The Charlotte ROVAL is a race track like no other – half road course, half oval, and two pesky chicanes on the front and backstretch that caused issues for almost every driver in practice, qualifying, and the race. Adding to the difficulty was the heat, pushing tempuratures inside the cars upwards of 120°F.
Not only is it a difficult track, it was a difficult race since it’s the first round of eliminations from the playoffs. Heading into the ROVAL, the four drivers below the cut line were Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones.
All this and more came together to create the most nail-biting, exciting, and stunning races of the year.
LAP 1: Pole-sitter William Byron ran away with the lead from the drop of the green. Byron’s teammate, Alex Bowman, locked up the tires heading into the backstretch chicane and spun around. Bowman came straight to pit road with flat-spotted tires. Martin Truex, who missed the chicane in an effort to avoid Bowman’s incident, had to serve a quick stop-and-go in the penalty area.
LAP 10: Truex wheel-hopped while breaking for the backstretch chicane and missed it once again, causing him to serve another penalty.
LAP 17: Byron continued to lead by 6+ seconds over his teammate Jimmie Johnson. And suddenly, another Hendrick Motorsports teammate came into the picture as Chase Elliott cracked the top 10 despite a spin in qualifying that caused him to start P19.
CAUTION – LAP 20: The #47 of Ryan Preece spun in the backstretch chicane after locking up the tires and loosing grip. The yellow caution seemed unnecessary since Preece didn’t drop parts or fluid and didn’t stall. He easily kept going after the spin. The pit stops under yellow saw a split decision between teams with Byron, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano staying on track while Johnson, Harvick, and a large handful of others came in to pit.
CAUTION – LAP 22: On the restart, the field stacked up and bottle-necked heading into Turn 1. Kurt Busch in the #1 didn’t anticipate the sudden backlog and slammed into the back of Chirs Buescher. A domino-effect occured in which Buescher hit Johnson, Johnson hit Bowman, and Bowman spun and collected Erik Jones. Denny Hamlin in the #11 also got caught in the accident but didn’t make contact with anything or anyone. Jones was out of the race and was officially eliminated from the playoffs.
STAGE 1 END – LAP 25: The stage ended under caution, however, in the short time that the race was green, Kyle Larson passed William Byron for the lead on the restart. Since Kyle Larson was the leader when the caution came out, he picked up the stage win. Byron, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 5. During pit stops, Joey Logano picked up the lead.
LAP 31: Chase Elliott took the lead from Joey Logano and pulled away from the field.
CAUTION – LAP 41: Alex Bowman, who had been battling Bubba Wallace for a few laps and had been receiving Wallace’s middle finger repeatedly out the window, decided to show his frustration and turned Wallace in the back chicane. Elliott opted to pit for new tires, which saw him restart P7 and Brad Keselowski took the lead.
LAP 48: Elliott hustled through the 6 cars in front of him and cleanly overtook Keselowski with 2 laps to go in the stage.
STAGE 2 END – LAP 50: Elliott won the stage after putting 1.4 seconds between himself and Keselowski in just 1 lap.
CAUTION – LAP 61: The #8 of Daniel Hemric spun in Turn 13 which brought out the 5th yellow flag of the race.
CAUTION – LAP 64: On the restart, leader Chase Elliott locked up the tires and slid nose-first into the tire barrier in Turn 1. Somehow, the only damage he sustained was a bent hood, no problems with the engine and no issues with the radiator or splitter. He quickly reversed and rejoined the track.
LAP 67: The restart with 43 to go saw the mid-section of the field go 3-wide. Kyle Busch was squeezed in the right lane when Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman dove to the inside. The contact caused Busch to cut the left front tire and had to come to pit road for a change.
LAP 85: After green-flag pit stops cycled through, Kevin Harvick found himself in the lead with Truex close behind. By then, Elliott miraculously had battled back through the field to 5th place.
CAUTION – LAP 88: Ricky Stenhouse Jr in the #17 spun in Turn 11. This was another unnecessary caution because no other driver was involved and Stenhouse corrected without issue.
CAUTION – LAP 92: The 8th caution of the day came for Denny Hamlin who got loose in Turn 6 and spun. The accident colleced Ryan Newman, Ryan Preece, and Paul Menard. Newman’s involvement put him in a close points battle with Alex Bowman and a bad situation regarding the playoffs.
CAUTION – LAP 95: Daniel Suarez in the #41 spun off the track and into the infield grass. Suarez stalled in the grass for several minutes and wasn’t able to get the car refired. This triggered another caution.
CAUTION – LAP 98: More mayhem ensued when the #1 of Kurt Busch and the #37 of Chris Buescher spun on the exit of Turn 8. Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece were also collected. Under caution, the #52 of Garrett Smithley put fluid on the track, causing the race to be red flagged until the oil was cleaned. While under red flag conditions, the #18 of Kyle Busch, who started his day with a penalty for driving through too many pits and then had contact on Lap 67, decided to exit the race early, having already locked himself into the next round of the playoffs.
LAP 102: The final restart saw the top 3 cars of Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr, and Chase Elliott pull away from the rest of the field, with Elliott passing Truex in Turn 4, and passing Keselowski for the lead on the next lap.
LAP 107: Still in the points battle with Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman missed the chicane and was passed by Aric Almirola, who was also fighting to stay in the playoffs. Newman refused to serve the penalty for missing the chicane and then refused to serve the pass-through for failing to serve the first penalty. NASCAR hasn’t said whether Newman will be fined for his antics. Meanwhile, Bowman made his way to second place to secure himself a spot in the playoffs.
CHECKERED FLAG – LAP 109: Chase Elliott crossed the line to win his 3rd race of the season, his first so far in the playoffs. To celebrate, Elliott did his burnout against the Turn 1 wall in the exact place he had crashed just 44 laps prior and had ended up in 37th place.
When the checkered flag flew, those eliminated from the playoffs were Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones. Drivers that are still in the championship hunt include Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Clint Bowyer.
- Chase Elliott
- Alex Bowman
- Kevin Harvick
- Clint Bowyer
- Brad Keselowski
- William Byron
- Martin Truex Jr
- Ryan Blaney
- Jimmie Johnson
- Joey Logano
- Matt Dibenedetto
- Michael McDowell
- Kyle Larson
- Aric Almirola
- Ty Dillon
- Paul Menard
- Ricky Stenhouse jr
- Chris Buescher
- Denny hamlin
- Kurt Busch
- Ryan Preece
- Ross Chastain
- Austin Dillon
- Bubba Wallace
- Matt Tifft
- Parker Kligerman
- Corey LaJoie
- Landon Cassill
- JJ Yeley
- Timmy Hill
- Joe Nemechek
- Ryan Newman
- Daniel Hemric
- Daniel Suarez
- David Ragan
- Garrett Smithley
- Kyle Busch
- Josh Bilicki
- Reed Sorenson
- Erik Jones