The Cup Series heats up today with the 2023 Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. Following the race, the 4 playoff drivers ranked the lowest in the points will see their pursuit of a Championship come to an end and the playoff field trimmed from 12 to 8 drivers for the next round.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course is a 17 turn, 2.28 mile road course and oval hybrid that hosted its first NASCAR race in 2018. Track position is going to be the key to finding success today, with 4 of the 5 previous road course winners this season starting inside the top 5 and all 5 coming from inside the top 10.
Last year’s edition was won by Christopher Bell, who, facing a must win situation to move onto the Round of 8, made his way through the late-race carnage to lead the final two laps and bring home the victory. Kevin Harvick finished second, with Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, and Justin Haley rounding out the top 5.
Driver to Fade:
Andy Lally has always been considered a “road course ringer” anytime he crosses over into NASCAR, thanks to the success that he has had driving sports cars in the IMSA SportsCar Championship. Even with the skillset he brings to the table, his results in the Cup Series have been less than impressive. In 47 career starts, his best finish is 18th place, which came at Watkins Glen all the way back in 2010. Since 2021, Lally has made 6 starts, with a best finish of 25th coming at Watkins Glen earlier this year. Lally is a great driver, but driving for Rick Ware Racing is not a recipe for success. Lally will be a non-factor this weekend as he finishes outside the top 25.
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Bubba Wallace sucks on road courses. There, I said it. The stats aren’t pretty. Just 2 top 10 finishes in 25 starts. I’m sure the haters are grinning from ear to ear reading that statement. With that being said, there is room for hope for Wallace to avoid elimination and move onto the Round of 8. One of Wallace’s two top 10 finishes came right here at the Roval, as he finished 7th here last fall. Wallace became teammates with polesitter Tyler Reddick during this most recent offseason, who as you might know, is pretty decent on road courses, with 3 road course wins over the past 2 seasons. But most importantly, Wallace is showing speed on a road course. Wallace laid down the fastest lap of Practice and qualified in 4th position for the race.
The Roval has always had a flare for the dramatics and this race will be no different. Wallace starts the race 9 points below the cut line, but with Kyle Larson starting in the rear and Brad Keselowski starting mid-pack, it will be a dog fight for every point. Could Wallace win today? It’s possible, especially if everyone starts getting squirrelly late. We predict that Wallace will bring home a top 10 finish and give it his all in hopes of moving on to the Round of 8 next week.
The King of Road Courses, AJ Allmendinger’s 2023 has been quieter than expected, with 2 top 5’s and 5 top 10’s on the season. Allmendinger is always a favorite when it comes to road courses, with 13 of his 19 career wins across both the Cup Series and the Xfinity Series coming on the tracks with both right and left turns. The Charlotte Roval may very well be his best road course. In the Xfinity Series, 4 wins and 78 laps led in 4 undefeated starts. In the Cup Series, 2 top 10’s and 29 laps led in 3 starts, including a 4th place finish here last fall. Allmendinger hasn’t had race winning speed most of the season, but he rolls off 6th today and will most certainly be a threat for the win as the race winds down. A top 10 finish is a lock.
Tyler Reddick has had another solid campaign in 2023, with 2 wins, 9 top 5’s, and 13 top 10 finishes. As mentioned earlier, Reddick’s results on road courses of late have been second to none, with 3 wins, 4 top 5’s, and 7 top 10’s in his last 8 road course starts. Reddick has unloaded this weekend with an absolute rocket, finishing second in Practice and nabbing his first Pole of the season, qualifying first for today’s race. Reddick is going to have some pressure on him to start this race, currently sitting 2 points below the cut line. Starting on the Pole will help his cause, with the two drivers directly in front of him in the point standings starting deep in the field (Brad Keselowski from 19th and Kyle Larson from 36th). We predict that Tyler Reddick will have a strong day at the Roval and lock himself into the Round of 8 with a victory!