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The final road course of the season and the final race in the Round of 16 takes place at the chaotic Charlotte Roval.
An experiment created last year, the Roval gave NASCAR fans one of the wildest races in recent memory with drivers carrying advertisements around the course, multiple drivers plowing through the “Tums Heartburn Turn”, and a finish that saw the first and second-place drivers wreck each other on the final turn.
It was safe to say that heading into the 2019 season, the Roval would be the can’t-miss race of the year.
If practice will tell anything about this afternoon, expect the unexpected. Numerous drivers had troubles working their way around this 17-turn madhouse. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman are just some of the notables who have damaged/wrecked their cars in practice. Bowman, Hamlin, and Truex will be starting at the rear of the field due to using backup cars for today.
With this being the final race before the cut from 16 to 12 drivers left in the playoffs, this course ups the ante even more. William Byron is the pole-sitter for the fifth time this season and currently sits two points above the playoff cutline with his teammate, Bowman chasing him. Bowman will have to work his way through the field if he wants any shot of advancing.
Erik Jones starts 13th and has to win today to advance to the Round of 12 after being disqualified from last Saturday’s race at Richmond.
Clint Bowyer(4th) and Kurt Busch(23th) also sit outside the playoff cutline and will have to collect the stage points and keep solid track position to be able to advance.
This is the first time I have gone into a race this season where I have absolutely no idea how to predict it. It could play out calmly with minimal chaos due to drivers having raced on this course last year or it can be all-out madness, especially with the added passing zone on the backstretch chicane.
Byron has had numerous opportunities to nab his first career win and I have to believe he has learned his lesson about keeping track position. I think today is his time to break through with a dominant performance today. If not Byron, then look towards Johnson making up for last year’s last turn crash with Truex Jr. or Daniel Suarez to show up and earn his ride for 2020.
Stages are 25-25-59.
You can watch the race on NBC with the green flag dropping at 2:38 p.m. EST.