THE LEFT TURN
NASCAR playoffs at Charlotte: Bank of America Roval 400 preview, picks
The NASCAR Cup Series closes out the Round of 12 this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America Roval 400. The Round of 12 has been just as wild and unpredictable as the rest of the playoffs and now they go to a track known for crazy finishes. One part of this track to look out for is turn one. Appropriately called “the Tums Heartburn Turn” many drivers have a lot of trouble getting into this corner but with these cars being much better at road courses, we might not see as much calamity in this corner as we have in the past. We are expecting low temps in the 40s this weekend in Charlotte, so it might be difficult to find grip in these new tires.
It was announced Thursday that William Byron had won his appeal from the Texas incident with Denny Hamlin. His points have now been rescinded and are now back above the 8th-place cutoff in the playoffs. This is a HUGE win for Hendrick Motorsports as they now get three of their cars back into the playoff picture with Chase Elliott punching his ticket last weekend. Byron is not out of the woods yet, and he’s still only 14 points ahead of 9th. The same can’t be said about his teammate Alex Bowman. As we all know, the Arizona native was sidelined last week at Talladega with concussion-like symptoms, his injuries will keep him out of this week's race at the Roval.
Bowman won’t be the only driver out this week, as Cody Ware and Kurt Busch will also miss this week's race as well. This is the first time since 2001 that three or more drivers would miss time due to injuries. We have beat the drum over and over about this car and how safety is a major concern, and it seems as if NASCAR is working towards a fix, but it won’t be till next season. One solution that has been offered is a fix to the headrest that keeps the drivers in place. Dale Earnarhdt Jr had a great idea of adding more foam to cushion the impacts. These next four races will feature two mile-and-a-half tracks, a road course, and a short track, so there is a lot of concern for the tracks like Las Vegas and Homestead as the cars are carrying a high amount of speed all around the racetrack. Let's hope to get a safe race like we did last week at Talladega.
As I mentioned earlier, Chase Elliott went on to win at Talladega to clinch his spot in the semi-final round. The race was a fairly clean race as there was only one multi-car wreck, we didn’t see a lot of the crazy blocks that we see on these types of superspeedways because a lot of these drivers were being extra cautious. The fans were treated to a pretty fantastic finish as Chase Elliott passed Ryan Blaney on the final lap to win his fifth race of 2022.
After a disappointing 29th place finish, things only got worse for Kevin Harvick and his crew chief Rodney Childers. His Ford Mustang was taken to the Research and Development Center, where they would find illegal body modifications to the rear decklid. A massive 100-point penalty would be levied on the team and Childers would be suspended for four weeks. Many people including Kevin Harvick himself would talk about how ironic it was that such a heavy penalty would come after his comments regarding the parts, but it’s important to note that Martin Truex Jr has also said similar things and his car did not fail inspection. With this penalty and Harvick’s feelings about the car, his future beyond 2023 is becoming increasingly unclear.
There was some big news regarding Kaulig racing this weekend as it was announced that AJ Allmendinger will be promoted to the Cup Series full-time in 2023. While the move seemed to be a backup plan as Kaulig missed out on Kyle Busch, this is still awesome to see considering how fast AJ has been not just in the Xfinity Series but in his limited Cup Series starts as well. With an average finish of 17.4, he is a certain contender for the playoffs, especially with the hefty amount of road courses on the schedule next year.
With all that being said, AJ is the driver that I am predicting will win this weekend at the Charlotte Roval. Aside from his incredible road course ability, he has a knack for getting around this place. In the Xfinity Series that he runs full-time, no one has a better average finish than him and three victories. Anytime the Cup Series goes to a road course you know that AJ is the driver to watch, he’s scored six top tens and 3 top fives in his road course start since 2019. Look for him to become the record-breaking 20th different winner in 2022