It’s time for the first elimination round of the 2019 NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs.
As it did in 2018, the infield road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the third round of the postseason.
This will be the second ever Cup Series race at the roval layout, which was introduced last year.
The 2018 edition had plenty of drama, with a last lap collision deciding the first cutoff.
A late-race crash also took out the leading drivers, shaking up the order quite significantly.
The battle for the final spot inside the cutoff is close, with only ten points separating five drivers.
Much like it did in 2018, Charlotte promises to deliver some good entertainment.
What: Bank of America Roval 400
Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course in Concord, NC
When: Sunday, September 29th at 2:30 PM EST
How: NBC (TV) | Performance Racing Network (Web radio) | NBC Sports App
It’s hard to make a case against Martin Truex Jr. for this weekend.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver swept the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Not only that, but Truex also came incredibly close to winning the inaugural race at the Charlotte roval.
He was leading the race into the last corner, but a failed overtaking attempt by second place Jimmie Johnson ended up taking both drivers out.
Truex ultimately finished down the order, taking home a frustrating 14th place.
But after being the class of the field for the Round of 16, the 2017 champion will be looking to complete his sweep.
Truex is the current points leader, with a series best six wins in 2019.
|Sportsbook||Martin Truex Jr.|
Brad Keselowski came close to scoring his first road course win last year.
The Team Penske driver led the second most laps, 29, and looked like one of the favorites.
But, with only six laps remaining, Keselowski missed the brake mark into turn 1 following a restart and crashed out of the lead.
It was a disappointing ending to a promising day, ending his hopes of finally winning on a road course in the Cup Series.
The 2012 champion had a solid night at Richmond last weekend.
In a race dominated by the Joe Gibbs cars, Keselowski finished best of the rest in fourth.
He is fourth in points with three wins, 11 top 5 and 16 top 10 finishes in 28 races this season.
Kyle Larson‘s race went more or less the same way as Keselowski’s.
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the most laps of the race and also looked like a strong candidate for the win.
But Larson got caught into Keselowski’s crash while running second and finished down in 25th.
It was one of his best shots at winning a race in 2018.
Larson’s last victory came more than two years ago, but he’s been impressive recently.
The CGR driver has four top 5 and eight top 10 finishes in the last ten races.
Larson is eighth in points with six top 5 and 14 top 10 finishes.
Ryan Blaney is the defending race winner and will be looking to turn his season around.
The Team Penske driver has been on and off in 2019, alternating positive and negative streaks.
After scoring a fifth place in the Las Vegas opener, he finished down in 17th last weekend.
As a result, Blaney finds himself only eight points above the cutoff.
Repeating his 2018 results is obviously the best way to avoid an early elimination.
Blaney is tenth in points with eight top 5 and 13 top 10 finishes.
With a spot in the Round of 12 on the line, this weekend offers plenty of chances for a longshot to win.
Two drivers could offer some good value.
The first one is Kurt Busch.
After a great regular season, including a win at Kentucky, disaster struck right away in the postseason.
Busch had a flat tire and crashed out at Las Vegas, finishing dead last.
Things did not really improve at Richmond, as the Chip Ganassi driver could only manage an 18th place finish.
Now, Busch finds himself 14 points behind the cutoff and is only 15th in points.
He started last year’s race from the pole and led seven laps, finishing a solid fifth.
Erik Jones‘ situation is even worse than Busch’s.
The Joe Gibbs driver had an engine problem at Vegas, finishing down in 36th.
He bounced back at Richmond and finished fourth on the road.
But Jones’ car failed the post-race inspection, and he became the first ever driver to be disqualified from a Cup Series race.
Now 45 points behind the cutoff, Jones could be mathematically out of contention by the end of stage 2.
If this scenario does happen, he would be a great candidate for a risky, all-in strategy.
Jones likely won’t advance without a win, and could be an unexpected contender.
Again, this is a high risk, high reward pick.
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