Glen this year.
Elliott moves on to the next round by earning 45 to 48 points based on where he finishes and who wins the race. Chase is currently sitting 9th in the playoff standings just 10 points above the cutoff line.
Clint Bowyer (+700)
Despite a 10th place finish last weekend in Richmond, Clint Bowyer has a lot of work cut out for him at CMS. Bowyer currently sits in 13th place, 4 points below the cutoff line. That means he would be eliminated from the playoffs if he doesn’t have a strong showing on Sunday.
Bowyer has shown the capability of succeeding on road courses as he has won at Sonoma and has an average finish of 10th for his career. His average finish of 14th at Watkins Glen isn’t bad, but it wouldn’t be enough to move on this weekend. He’s going to need some help and a strong showing to move on to the next round.
For a good chunk of the regular season, Bowyer was considered the 4th best driver of NASCAR’s Big 4. However, Keselowski has supplanted Clint in that role and Bowyer will need to rediscover his winning ways to move on in the playoffs. Bowyer will start 7th on Sunday.
Kurt Busch (+700)
Kurt Busch sits 8th in the playoff standings and needs 40 to 43 points, and depending on who wins, to move on to the next round. Fortunately for Kurt, he starts on the pole position this weekend, which will give him the advantage in the early laps. It also puts Busch in a good position to contend for the first stage win on Sunday.
Kurt finished 18th last weekend and didn’t have as strong of a showing at Richmond as he would’ve liked. Kurt has had some success at the other two road courses with a win at Sonoma and 19 Top 10 finishes in 36 combined career starts at both tracks.
Can his pole position and experience on the road courses be enough for Busch to win on Sunday?
Best Bank of America Roval 400 Betting Value
Despite this being the first race for either driver at this track, I really like the betting value that their odds provide:
Kevin Harvick (+1000)
When was the last time Harvick’s odds were this high? The answer – last year. Harvick has constantly been in the top 3 to 4 odds on favorites to win each race. Every single week, Harvick’s name was up near the top, often rotating with Kyle Busch as the favorite. So, with +1000 odds, I believe that is excellent betting value for a driver that won 7 races this year and who many considered one of the favorites to win NASCAR’s championship.
Harvick is another driver that has no pressure on Sunday. Although he doesn’t automatically move on prior to the race like Busch, Keselowski, and Truex, Harvick does move on to the next round just by starting.
Like Elliott, Harvick bounced back last weekend and finished 2nd behind Kyle Busch at Richmond. Harvick also has wins at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen, so he has definitely has the skills to win this weekend. Without any pressure to finish in a certain spot, Harvick can take risks that most other drivers won’t be able to. And, that makes him a serious threat to win on Sunday.
Kyle Larson (+1800)
Depending on who wins the race, Larson needs 37 to 40 points to move on to the next round. Obviously, if he wins then he automatically moves on. Larson is currently 7th in the playoff standings, 17 points above the cutoff line. He’s starting 5th on Sunday, due to an excellent qualifying run.
Last weekend, Larson finished in 7th place at Richmond. He finished 2nd at Vegas two weeks ago. His success in the first two playoff races, have put him in a good position to move on to the next round.
Larson has shown the ability to run well at both road courses. However, he hasn’t always finished well. If Kyle can run a smart race this Sunday, there’s no reason why he won’t move on to the 2nd round. And, if he can get a little luck on his side, then Larson could creep up and steal the checkered flag.
The Best BOA Roval 400 Longshot
Typically, I would choose a driver with larger odds than this, but I’m going with Jamie McMurray at +3000 for a few reasons. First, nobody with higher odds has a realistic shot at winning this race. Second, McMurray has been building some momentum over the last month, with two Top 10’s prior to a crash at Vegas. For his career, McMurray has snagged a few Top 5’s and a few Top 10’s at both road courses.
Lastly, McMurray had a strong qualifying run and will start 8th on Sunday. As long as he doesn’t experience some bad luck with his car, or get caught up in wrecks, Jamie could be the darkhorse to upstage the playoff drivers at The Roval.
The Bank of America Roval 400 Checkered Flag
I’m pumped up for this race. The Roval is certainly going to cause problems for drivers while impressing race fans around the world. This hybrid track is the perfect creation for challenge, intrigue and survival. With that said, I believe the cream will rise to the top on Sunday.
I expect NASCAR’s Big 3 to run well at this track as all three of them have basically moved on to the next round. I also think Keselowski will run well this weekend as he’s already advanced. In addition to those 4, I really like how Chase Elliott is driving and how strong he looked in qualifying. I expect those 5 and Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch and Allmendinger or McMurray to finish in the Top 10. I think AJ Allmendinger could pull off the upset as well this weekend.
I don’t see Kyle or Brad repeating as winners in the playoffs. So, look for the new winner to come from either Elliott, Harvick, Kurt Busch or Allmendinger. As mentioned, Kurt has the pole, AJ has the road course skills and the 2nd starting position, and Elliot is in 4th.
Although he’s starting 19th, I’m going with Kevin Harvick to win the race on Sunday. In his last 10 races, Havick has 2 wins, 7 Top 5’s, and 9 Top 10’s. Other than his crash at Vegas two weeks ago, Harvick was on track to get his 8th win of the season. I love his odds this Sunday, and I think he’s due for a win. It’s been 6 races since he last won, so I believe Harvick will take the checkered flag and be the inaugural winner at The Roval. AJ Allmendinger has the same +1000 odds as Harvick, a better starting position and the reputation as a road course driver. If you don’t want to go with Harvick then Allmendinger or Elliott could be nice options.
Which Drivers Will be Eliminated from the Playoffs?
Despite his excellent qualifying of 3rd, I don’t see Alex Bowman moving on to the next round. The young driver just doesn’t have the experience to hang with the veterans in a race with all of this pressure. He currently sits +5 above the cutoff, but I believe he finishes in the bottom 1/3rd of the pack this weekend.
I also don’t see Ryan Blaney who’s in 12th place, 4 points above the cutoff, moving on. That means two drivers from below the cutoff will leapfrog both Blaney and Bowman. Look for Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer to be those guys. They will do enough to outrace the younger drivers.
Erik Jones sits 15th and has too much to overcome in order to move on. Also, Denny Hamlin has put himself in a big hole to start this race. Not only is he 29 points below the cutoff, Hamlin starts 27th on Sunday. I don’t see him moving on to the next round.
Eliminated drivers: Bowman, Blaney, Jones and Hamlin
My Top 5 Drivers
- Kyle Busch
- Martin Truex Jr
- Kevin Harvick
- Chase Elliott
- AJ Allmendinger
BOA Roval 400 Betting Recap
- Winner: Kevin Harvick (+1000)
- Betting Value: Kevin Harvick (+1000) and Kyle Larson (+1800)
- Longshot: Jamie McMurray (+3000)