CONCORD, NC. – Last season, when the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway was announced AND put on the schedule, many in and out of the sport of NASCAR were asking, “What the heck is a ROVAL?” And, once they were told, the common response was, “That will never work! How dumb.”
After the race when leader Martin Truex, Jr. was taken out in the last corner on the last lap by Jimmie Johnson, it was all the talk how great an event it was. Ryan Blaney loved it because, he was running third when Truex and Johnson beat and banged themselves out and he inherited the victory.
So, what is a ROVAL? Its when you take an existing 1.5-mile oval and turn into a road course that utilizes both the normal track and twists and turns created through the infield. This year, the track added a chicane on the backstretch to slow the roll, and create more show.
Either way, it’s a guaranteed “must see” event highlighted even more by the Playoff implications.
Coming into the race, Truex is on a tear. He won the first Playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two races ago, then backed that up with another win at Richmond International Raceway last weekend.
He comes into this race as the points leader. He also carries victories from the other road courses on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series of Sonoma Raceway, wining the last two events, and Watkins Glen International.
Those stats, added to what he was about to accomplish last year at the ROVAL, and the hot streak he and the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team are currently riding makes him a favorite.
But, don’t let Kevin Harvick get off the radar. He and the No. 4 Stewart Haas Racing Ford team have won three of the last nine races. He is also coming to the ROVAL with two top-10 finishes in the first two Playoff races.
He also has prior road course victories on his resume at both Sonoma and The Glen. The one thing he and his team know how to do is survive and thrive in the Playoffs.
One driver who has the attention turned up in his direction is Ryan Newman. He and the No. 6 Roush Racing Ford team got into the Playoffs via points having to battle right up until the cutoff race at Indy.
Two races later, he rolls into the ROVAL with two top 10s and ranked ninth in points. He finished 11th last year at this race. The top-12 drivers in points move on to Stage 2 of the Playoffs.
As of right now the four drivers of Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones are sitting 13th to 16th, respectively, in points. Bowman is only two points back of 12th and Bowyer four.
This is where the race-within-a-race gets interesting as the leaderboard and points position scoreboards garner equal attention.
Just the Stats, Pack
As the season starts to wind its way to Homestead, here are some interesting stats you can share around the water cooler to be one the “kewl kids.”
The average number of race leaders, thus far, is 8.89 and is the most since 2014’s average of 9.75. The lead changes per race of 17.43 through the opening 28 races is the most since 2015, where it was 17.79 for each event.
Green Flag Passes are up 38.1 percent from last year and Green Flag Passes for the Lead are up 64.3 percent (in 18 of 28 races – including all 1.5-mile tracks). In fact, new records were set at six events – at Las Vegas-1, Kansas-1, Bristol-1, Chicago, Kentucky and Indianapolis).
At five of the last six races, the mark for Green Flag Passes was better than the 10-year average.
Silly Season News
There were several driver announcements the past two weeks in the Cup Series for the 2020 season.
First, Matt DiBennedetto was announced as the new driver of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers. He replaces Paul Menard, who announced his retirement from full-time competition.
Second, Christopher Bell, to the shock of nobody, was named the new driver of the No. 95 Toyota for Leavine Family Racing as Matt D’s replacement.
Also, Chris Buescher was named the new driver of the No. 17 Ford for Roush Racing. That leaves two-race Cup winner and two-time Xfinity Series champion Ricky Stenhouse on the outside looking in.
Caught surprised was JTG Racing, who claims to have been caught off guard by Buescher’s announcement as they were finalizing a contract to keep him on board.
Folks, THAT is what you call the official start to Silly Season. Stay tuned.
Xfinity and Truck Info
The NASCAR Xfinity Series races Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on the ROVAL, which can be seen on NBCSN-TV and heard on PRN Radio. The defending winner is Chase Briscoe, who led 33 of 55 laps to capture his first win, despite being a part-time driver at the time.
NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series teams are off until Saturday, Oct, 12 when they race at Talladega Superspeedway.