Well the week is upon us. It’s been looming like a monster under a kid’s bed, which is an apt comparison given that Kevin Harvick called it “terrifying” last week, and now it’s here. The final race of the first round of the playoffs and following the race, four drivers will be eliminated from the championship run. And yet even with that at stake, NASCAR have felt it necessary to race on a track that literally no one in the MENCS has ever run before. If you are curious as to how they’ve handled it so far, just google test runs at the Roval and you will see the unbecoming results.

The name Roval is a portmanteau of road and oval and that pretty well describes exactly how they created the course. Ordinarily the Charlotte Motor Speedway races are run on the 1.5-mile quad-oval track layout, as it was for the Coca-Cola 600 back in May. However there is also a road course in the infield that is used by other racing series though not NASCAR and for this race that will change. In total each lap around the Roval is 2.28 miles in length and has 17 turns and an elevation change of 35 feet. I have included a route map, from NASCAR.com, of the course which essentially shows the lap starts at the normal start/finish line and then while on the front straight it makes a left-hand turn into the several turn road course section that also features a blind uphill turn for Turn 6 and a downhill turn in the opposite direction for Turn 7 before heading back onto the oval just before the normal Turn 1 & 2. Once back on the oval it’s a lap like usual except for the chicane on the back straightaway and the chicane coming off what is normally Turn 4 before getting back to the line.

There are 400 kilometers in the race, hence the number in the race name, or 248.4 miles. At 2.28 miles per lap there are 109 laps in the full race. The total distance of the race makes this the longest road race of the year, 50 kilometers more than Sonoma and 45 more than Watkins Glen.

Drivers don’t have notes for this track so the car setup will have to be guessed at based on the setups for Sonoma and Watkins Glen likely settling somewhere close to Watkins Glen. Crew chiefs don’t have exact notes on tire fall off or how many laps you can get out of them or the gas tank for that matter, though they can estimate that. There is also a different racing tire that Goodyear has brought here along with the fact that they could race in the rain as the teams will have up to four sets of rain tires on hand if necessary (seven sets total for the race). There’s also the fact that this track is rougher on the cars during the road section than a normal road course is, at least that’s the word on the street from the drivers who have tested there. One driver said when they got the car back to the shop, they weren’t shocked with the damage to the undercarriage but they were surprised to find out that the roof was bent in two different ways.

This week’s breakdown will look a bit different simply because there are no previous races to reference despite being on the same, name-wise, track as two races a year. I will compare drivers in the field based on their histories on road courses and break them down based on momentum and value and who needs to perform well this week.

Track Data

Last Six Road Races Overall

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Laps
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Led
Martin Truex Jr 6 4.8 5.7 8.8 2 4 5 5 5 116
Denny Hamlin 6 9.8 9 5.7 1 4 5 6 6 60
Kevin Harvick 6 15.5 11.3 11.3 1 2 4 4 5 62
Chase Elliott 6 8.3 11.5 10 1 2 3 5 5 61
Kyle Busch 6 4.8 8.2 5.5 0 3 6 6 6 61
Clint Bowyer 6 18 18 13.2 0 3 3 4 5 0
Brad Keselowski 6 13.7 10.7 11 0 2 2 5 6 65
Daniel Suarez 4 13.3 12.5 9.5 0 2 2 3 4 14
Joey Logano 6 10.5 16 16.2 0 2 2 3 4 8
Erik Jones 4 16.3 13.8 11.8 0 1 3 3 3 1
AJ Allmendinger 6 6 16.8 19.2 0 1 2 4 4 29
Kurt Busch 6 19.2 11.8 8.2 0 0 5 6 6 4
Jamie McMurray 6 10 15.7 15.5 0 0 3 4 5 1
Ryan Blaney 6 15 16.3 17.5 0 0 2 3 4 2
Kyle Larson 6 2.7 13 18.3 0 0 1 3 3 11
Ryan Newman 6 16.8 18.5 17.8 0 0 1 2 4 0
Alex Bowman 2 19.5 15 11.5 0 0 1 2 2 0
William Byron 2 12 15.5 16.5 0 0 1 1 1 0
Aric Almirola 5 24.6 24 21 0 0 1 1 1 0
Trevor Bayne 5 25.6 26.8 24.6 0 0 1 1 1 0
Jimmie Johnson 6 13.7 15.7 22.7 0 0 0 3 3 13
Chris Buescher 6 22 21.7 20.3 0 0 0 2 4 4
Michael McDowell 6 15.8 20 20.2 0 0 0 2 4 0
Paul Menard 6 21.7 17.8 20.2 0 0 0 1 3 3
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 6 23.7 26.2 26 0 0 0 0 3 0
Austin Dillon 6 23.2 21.3 23.3 0 0 0 0 2 0
Ty Dillon 4 30 26 25.8 0 0 0 0 1 0
Matt DiBenedetto 6 31.7 26.7 27.7 0 0 0 0 1 0
Bubba Wallace 2 32 28 27 0 0 0 0 0 0
Justin Marks 1 33 29 28 0 0 0 0 0 0
David Ragan 6 28 26.8 28.5 0 0 0 0 0 0
Landon Cassill 5 35 30.2 29.8 0 0 0 0 0 0
Cole Whitt 6 29.2 28 31 0 0 0 0 0 0
Regan Smith 2 30 32 31.5 0 0 0 0 0 0
Ross Chastain 1 32 30 32 0 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Hemric 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Jeffrey Earnhardt 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
JJ Yeley 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Stanton Barry 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Timmy Hill 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

 

  Fast Top 15 Laps Avg. High Low Pos Laps Led High to Low to
Driver Laps Rate Comp. Rating Rating Rating Diff Pts./Race Avg Rating Avg Rating
Martin Truex Jr 88 92% 576 122.9 143.3 101.6 -4.00 4.83 20.4 21.3
Denny Hamlin 24 81% 600 103.7 122.3 91.7 4.10 2.50 18.6 12
Kevin Harvick 56 75% 593 99.9 132.8 68.4 4.20 2.58 32.9 31.5
Chase Elliott 40 63% 600 99.1 148.8 67.7 -1.70 2.54 49.7 31.4
Kyle Busch 68 86% 600 112.1 126.7 98.7 -0.70 2.54 14.6 13.4
Clint Bowyer 16 51% 495 78.1 114.4 25.3 4.80 0.00 36.3 52.8
Brad Keselowski 29 79% 600 96.3 119.9 71.8 2.70 2.71 23.6 24.5
Daniel Suarez 2 65% 400 90.9 113.1 66.2 3.80 0.88 22.2 24.7
Joey Logano 15 62% 511 76.8 105.9 23.3 -5.70 0.33 29.1 53.5
Erik Jones 2 57% 399 84.4 111.4 49.5 4.50 0.06 27 34.9
AJ Allmendinger 16 56% 517 82.1 108.2 64.6 -13.20 1.21 26.1 17.5
Kurt Busch 12 79% 600 92.8 104.5 83 11.00 0.17 11.7 9.8
Jamie McMurray 3 60% 523 83.7 102.3 57.3 -5.50 0.04 18.6 26.4
Ryan Blaney 4 53% 594 74.2 105.5 49.5 -2.50 0.08 31.3 24.7
Kyle Larson 19 66% 598 81.8 102.2 61.7 -15.60 0.46 20.4 20.1
Ryan Newman 0 37% 599 66.8 86 56.8 -1.00 0.00 19.2 10
Alex Bowman 0 61% 200 79.6 82.7 76.5 8.00 0.00 3.1 3.1
William Byron 0 63% 199 76 94.5 57.5 -4.50 0.00 18.5 18.5
Aric Almirola 1 13% 490 59 85 49.2 3.60 0.00 26 9.8
Trevor Bayne 4 13% 498 47.9 65.8 26.4 1.00 0.00 17.9 21.5
Jimmie Johnson 26 65% 561 78.9 97 59.9 -9.00 0.54 18.1 19
Chris Buescher 3 26% 599 63.3 77.7 43.3 1.70 0.17 14.4 20
Michael McDowell 2 29% 581 64.3 74.5 48.2 -4.40 0.00 10.2 16.1
Paul Menard 1 40% 598 69.6 88 57.5 1.50 0.13 18.4 12.1
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 1 5% 482 54.5 63.2 37.7 -2.30 0.00 8.7 16.8
Austin Dillon 1 22% 598 57.7 79.7 35.2 -0.10 0.00 22 22.5
Ty Dillon 2 3% 395 45.6 54.9 35.5 4.20 0.00 9.3 10.1
Matt DiBenedetto 0 10% 578 46.5 65.5 32.1 4.00 0.00 19 14.4
Bubba Wallace 0 4% 198 40.8 44.5 37 5.00 0.00 3.7 3.8
Justin Marks 0 3% 109 39.5 39.5 39.5 5.00 0.00 0 0
David Ragan 1 6% 590 46.7 68.7 34.5 -0.50 0.00 22 12.2
Landon Cassill 0 3% 475 36.7 43.7 29 5.20 0.00 7 7.7
Cole Whitt 0 8% 521 45.9 64.8 35.7 -1.80 0.00 18.9 10.2
Regan Smith 0 2% 187 38.9 48.5 29.3 -1.50 0.00 9.6 9.6
Ross Chastain 0 0% 77 32.5 32.5 32.5 0.00 0.00 0 0
Daniel Hemric 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Jeffrey Earnhardt 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00      
JJ Yeley 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Stanton Barry 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0
Timmy Hill 0 0% 0 0 0 0 0.00   0 0

Top-15 Drivers Over Last Six at Charlotte Motor Speedway

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Laps
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Led
Martin Truex Jr 6 10.5 5.7 3.8 2 5 5 6 6 716
Jimmie Johnson 6 14.5 7.2 12 1 3 4 4 5 197
Kyle Busch 6 4.8 10.2 15.2 1 2 3 3 4 467
Austin Dillon 6 18 16.8 17 1 1 2 3 4 3
Joey Logano 6 11.3 15.3 19.2 1 1 2 2 2 243
Denny Hamlin 6 4.7 6.5 8.3 0 5 5 5 5 116
Kevin Harvick 6 10.5 12.8 15.5 0 3 4 4 4 206
Brad Keselowski 6 9.8 15.2 13.2 0 2 4 5 5 2
Kurt Busch 6 13 9.2 9.2 0 1 5 5 5 1
Jamie McMurray 6 17.5 12.8 10.7 0 1 3 5 6 4
Kyle Larson 6 23.3 10.7 14.8 0 1 3 4 4 15
Ryan Newman 6 13.2 17.7 18.8 0 1 3 4 4 1
Chase Elliott 5 9.4 15 18.4 0 1 2 3 3 115
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 6 15.2 16.7 14.3 0 0 1 5 6 2
Daniel Suarez 3 14.7 15.7 10.7 0 0 1 3 3 0

 

  Fast Top 15 Laps Avg. High Low Pos. Laps Led Rating
Driver Laps Rate Comp. Rating Rating Rating Diff. Pts/Race Range
Martin Truex Jr 288 97% 2205 121.8 150 92.1 6.70 29.83 57.9
Jimmie Johnson 189 92% 2128 109.6 133.6 96.1 2.50 8.21 37.5
Kyle Busch 275 73% 2190 106.5 150 72.2 -10.40 19.46 77.8
Austin Dillon 39 65% 2077 80.9 103.5 45.9 1.00 0.13 57.6
Joey Logano 88 51% 2121 85.4 146.4 44.9 -7.90 10.13 101.5
Denny Hamlin 109 96% 2179 108.9 120.9 95.8 -3.60 4.83 25.1
Kevin Harvick 170 73% 1709 101.1 140.6 49.3 -5.00 8.58 91.3
Brad Keselowski 40 67% 1824 82.9 113.6 29.7 -3.40 0.08 83.9
Kurt Busch 18 92% 2205 96.2 107.2 78.3 3.80 0.04 28.9
Jamie McMurray 16 67% 2204 87 103.3 66.2 6.80 0.17 37.1
Kyle Larson 106 72% 2096 96 112.6 75.1 8.50 0.63 37.5
Ryan Newman 5 58% 1855 75.3 99.9 38.5 -5.60 0.04 61.4
Chase Elliott 88 64% 1413 89.1 119 35.2 -9.00 5.75 83.8
Ricky Stenhouse Jr 14 47% 2203 75.1 81.1 61.5 0.90 0.08 19.6
Daniel Suarez 22 52% 1136 81.1 86.4 73.4 4.00 0.00 13

 

Momentum

    Avg. Avg. Avg.   Top Top Top Top Pos Avg.
Driver Races Start Run Pos. Finish Wins 5s 10s 15s 20s Diff. Rating
Brad Keselowski 5 10 7.8 5.6 3 3 4 4 5 4.4 106.3
Kyle Busch 5 4.8 11.6 8.6 1 1 4 4 5 -3.8 99.2
Kurt Busch 5 7 8.4 10.4 1 1 3 3 4 -3.4 101.2
Kyle Larson 5 6 6.8 5.6 0 3 4 5 5 0.4 110.2
Kevin Harvick 5 7.2 10.2 11.8 0 3 4 4 4 -4.6 110.3
Joey Logano 5 9.2 8.2 7.4 0 3 3 5 5 1.8 104.1
Chase Elliott 5 9.8 7.8 12.6 0 3 3 4 4 -2.8 105.4
Erik Jones 5 8.6 12.2 13.2 0 2 3 4 4 -4.6 95.3
Martin Truex Jr 5 7.2 13.6 17.4 0 2 2 3 3 -10.2 97.9
Clint Bowyer 5 16 10.2 16 0 1 3 3 3 0 97.3
Ryan Blaney 5 10 12.2 11.4 0 1 2 4 5 -1.4 89.8
Aric Almirola 5 10.8 13 15.8 0 1 2 3 3 -5 90.8
Denny Hamlin 5 4.6 11.4 15 0 1 2 3 4 -10.4 90
Ryan Newman 5 17 13.4 13 0 0 2 4 5 4 78.2
Jimmie Johnson 5 17 15.8 18.8 0 0 2 2 3 -1.8 77.3

 

 

Top-10 and Bottom-10 Driver Values

DraftKings

Rank Driver Value Rank Driver Value
1 Justin Marks 5.81 40 Stanton Barrett 0.00
2 Kevin Harvick 5.49 39 Daniel Hemric 0.36
3 Kyle Busch 5.48 38 Timmy Hill 2.75
4 Regan Smith 5.18 37 Jamie McMurray 2.91
5 Clint Bowyer 4.72 36 Trevor Bayne 3.14
6 Aric Almirola 4.60 35 AJ Allmendinger 3.15
7 Cole Whitt 4.51 34 William Byron 3.18
8 Martin Truex Jr 4.44 33 Paul Menard 3.46
9 JJ Yeley 4.40 32 Chase Elliott 3.55
10 Kurt Busch 4.34 31 Ryan Newman 3.63

 

FanDuel

Rank Driver Value Rank Driver Value
1 Daniel Hemric 10.98 39 Brad Keselowski 3.98
2 Cole Whitt 10.19 38 Martin Truex Jr. 4.09
3 Matt DiBenedetto 10.14 37 Denny Hamlin 4.41
4 Ross Chastain 10.12 36 Kyle Busch 4.44
5 J.J. Yeley 9.96 35 Chase Elliott 4.47
6 David Ragan 9.93 34 Kyle Larson 4.53
7 Justin Marks 9.83 33 Jimmie Johnson 4.67
8 Regan Smith 9.55 32 Daniel Suarez 4.75
9 Jeffrey Earnhardt 8.17 31 Joey Logano 4.85
10 Landon Cassill 7.75 30 Kurt Busch 4.88

 

Drivers To Watch This Week

Denny Hamlin: Hamlin, once more, is in a must-win situation in order to move on, or likely needs a lot of help from others. The good news for him is that he has won on a road course previously and has four top-fives in the last six races between Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Also in the last six races at Charlotte over the normal 1.5-mile layout he has five top-fives with 176 laps led between the two types of tracks. He is a better price on DraftKings as compared to FanDuel but he is still an intriguing play on both sites depending on how he looks at practice.

Erik Jones: Jones has been a sneaky good road racer of late with three top-10s in the last four road races both at Watkins Glen and Sonoma which maybe exactly what he needs in order to possibly advance in the playoffs. Jones sits directly above his JGR teammate in the standings and below the cut line for the next round despite having a win in the regular season. Jones has had nice speed on the 1.5 mile tracks this season as was evidenced by his run at Vegas before the wrong place, wrong time accident he had.

Martin Truex Jr.: There is no other driver who may be better suited to run at the Roval than MTJ given his success on both styles of course and at Charlotte specifically. In the last six road races he has a win at each of Sonoma and Watkins Glen and four top-fives and four top-10s with 116 laps led. Then go look at his history at Charlotte for the 1.5 mile layout and he’s led 716 laps of the 2,205 run with two wins and five top-fives in the last six races with an astonishing 3.8 average finish. He’s already advanced to the next round on points but a win can still bolster his standing going forward for the next round(s).

Kurt Busch: Busch seems to be in solid standing right now but he’s still just 11 points ahead of the cut line while in the middle of the pack. Like MTJ he too has had nice success at both styles of track, though not his Truex’s level obviously. In the last six of each style of race he’s posted five top-10s on road courses and five top-10s at Charlotte with a top-five. He’s also managed to post an impressive +11 PD in those road course and +3.8 at Charlotte meaning he does know how to advance through the field well.

Clint Bowyer: Despite winning two races this year, he’s sitting below the cut line right now heading into a track he was so scared of that he couldn’t stop talking about it even at Richmond. At road courses he may slide under the radar a bit but he does have three top-fives and three top-10s in the last six but he has struggled on the standard Charlotte oval in the same amount of races with just three top-15s. He may not have to win since he is just a handful of points behind the cutoff spot currently held by Ryan Blaney but he will need all of his road course skill to help him navigate an unfamiliar track.

Jimmie Johnson: JJ has struggled at road courses and this season in general but he does have a nice history at Charlotte with a win and three top-fives in the last six races there. Road courses success has been harder to find as he has an average finish of 22.7 in the last six and just three top-15s. He’s in danger of being knocked out in the first round which is a rarity for the seven-time champ. Johnson is a mid-tier driver on both sites and depending on how he looks could make an intriguing GPP play.

Chase Elliott: Chase scored a memorable first Cup series win at Watkins Glen earlier this year as he held off Truex for the last 20+ laps of the race. That should give him some confidence coming in here as should his three top-10s in the last six road races and his two top-10s in five Charlotte races with 115 laps led. Even with being the most consistent HMS driver this year and with a win under his belt on the season he is still just six points to the good of the cutoff.