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NASCAR at the Charlotte Roval: Elliott wins Cup race; Allmendinger in Xfinity

NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
• Elliott wins another road course race; Kyle Busch eliminated from the playoffs

Charlotte, NC, Oct 11/20 (GRW): This race on the jury-rigged Charlotte ‘road course’ was remarkable for a number of reasons. First, that it was run on a strange kind of semi-road-course configuration – half the high-speed oval and half some twisty bits laid out in the infield. Second, that the race was the first Cup race in modern era to use rain tires. Third, that Chase Elliott won this ‘road course’ race, his fourth in a row. And fourth, that Kyle Busch left here still winless in the 2020 season and eliminated from any further hope of winning the end-of-season playoffs.

If your picture of a road course is Mosport or Watkins Glen or Mid-Ohio, then the ‘Roval’ at Charlotte is something else again. Those other tracks have run-off areas and drainage for the rain when it comes; the ROVAL has neither. The fact that no spectators can watch from the infield is secondary this year because any spectators allowed on the grounds had to be happy with what they got in the grandstands. The Xfinity race the day before demonstrated that this facility has inadequate provisions for drainage and, when any amount of rain falls, the standing water which results makes any attempt to continue racing a bad joke. Fortunately, on Sunday, the rain had let up by the time the race started. Even though NASCAR mandated the use of rain tires a the start, there was almost no water on the track when the race was flagged green.

Ty Dillon was the first to bite the bullet and, after 19 laps on rain tires, he pitted for slicks and by the time the first Stage ended a few laps later, he had caught and passed everyone making him the winner of this Stage. This tipped off everyone else that the rain tires were the wrong choice and after that they all went over to slicks. There were still a few damp spots on the track but the dry tire option was the only choice – from there to the end of the race.

Chase Elliott has earned a reputation as a road course specialist having won the previous three road courses – the Daytona road course this year plus the Charlotte ROVAL and Watkins Glen last year. This time, he started on the front row via NASCAR’s starting lineup formula and he led 27 of the race’s 109 laps, including the final 18 on his way to the win. In all, this was Elliott’s third Cup win in the 2020 season.

“I just had another really fast NAPA Camaro and really appreciate the effort,” said Elliott. “I feel like road courses have been fortunate to us the last few trips, but I feel like we just try to get a little better every time and tweak on the small things. I feel like I tweaked on some small things and got a little better than what I was here last year, which was good.”

Joey Logano finished second, Erik Jones third, Kurt Busch fourth and Ryan Blaney fifth.

This race was the elimination race in the three-race ‘Round of 12' and four of the 12 playoff drivers were going to be eliminated at the end of this race. Kyle Busch was below the cut line coming in to this race and, unless he could win here, his championship playoff hopes would come to an end here. He started in ninth place and he did put up a brave effort but he finished outside the top ten in both of the first two Stages. In the second Stage he made his way up into sixth place but then he had contact with another car and he had to pit to replace a flat tire, falling back again. In the third Stage he was involved in an incident which bought out the yellow flag on lap71 and he was able to take the restart in sixth place.

Another caution came on lap 87 and after most of the cars pitted for fuel while Busch stayed out he was able to take this restart in the lead. He only led for three laps before he was overwhelmed by many cars passing him and dropping him down the order. Now that he had no hope of making it into the next round of the playoffs, he faced the inevitable and came in for much-needed fuel. When the checker fell he was back in 30th place.

Coming to Charlotte the four drivers at the bottom of the list of 12 playoff drivers were Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Ryan Blaney and William Byron. None of these four were able to gain entry into the group of eight that would go on to contest the final three-race playoff ‘Round of 8'.

• Click HERE for the results of the NASCAR Cup race.
• The next Cup race will be held at the Kansas Speedway next Sunday, October 18.

PHOTO NXS NXS Roval CindricRainS1 101020Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 Wurth Ford, drives in the rain during the Drive for the Cure 25 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) 

NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250 at Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
• Allmendinger overcomes the ROVAL despite the rain

Charlotte, NC, Oct 10/20 (GRW): Saturday’s Xfinity race was run in seemingly unending rain and it was won, fittingly, by a driver who has lots of road-racing experience, A.J. Allmendinger. On the final restart, with just two laps remaining, he lined up alongside Chase Briscoe and the two of them headed off into the infield section. The track was still streaming with water and while Briscoe had taken a slight lead over Allmendinger, he skidded on the slippery track and spun off into the barrier, letting Allmendinger take over the lead. He continued to lead the remaining distance and he took the checker by a half-second margin over Noah Gragson.

Daniel Hemric finished in third place while the Quebec driver Alex Labbé demonstrated his prowess in this kind of racing with a solid fourth-place finish. Ross Chastain was fifth and Austin Cindric sixth.

This race was the final race in the three-race “Round of 12". Harrison Burton, Brandon Brown, Michael Annett and Riley Herbst were eliminated from the playoffs after this race and they will not advance to the next round, the ‘Round of 8' which begins next week at Kansas Speedway.

This race started in the rain and it rained all the way right through to the end. Yes, the cars were on rain tires but their two sets were not up to the task of running the entire race distance. More importantly, there were many places where the rain had collected in big puddles on the racing surface. Now, I must admit that when, at Watkins Glen, I first saw a race stopped on account of ‘standing water’ I was surprised and disappointed but in the decades since then I have come to accept that cars – even ones with rain tires – aquaplane out of control on puddles of standing water making it dangerous and impossible to continue racing. Here at Charlotte, NASCAR did concede the point to the extent that they red-flagged the race for 38 minutes.

I had expected that, when they went green again, they would only continue until the minimum distance (half-way) had been reached. Lap 34 of the race’s 68 laps came up as soon as they restarted the race but they carried on and on. Indeed they kept going until the full 68 laps had been completed even though pools of standing water remained on the track to the end. The camera located in the second turn looked back toward the first turn where the cars turned into the infield section. Time after time we could see great splashes of spray sent up when cars went though this big puddle in the first turn. The front-stretch chicane was another problem spot; water drained down from the oval track’s banking and pooled up here with inadequate drainage to prevent standing water at this location.

“I don’t know what we just witnessed,” Allmendinger said. “I was complaining the whole race. Crazy. The 98 (of) Chase Briscoe was doing a fantastic job. I didn’t really have anything for him after a couple laps but I knew that final restart I was going to do everything I could.”

In circumstances like this, the results of the race are a bit meaningless. Allmendinger had won his second place staring position for that last restart but Briscoe had proved himself to be the best up to that point, having held the race lead for 23 laps. Allmendinger beat out Briscoe due to the slippery track catching him out, not by out-driving him. After the race, Briscoe had the grace to accept his fate and simply say that he had made a mistake.

• Click HERE for the results of this wet Xfinity race
• The next Xfinity race will be held next Saturday, October 17th at the Kansas Speedway

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