A Lot On The Line In NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 12 Elimination Race at Charlotte Road Course

The intense NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 comes down to this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course for the Bank of America ROVAL 400 elimination-race at 2 p.m. ET this Sunday, October 9 on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90). The 12-driver Playoff field will be cut to eight as four driver’s title hopes will come to an end this weekend.

Ever since the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course has joined the NASCAR Cup Series postseason in 2018, it has proven to be a wildcard event with twists and turns that challenge the competitors along its multi-elevational 2.32-miles. Chase Elliott won his way into the Round of 8 with his victory at Talladega last weekend, leaving seven spots still on the line come Sunday.

Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959 and the track’s first NASCAR Cup Series race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson in a Chevrolet. But it wasn’t until 2017, the track underwent renovations to add what is now known as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL) a 2.32-mile, 17-turn, multi-elevational road course that incorporates the oval portion of the track. This season will be the fifth-time the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course has hosted a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race (2018-2022) and the 2.32-mile track has occupied two spots on the series postseason schedule – from 2018-2019 the Charlotte Road Course hosted the third race in the Playoffs and from 2020-2022 the sixth race.

The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (2020-2022) is the fourth different track to host the sixth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2004-Present); joining Martinsville Speedway (2004-2010), Talladega Superspeedway (2011, 2013-2016) and Kansas Speedway (2012, 2017-2019).

From 2018-2019, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course hosted the third race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – Ryan Blaney won the event in 2018 and Chase Elliott won in 2019.

A total of 11 different drivers have won the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, led by Jimmie Johnson with four postseason victories – all at Martinsville Speedway (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008). Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers with three victories (2009, 2010, 2019) in the sixth race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Chase Elliott leads all active drivers in Charlotte ROVAL wins with two (2019, 2020).

NASCAR Cup Series

  • Next Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
  • The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
  • The Date: Sunday, October 9
  • The Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • The Purse: $7,262,080
  • TV: NBC, 1 p.m. ET
  • Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
  • Distance: 252.88 miles (109 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 109)
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – Race No. 6 Winners
Track Race Winner Date
Charlotte RC Kyle Larson Sunday, October 10, 2021
Charlotte RC Chase Elliott Sunday, October 11, 2020
Kansas Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 20, 2019
Kansas Chase Elliott Sunday, October 21, 2018
Kansas Martin Truex Jr Sunday, October 22, 2017
Talladega Joey Logano Sunday, October 23, 2016
Talladega Joey Logano Sunday, October 25, 2015
Talladega Brad Keselowski Sunday, October 19, 2014
Talladega Jamie McMurray Sunday, October 20, 2013
Kansas Matt Kenseth Sunday, October 21, 2012
Talladega Clint Bowyer Sunday, October 23, 2011
Martinsville Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 24, 2010
Martinsville Denny Hamlin Sunday, October 25, 2009
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 19, 2008
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 21, 2007
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 22, 2006
Martinsville Jeff Gordon Sunday, October 23, 2005
Martinsville Jimmie Johnson Sunday, October 24, 2004

Six-times the winner of the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the championship later that same season – once at Kansas Speedway, three-times at Martinsville Speedway and twice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course:

  • In 2006, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
  • In 2007, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
  • In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his third consecutive NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
  • In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas Speedway, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season.
  • In 2020, Chase Elliott won at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. It was the first of his three wins during the 2020 postseason run.
  • In 2021, Kyle Larson won at the Charlotte Road Course, then the sixth race in the Playoffs, and went on to win his first NASCAR Cup Series title later that season. It was the second of his record tying five Playoff wins during the 2021 postseason.

The worst finish by a driver in the sixth Playoff race that went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series title that same season was:

  • At Kansas Speedway (2012, 2017-2019) it has happened twice – Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Joey Logano in 2018 each finished eighth in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Kansas Speedway and then went on to win the title later those same seasons.
  • At Talladega Superspeedway (2011, 2013-2016) – Jimmie Johnson in 2016 finished 23rd in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Talladega Superspeedway and went on to win the title later that season.
  • At Martinsville Speedway (2004-2010) – Jimmie Johnson in 2010 and Kurt Busch in 2004 each finished fifth in the sixth race of the Playoffs at Martinsville Speedway and then went on to win the title later that same season.

When the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course hosted the third race in the Playoffs (2018-2019) the winner in 2019, Chase Elliott, finished the season 10th in the final championship standings and the 2018 ROVAL winner, Ryan Blaney, also finished the season 10th in the final standings.

Three non-Playoff drivers have won the sixth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs:

  • In 2005, Jeff Gordon won the Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway he was ranked 15th in the series standings at the time of the win.
  • In 2011, Clint Bowyer won the Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway he was ranked 13th in the series standings at the time of the win.
  • In 2013, Jamie McMurray won the Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway he was ranked 14th in the series standings at the time of the win.

This weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course will be 109 laps (252.88 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first to stages will be 25 laps each and the final stage is scheduled for 59 laps.

All the NASCAR Cup Series on-track activity will begin with practice and Busch Light Pole Qualifying, and both can be viewed on Saturday, October 8 from 12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET on the USA Network.

Clinch Scenarios: Advancing out of the Round of 12

The Bank of America ROVAL 400 (Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the last chance for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders to secure their spot in the Round of 8. Only one driver has locked themselves into the Round of 8 – Chase Elliott – heading into this weekend leaving 11 Playoff contenders vying for just seven positions.

Already Clinched

The following driver has clinched a spot in the eight-driver field of the next round: Chase Elliott.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 8th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson or Daniel Suarez.

  • Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 21 points
  • Ross Chastain: Would clinch with 26 points
  • Denny Hamlin: Would clinch with 33 points
  • Joey Logano: Would clinch with 36 points
  • Kyle Larson: Would clinch with 36 points
  • Daniel Suarez: Would clinch with 42 points
  • Chase Briscoe: Would clinch with 54 points
  • Austin Cindric: Would clinch with 54 points
  • William Byron: Could only clinch with help
  • Christopher Bell: Could only clinch with help
  • Alex Bowman: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Chase Briscoe or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 7th winless driver in the standings.

  • Ryan Blaney: Would clinch with 23 points
  • Ross Chastain: Would clinch with 28 points
  • Denny Hamlin: Would clinch with 35 points
  • Joey Logano: Would clinch with 38 points
  • Kyle Larson: Would clinch with 38 points
  • Daniel Suarez: Would clinch with 44 points
  • Chase Briscoe: Could only clinch with help
  • Austin Cindric: Could only clinch with help
  • William Byron: Could only clinch with help
  • Christopher Bell: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman.

Playoff Bubble: Cindric, Byron, Bell and Bowman facing elimination

It all comes down to this one last race for the drivers facing elimination this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The Playoff challengers below the Round of 8 cutline will have to showcase their best skills this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course if they want to move on in the postseason.

Following a wild Talladega Superspeedway Playoff race last weekend, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe currently resides in the eighth and final transfer spot on points in the next round. Outside the cutoff looking in are Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (-0 points) who is tied with Briscoe in points, but Briscoe owns the tie breaker of best finish in this round, then Hendrick Motorsport’s driver William Byron (-11) in 10th, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (-33) in 11th, and Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman (-54) in 12th. Bowman has already announced he will not be in the No. 48 Chevrolet this weekend and instead Noah Gragson will be behind the wheel.

NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 31
Rank Drivers Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts +/- Cutoff
1 Chase Elliott 3,103 5 6 46 In On Wins
2 Ryan Blaney 3,101 0 7 15 32
3 Ross Chastain 3,097 2 5 20 28
4 Denny Hamlin 3,090 2 3 13 21
5 Joey Logano 3,087 2 5 25 18
6 Kyle Larson 3,087 2 4 20 18
7 Daniel Suárez 3,081 1 2 7 12
8 Chase Briscoe 3,069 1 4 9 0
9 Austin Cindric 3,069 1 1 6 0
10 William Byron 3,058 2 4 15 -11
11 Christopher Bell 3,036 1 4 13 -33
12 Alex Bowman 3,015 1 2 7 -54
13 Tyler Reddick 2,116 3 2 17 Eliminated From The Playoffs
14 Austin Dillon 2,107 1 0 5
15 Kyle Busch 2,089 1 3 10
16 Kevin Harvick 2,071 2 0 12

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (3,069 points) teeters along the Playoffs’ Round of 8 cutoff in the first spot outside the cutline (ninth) tied with Chase Briscoe in the eighth and final transfer spot. Briscoe currently owns the tiebreaker between the two of best finish in the Round of 12; he finished fifth at Texas to Cindric’s best finish of ninth last weekend at Talladega. This weekend will be a series of firsts for Cindric, he will be making his series track debut at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, and this will be his first career attempt at advancing out of the Round of 12. Only two previous rookies have earned a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs prior to Cindric this season – Denny Hamlin (2006) and Chase Elliott (2016). If Cindric were to advance out of the Round of 12 and into the Round of 8, he would become the first rookie in the ‘elimination-style’ Playoff Era (2016-2022) to accomplish the feat. Elliott was eliminated in the Round of 12 in 2016.

Hendrick Motorsports’ driver William Byron (3,058 points) is currently 10th in the Playoff outlook standings 11 points back from Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (3,069 points) in eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs standings – the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. Byron should feel optimistic about this weekend though, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course is one of his better tracks. In four starts at the 2.32-mile road course he posted two top-10 finishes and a pole. Plus, he is top five in three key pre-race Loop Data categories: an Average Running Position of 9.215 (series-best), a Driver Rating of 109.9 (third-best) and 30 Fastest Laps Run (third-best). He also leads the series in laps led at the Charlotte ROVAL with 80 laps out front (18.6% of his laps completed). Byron is looking to advance out of the second round of the Cup Playoffs for the first time in his career.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (3,036 points) in his second appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs finds himself in 11th in the Round of 12 standings, 33 points back from the cutline as the series heads to Charlotte for the second elimination race of the postseason. Bell has made two starts at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course posting one top-10 finish and has an average finish of 16.0. The Oklahoma native is looking to advance out of the Round of 12 for the first time in his career.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman (3,032 points) is ranked 12th in the Playoff standings 54 points back from the Round of 8 cutline. Bowman has announced he will not be back in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend and in his stead will be NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson. This will be Gragson’s series track debut at the Charlotte ROVAL, but he does have three Xfinity Series starts at the 2.32-mile track putting up two top fives and three top 10s.

Playoff Dozen at the ROVAL

Playoff elimination races amp up the intensity and this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course is no different. Here is a quick look at the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 drivers at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course:

Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating
1 Chase Elliott 4 0 2 2 3 0 5.0 113.9
2 Ryan Blaney 4 0 1 2 4 0 5.8 101.1
3 Ross Chastain 3 0 0 0 0 0 23.0 47.1
4 Denny Hamlin 4 0 0 1 1 0 12.8 82.3
5 Joey Logano 4 0 0 1 4 0 7.2 96.9
6 Kyle Larson 3 0 1 1 1 0 13.0 112.6
7 Daniel Suárez 4 0 0 0 0 0 23.2 66.6
8 Chase Briscoe 1 0 0 0 0 0 22.0 59.8
9 Austin Cindric 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0 0.0
10 William Byron 4 1 0 0 2 1 14.2 109.9
11 Christopher Bell 2 0 0 0 1 0 16.0 83.8
12 Alex Bowman 4 0 0 2 4 0 6.0 85.6

 Keep Digging: Drivers that have raced their way into the Round of 8

Since the introduction of the ‘elimination style’ format of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in 2014, several drivers have raced their way into the Round of 8 in the sixth and final cutoff race of the Round of 12.

2014: Heading to Talladega (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2014, Matt Kenseth was ranked ninth in the Playoff standings, one point back from the Round of 8 cutoff and Brad Keselowski was ranked 10th in the Playoff standings, 19 points behind the Round of 8 cutoff. Brad Keselowski won the race at Talladega and automatically advanced to the next round. Matt Kenseth finished second at Talladega and advanced on points to the Round of 8 knocking Kasey Kahne (12th-place finish at Talladega) and Kyle Busch (40th-place finish at Talladega) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Kyle Busch was second in the Playoff standings 26 points above the cutline and Kasey Kahne was eighth in the Playoff standings just one point above the Round of 8 cutoff.

2015: Heading to Talladega (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2015, Kyle Busch was ranked ninth in the Playoff standings just six points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Kyle Busch finished 11th at Talladega and advanced on points knocking his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin (37th-place finish at Talladega due to an incident) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Denny Hamlin was second in the Playoff standings, 18 points above the Round of 8 cutoff.

2016: Heading to Talladega (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2016, Denny Hamlin was ranked 10th in the Playoff standings, six points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Hamlin went on to finish third at Talladega and advanced on points knocking Martin Truex Jr. (40th-place finish at Talladega due to an engine failure) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Martin Truex Jr. was sixth in the Playoff standings, 13 points above the Round of 8 cutoff.

2017: Heading to Kansas (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2017, Kyle Busch was ranked ninth in the Playoff standings, seven points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Busch went on to finish 10th at Kansas and advanced on points knocking Kyle Larson (39th-place finish at Kansas due to an engine failure) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Kyle Larson was third in the Playoff standings, 29 points above the Round of 8 cutoff.

2018: The four drivers below the Round of 8 cutline heading into the sixth race of the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Kansas Speedway – Brad Keselowski (-1 point from cutoff), Ryan Blaney (-5), Kyle Larson (-19) and Alex Bowman (-51) – all failed to advance to the Round of 8 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Kansas race. At Kansas, Larson finished third, Keselowski finished sixth, Blaney finished seventh and Bowman finished ninth.

2019: Heading to Kansas Speedway (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2019, Chase Elliott was ranked 10th in the Playoff standings, 15 points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Elliott went on to finish second at Kansas and advanced on points knocking Brad Keselowski (19th-place finish at Kansas) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Keselowski was fifth in the Playoff standings, nine points above the Round of 8 cutoff.

2020: Heading to the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (sixth race of the Playoffs) in 2020, Kurt Busch was ranked 10th in the Playoff standings, five points back from the Round of 8 cutoff. Kurt Busch went on to finish fourth in the Charlotte Road Course race and advanced on points knocking Austin Dillon (19th-place finish at the Charlotte ROVAL) out of the Playoffs. Heading into the elimination race, Dillon was eighth in the Playoff standings tied with Kyle Busch (ninth) on points (3,053 each) along the Round of 8 cutline.

2021: The four drivers below the Round of 8 cutline heading into the sixth race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – Kevin Harvick (-9 points from cutoff), Christopher Bell (-28), William Byron (-44) and Alex Bowman (-52) – all failed to advance to the Round of 8 and were eliminated from the Playoffs following the Charlotte ROVAL race. At the Charlotte Road Course, Harvick finished 33rd, Bell finished eighth, Byron finished 11th and Bowman finished 10th.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

AJ Allmendinger to return to fulltime Cup racing in 2023 – Kaulig Racing has announced this week that AJ Allmendinger will return to full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition for the 2023 season, as he jumps behind the wheel of the No. 16 entry.

“When I first went to Kaulig Racing to compete part-time in 2019 and 2020, I remember how I felt on the weekends that I wasn’t racing and how much I missed it. Competing full-time is a mentally tough battle at times. No matter how much work you put in as a driver, there’s a chance you will not achieve success. For a while, I think I lost that competitive drive to be the best. Kaulig Racing helped me find that again. I now feel more competitive than ever and believe there is more success to be earned as a team.”

Allmendinger is currently competing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for Kaulig Racing and has won the last two Regular Season Championships in the series (2021-2022).

NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: Bank of America ROVAL 400 – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

Chase Elliott vs. Kyle Larson (Fan Vote)

Chase Elliott made the perfect move at the right time, passing Ryan Blaney to take home the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend securing the first spot in the Round of 8. Elliott also won Stage 2, and now sits atop the Playoff Standings. Since he has clinched his spot in the Round of 8, the Roval should be a stress-free race for Elliott, who will look for his first road course win of the season. His counterpart, Kyle Larson, won the last road course at Watkins Glen, while Elliott finished fourth. Larson finished 18th at Talladega and currently sits sixth in the Playoff standings and 18 points above the Round of 8 cutline. With this week being the elimination race of the Round of 12, Larson is probably feeling good about his chances to advance if he can replicate his performance at Watkins Glen. Larson and Elliott are known as two of the best road course ringers in the Cup Series, so there is a good chance these two are battling for the win come Sunday.

Christopher Bell vs. William Byron

It was not the race Christopher Bell and William Byron were looking for as they left Talladega both finishing outside the top 10. Coming into the race both were sitting behind the cutline and were looking to rack up stage points. As we head into the elimination race at the Charlotte ROVAL, both Bell and Byron will need to do everything they can in order to advance into the Round of 8. Byron sits 11 points back of the cutline while Bell is 33 points behind. Although he has never won at a road course, Byron’s 121.8 driver rating at the Roval is the highest in the field. Bell only posts a rating of 83.9 but has shown that he is incredibly competitive at road courses. The winner of the Daytona Road Course last year will likely need to win this week if he has any chance to advance into the Round of 8.

Austin Cindric vs. Chase Briscoe

Great friends off the track, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe will likely be battling with one another for the final spot in the Round of 8 this weekend at the Charlotte Road Course. Both drivers are currently tied with 3069 points, putting them right along the Round of 8 cutline in the Playoff standings. Although both are young in experience in the Cup Series, Cindric and Briscoe have shown that they are top tier road course ringers. It should be fun to watch these two Ford’s battle amongst each other to have their best race of the season. Both Cindric and Briscoe racked up wins at road courses in the Xfinity Series. It has been a great season for both drivers already this year, but they may have to fight for only one spot this weekend if they want their season to continue.

Daniel Suarez vs. Joey Logano

As we enter the final race of the Round of 12, Daniel Suarez and Joey Logano are currently above the cutline. Logano sits in fifth place while Suarez is in seventh. Suarez, the winner at Sonoma, is only 12 points above the Round of 8 cutline. Suarez’s first career win came at Sonoma earlier this year and has shown that he is a talented road course driver. In his five races at road courses this year, Suarez has three top fives. Logano has a solid record at road courses this year as well. After not posting a top 20 in the first three, Logano finished sixth at Indianapolis and third at Watkins Glen. He also has top 10s in each of his last four races at the Roval. Both will need to be at their best on Sunday and avoid any mishaps to ensure they stay above the cutline and advance into the Round of 8.

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