Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Talladega Betting Preview: 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500

This was "The Big One" in April Talladega race.
The second race in the second round of NASCAR's Playoffs is at the beastly, treacherous 2.66-mile high banks of Talladega SuperSpeedway, and for 11 of the 12 drivers still in the championship chase their knees have to be knocking with fear. Talladega offers the quickest way to be ousted from playoff contention by being caught up in "The Big One." The lone playoff driver who can roll freely with no repercussions is Chase Elliott, who won last week at Dover and gets the automatic bid into the next round.

“Oh, it’s huge," Elliott said of the lack of pressure this week. "I mean, I think it's nice to be able to know you're going to move on, but you can't get complacent in the fact that you are moving on, and you can't let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage, that's huge, and you need as many as you can get. One or two points could be the difference in you making the Round of 4 or not. Just knowing that we don’t have to worry about Talladega, so excited to be able to win the first one of three and get to enjoy it all a little bit more. We are going to keep the hammer down and see what we can do.”

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has Elliott at 10/1 odds to win this week and he's proven to be a good restrictor-plate driver with wins the past two seasons in the Daytona Duels and a third-place in this season first Talladega race April 29.

It's the randomness of restrictor-plate racing that drivers chasing a championship hate having to deal with in the Playoffs. Almost every car in the race can win which is why you won't see 500/1 longshots offered at the sports books like happens with other races. You also won't see heavy favorites like we see each week with Kyle Busch, who is 15/1 this week. Kevin Harvick is 12/1 and Martin Truex Jr. is 25/1. They're usually at 9/2 odds or less each week.

No matter how hard a driver tries to run a clean race and simply try to finish, the track's nasty attitude can instantly wipe out half the field in a spectacular chain reaction wreck. The drivers are going 200 miles per hour and have little time to react or get out of the way because they're bunched up bumper-to-bumper sometimes going four-wide.

For drivers like Harvick, Busch and Truex this race scares the heck out of them because its the one race where they no longer have an edge and if they roll into one of those wrecks, they won't score many points and have less of a chance of advancing, not only in the second round but also the third round. Imagine being the best for the first 30 races and then one track ruins everything. That's Talladega.

“It’s such a wacky, wild-card race,” Truex said about Talladega. “We tried all different strategies and it seems like it doesn’t make a difference. What you need is a lot of luck there. If you can avoid the wrecks and have a car that can maintain its position with the lead pack you have a chance of posting a solid finish. But usually it comes down to being in the right place at the right time. We’ve been in the wrong place too many times recently and need to change that.”

Truex has been involved in a late accident the last three Talladega races and has just two top-fives in 27 starts.

Despite all the cars being fairly equal, there are a few drivers that have shown a special flair for plate racing. In the four races between Talladega and Daytona each season, a couple drivers always seem to find their way to the front. And being upfront has proven to be the safest place on the track.

Joey Logano wrecked early at Daytona in July, finishing 39th, but in April he won at Talladega for the third time in his career. In February he had an amazing Daytona Speedweeks with second-place finishes in the Clash and one of the Duels before finishing fourth in the Daytona 500. Overall, Logano has four wins in plate races. Team Penske and Ford have somewhat of a small edge in plate races.

The best statistical driver at Talladega is Logano's Penske teammate Brad Keselowski who has five wins there and also won once in the summer at Daytona. His six plate wins are more than any other active driver. Jimmie Johnson has five wins and Jamie McMurray has four.

Read More Here....Top-5 Finish Prediction on VegasInsider.com

Monday, October 8, 2018

Odds to win 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega

Races at Talladega Superspeedway are crap shoots.
WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK
ODDS TO WIN 2018 1000BULBS.COM 500
TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2018 - 2:20 PM ET

Brad KESELOWSKI 6/1
Joey LOGANO 7/1
Chase ELLIOTT 10/1
Denny HAMLIN 12/1
Kevin HARVICK 12/1
Ryan BLANEY 12/1
Kurt BUSCH 12/1
Clint BOWYER 15/1
Kyle BUSCH 15/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 15/1
Aric ALMIROLA 18/1
Alex BOWMAN 20/1
Martin TRUEX JR 25/1
Erik JONES 25/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 25/1
Kyle LARSON 30/1
Paul MENARD 30/1
Austin DILLON 30/1
Daniel SUAREZ 40/1
Ryan NEWMAN 50/1
William BYRON 50/1
Jamie McMURRAY 50/1
Trevor BAYNE 50/1
Darrell WALLACE JR 50/1
Chris BUESCHER 60/1
TY DILLON 80/1
AJ ALLMENDINGER 80/1
Regan SMITH 80/1
Michael McDOWELL 100/1
FIELD (all others) 20/1

Chase Elliott wins at Dover for second career cup Series win.

Chase Elliott was 15/1 to win at Dover.
Chase Elliott grabs victory at Dover, advances in Monster Energy Cup Playoffs

October 7, 2018
By Reid Spencer
 
DOVER, Del. – What looked like a Stewart-Haas Racing victory parade for much of Sunday afternoon ended in a wild overtime scramble, with Chase Elliott taking the checkered flag in the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway.
On considerably older tires, Elliott pulled ahead cleared runner-up Denny Hamlin through Turns 1 and 2 after a restart on Lap 403 and powered his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet across the finish line .265 second ahead of Hamlin’s Toyota.
With the victory—his second of the season and the second of his career—Elliott punched his ticket into the Round of 8 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, extricating himself from the bottom four in the postseason standings.
"This was a lot about perseverance," said Elliott, who recovered from a penalty for an uncontrolled tire incurred during a yellow-flag pit stop on Lap 123. "We had a penalty early and fell behind and luckily had a good enough car and good strategy to get back (to the front). What a day!"
The win was a satisfying turnaround from the same race last year, when Elliott had victory in his sights, only to be tracked down and passed by Kyle Busch on the next-to-last lap.
"Definitely think it makes it sweeter, for sure," Elliott said. "You don't appreciate it in those moments, b but to come back here and have the day we had...
"We get to move on to the next round, and I don't have to worry about Talladega next week. It's just a hell of a day."
The move that won the race was crew chief Alan Gustafson’s decision to keep Elliott on the track with tires that were more than 50 laps old, when most of the other lead-lap cars opted to pit on Lap 393 after Clint Bowyer’s Ford slammed into the Turn 4 wall one lap earlier.
Elliott led the field to a restart on Lap 397, but on the backstretch during that circuit, Aric Almirola nicked the outside wall and started a chain-reaction collision that also damaged the cars of fellow Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.
NASCAR red-flagged the race, and Elliott outran Hamlin in an overtime that extended the event four laps beyond its scheduled distance. The only laps Elliott led were the last 11.
Kevin Harvick, on the other hand, was out front for 286 of the 404 laps in a No. 4 Ford that was the clear class of the field. Harvick swept the first two stages, as he had done during his June victory at the Monster Mile and appeared headed for another perfect afternoon, but the 2014 series champion had to return to pit road under green for an extra tire change after a flying lug nut knocked the valve stem off Harvick’s left rear tire.
Harvick regained the lap he lost under a debris caution called on Lap 339, but he couldn’t work his way back to the front before the race ended.
Joey Logano dodged the Almirola wreck and finished third, followed by Erik Jones, Kurt Busch and Harvick. Austin Dillon ran seventh, one spot ahead of Kyle Busch, who snared his top 10 despite dealing with a malfunctioning track bar adjuster throughout the afternoon.
"You use it (the track bar) a lot here because of the tire wear and tire build-up," Busch said. "Cars get loose over courses of the run. Not having that and not knowing where it was (set), I had no clue where it was throughout the whole day. We came in here poised to not run very well, and that’s how we did."
For a long stretch after a restart on Lap 248, the four Stewart-Haas drivers—Harvick, Almirola, Bowyer and Kurt Busch—ran 1-2-3-4. But Bowyer had to a pit with a flat tire on Lap 382, after racing side-by-side with Ryan Newman, Harvick had his issue on pit road, and Almirola lost his winning chances when Bowyer hit the wall late in the race.
Harvick leaves Dover with a five-point lead over Kyle Busch. After the Oct. 21 race at Kansas, the Playoff field will be trimmed from 12 drivers to eight.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race - 49th Annual Gander Outdoors "400"
Dover International Speedway
Dover, Delaware
Sunday, October 7, 2018
 
                 1. (9)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 404.
                 2. (15)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 404.
                 3. (6)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 404.
                 4. (16)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 404.
                 5. (7)  Kurt Busch (P), Ford, 404.
                 6. (2)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 404.
                 7. (14)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 404.
                 8. (1)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 404.
                 9. (21)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 404.
                 10. (19)  Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 404.
                 11. (8)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 404.
                 12. (10)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 404.
                 13. (11)  Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 404.
                 14. (4)  Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 404.
                 15. (3)  Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 404.
                 16. (18)  Paul Menard, Ford, 403.
                 17. (17)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 403.
                 18. (20)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 402.
                 19. (22)  William Byron #, Chevrolet, 402.
                 20. (28)  Matt Kenseth, Ford, 402.
                 21. (25)  Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 401.
                 22. (24)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 400.
                 23. (29)  Bubba Wallace #, Chevrolet, 399.
                 24. (26)  David Ragan, Ford, 399.
                 25. (23)  Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 399.
                 26. (27)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 399.
                 27. (31)  Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, 397.
                 28. (12)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 396.
                 29. (30)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 396.
                 30. (33)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 394.
                 31. (37)  Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 394.
                 32. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 392.
                 33. (34)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 390.
                 34. (36)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 389.
                 35. (5)  Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, Accident, 388.
                 36. (13)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 387.
                 37. (32)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 314.
                 38. (39)  Harrison Rhodes, Chevrolet, Brakes, 308.
                 39. (38)  Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Transmission, 35.
 
Average Speed of Race Winner:  122.404 mph.
Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 18 Mins, 2 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.265 Seconds.
Caution Flags:  5 for 31 laps.
Lead Changes:  15 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders:   K. Busch (P) 1-15;K. Harvick (P) 16-74;R. Stenhouse Jr. 75-81;K. Harvick (P) 82-126;J. Logano (P) 127-128;K. Harvick (P) 129-189;B. Keselowski (P) 190;K. Busch (P) 191-194;K. Harvick (P) 195-242;C. Bowyer (P) 243;K. Harvick (P) 244-320;K. Busch (P) 321-322;A. Almirola (P) 323-341;B. Keselowski (P) 342-348;A. Almirola (P) 349-393;C. Elliott (P) 394-404.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kevin Harvick (P) 5 times for 290 laps; Aric Almirola (P) 2 times for 64 laps; Kyle Busch (P) 3 times for 21 laps; Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 11 laps; Brad Keselowski (P) 2 times for 8 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 7 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Clint Bowyer (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,22,18,14,9,2,12,41,10,78
Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,14,78,22,10,41,18,11,9,2

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Dover Betting Preview: 2018 Gander Outdoors 400:

The high banks of Dover usually produce some great racing. 
The Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway not only gets the second-round of NASCAR's Playoffs started, but for the first time it also gets wagering on the premises for the trio of NASCAR races held there this weekend.

Sunday's Gander Outdoors 400 will be the second Cup Series visit of the season on the high banked 1-mile concrete layout. Four drivers were eliminated from the postseason race last week at Charlotte's roval and just 12 drivers remain eligible to win the 2018 Cup Championship with seven races to go.

“I felt like I was just kind of playing defense at the roval," said Chase Elliott who made the cut by nine points. "It just wasn’t worth busting our butts and not making it through to the next round when we had a little bit of cushion. So, I am just glad we are moving on and I am looking forward to the next three because there are some good tracks for us.”

There's a huge sigh of relief for a few drivers that advanced, while some major disappointments for those that didn't make it like Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.

“There were some sleepless nights last week,” Clint Bowyer said with a laugh. “I was worried about the first few races because they weren’t at tracks where we’ve been strong, but these next races are at places where we’ve run well and I expect we’ll run well again. I can’t wait to get to that old track at Dover and get going this weekend.”

Bowyer starts the second round of the Playoffs in fifth-place behind leader Kyle Busch, second-place Kevin Harvick, third-place Martin Truex Jr, and fourth-place Brad Keselowski. Those five drivers have combined to win 23 of the 29 races this season, so it's properly stacked and the Playoff point system allows the elite to be rewarded for regular season success.

The first Dover race was held May 6, just prior to the Supreme Court ruling that repealed PASPA which paved the way for legalized sports wagering outside of Nevada. Dover has a casino and hotel located on site and has been taking sports book wagers on a limited basis for the past few years, but only parlay wagers and they also couldn't book NASCAR. This weekend they get to book NASCAR for the first time. They get the Trucks Series race Friday, the Xfinity Series race Saturday and the Cup Series race on Sunday. It's a captive audience and it should be worth an estimated $250,000 in wagering win for the weekend for book operator William Hill.

Kevin Harvick grabbed his second Dover win in May in dominating fashion. He won the first two stages before taking the checkers leading six times for 201 of the 400 laps. He passed Stewart Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer with 63 laps to go and never gave it up. Bowyer led three times for 40 laps and made a race-high 47 passes throughout the race. Their other teammates, Kurt Busch finished fourth and Aric Almirola finished 11th.

Chances are all four drivers will be just as good, not just because of the May results at Dover, but also because of the August 18 race at Bristol's half-mile concrete layout. The high banks of Bristol make its set-up requirement similar to Dover. It's a mini-Dover of sorts. Kurt Busch won at Bristol, Bowyer was sixth and led 120- laps and Harvick finished 10th. Kyle Busch won the April Bristol race from the pole.

The best statistical driver at Dover has been Chase Elliott with a fifth-place average finish in five starts. He was 12th in the May race, but last fall led 138 laps before finishing second. He finished third in the August Bristol race leading 112 laps. He should be a contender to win here. He's also got the luxury of getting some Dover pointers from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson who has won a track record 11 times, the last time coming in June of 2017.

Johnson raced himself out of the playoffs last week at Charlotte with a silly move for the win with about 30 yards to go which not only wrecked himself, but also leader MartinTruex Jr. Johnson has never gone a season without a win and Sunday's race on the Roval was the closest he's been to sniffing a win all season. I can't blame him, but I was mad at the time that my Truex bet was trashed.

“After sleeping on it, I would only change one thing from Charlotte," said Johnson. "I should’ve added front-brake bias heading into the braking zone. I think we would’ve been door-to-door with the No. 78 across the start-finish line. We were one turn away, and I was only focused on the win. Bring on Dover."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Odds to win 2018 Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover

Kevin Harvick won the May race at Dover.
WESTGATE LAS VEGAS SUPERBOOK
ODDS TO WIN 2018 GANDER OUTDOORS 400
DOVER INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018 - 2:15 PM ET

Kevin HARVICK 3/1
Kyle BUSCH 3/1
Martin TRUEX JR 4/1
Kyle LARSON 7/1
Brad KESELOWSKI 10/1
Chase ELLIOTT 10/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 15/1
Clint BOWYER 18/1
Kurt BUSCH 18/1
Denny HAMLIN 25/1
Ryan BLANEY 25/1
Joey LOGANO 25/1
Erik JONES 30/1
Aric ALMIROLA 50/1
Daniel SUAREZ 80/1
Alex BOWMAN 80/1
Austin DILLON 100/1
Jamie McMURRAY 200/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 300/1
William BYRON 300/1
Paul MENARD 300/1
Ryan NEWMAN 300/1
Matt KENSETH 300/1
Kasey KAHNE 500/1
Chris BUESCHER 500/1
AJ ALLMENDINGER 1000/1
Darrell WALLACE JR 1000/1
Michael McDOWELL 2000/1
TY DILLON 2000/1
FIELD (all others) 500/1

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Charlotte Roval Betting Preview: 2018 Bank of America ROVAL 400

Expect most of the wrecks to happen here on Turn 1 as they come full speed off the regular Charlotte straightway.
I can already feel the suspense and intensity of Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and haven't even a seen a practice on the new 17-turn, 2.28 road course/oval yet. Aside from drivers all being a bit skittish themselves about the new venture combining the fast speeds around the high banks of the oval with the tight right and left turns on the infield road course, this is also the final race of the Round of 16 in NASCAR's Playoffs. Four drivers are going to be eliminated from championship contention.

In other words, we've got NASCAR drama from all angles.

Before we get started on who the best candidates to win are and which of the four drivers outside looking into a Playoff transfer position, let's talk more about the difficulties of this new layout. The series did a couple days of testing on the Roval in July and it was a smash-fest, as in almost every participant had some issues. Think about the layout and the high speeds gained racing on the high banks of Charlotte and then having to slow completely down to enter the infield for Turn 1.

“That Roval cutoff race is going to be gut-wrenching for plenty of different reasons," said Kurt Busch who is currently 11-points above the transfer position. "The extra stress that is going to come with the Roval, that one’s going to be a tough one.”

When Kyle Busch won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on the 1.5-mile layout, his first win ever at Charlotte in Cup 29 starts, his pole-winning speed was 191 mph which took 28.14 seconds for the lap. In one of the July tests on the 2.28-mile Roval he had the top speed at 106 mph which took one-minute, 16 seconds to complete a lap.

“I think the whole track is treacherous, there are places that you could bust your tail at any moment being over aggressive," said Austin Dillon who is 6-points above the transfer spot. "(It) can gain you speed but also can take you out from jumping a curb."

Dillon has never finished better than 16th in any of his 10 Cup starts on road courses, which is part of the reason the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has his odds to win are a whopping 300/1. Transferring into the next round for Dillon also seems like a long shot.

The crew chiefs have a dilemma here in deciding where they want to be fastest at: on the infield with a road course set-up used twice already this season at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, or go for the high banking balance 1.5-mile set-up to be fastest on the oval portion. It would seem more ground could be gained on the infield portion, but I'm sure several teams will try some different packages and when a team finds something during practices, others will attempt to copy.

In the end, I believe this race could be more volatile in the Playoffs than Talladega. It's got lots of speed mixed in with skills and I'm looking forward to it. And congrats should go out to NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway for throwing some kind of mix in the Playoffs to add some more excitement. Two of 26 races on roads in the regular season, but none in the Playoffs? That's the way it was. NASCAR is still weighted with too many races 1.5-mile tracks during the Playoffs, but they're at least open to diversifying.

So who is going to win? I think the volatility of the layout makes this a much more wide open list of candidates to win than a regular road course where we have a select group of road specialists. Unlike the other two road courses, there's hardly any elevation change, and wow, 17 turns. The guys that turn left and right the best should be weighted to the top as best candidates to win while also mixing in those consistently fast on 1.5-mile tracks.

Obviously, Kyle Busch should be the favorite just because of his road skills -- he leads active drivers with four road wins, his three wins on 1.5s, and also because of his top speed during July testing.

Then we have Martin Truex Jr. who has three road course wins, including two of the last three raced. Truex also has a win on a 1.5-mile track this season. He's already clinched a spot into the next round so this is like a free-roll to him.

“Yippee!” Truex shouted with a beaming smile after learning he was set for the next playoff round. “Not having to worry about the Roval to advance is a giant relief. We’re going to go there and have some fun and see if we can get some more (playoff) points. I feel really bad for the guys who are going to go in there and have to do something (to advance).”

One of those guys is Denny Hamlin sitting dead last in playoff points, 29-points behind the transfer position currently held by Ryan Blaney. Hamlin's road course set-up has been incredible the past three seasons where he's averaged a 5.6 finish in six starts, including a 2016 Watkins Glen win. He's an attractive odds to win play because of his desperation. He'll knock any driver out of the way to get a win. No friends here. No teammates here. What's also attractive is his 15-to-1 odds offered by the Westgate.

“I learned a lot at the road course test, but I don’t know if I have a better feeling about how the race is going to go," Hamlin said. "The track has countless areas for bad things to happen; things will just end your day. So passing zones are going to be extremely difficult to figure out, I think it’s going to be a day about really minimizing your own mistakes and you’ll be able to maintain track position pretty well. But, it’s going to be crazy.”

READ MORE HERE....TOP-5 FINISH PREDICTION ON VEGASINSIDER.COM

Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series Notes: 2018 Bank of America ROVAL 400

There's a whole lot going on the track this week for fans, no obstruction. 
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Sunday, September 30
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 248.52 miles (109 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 109)


Playoff Eliminations On The Line


This is one of most important and consequential weeks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The sport debuts a brand new track – the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course – as it hosts the first elimination race of the championship Playoffs.

Only 12 of the current 16 championship-eligible drivers will advance their Playoff hopes following Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The four drivers hoping to leap into contention with good debuts at the new venue are Clint Bowyer, who trails 12th-place Ryan Blaney by four points and seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is six points back. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are 21 and 29 points behind the cutoff, respectively.

Three of the four have won previously on Cup road courses. Bowyer (2012) and Johnson (2010) have victories at Sonoma. And Hamlin won at Watkins Glen in 2016. This is only Jones’ second season of Cup competition, but he scored his best road course outing – a fifth-place at Watkins Glen – just a month ago.

“The ROVAL is kind of an unknown I think for everybody, so it’s going to be a new experience and something that we are all going to have to learn as we go this weekend," said Jones, who drives the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

“I think we’re excited as a team to have some laps there and had a pretty decent test when we all got to test there. We’ll work hard this weekend. We need to have a solid race and get as many points as we can and try to advance on to the next round. That’s our main goal this weekend, so we’ll keep ourselves out of trouble and hopefully have a solid race.”


Rearview Mirror


Although 12th place Ryan Blaney is technically “safe” inside the 12-driver Playoff cutoff that will be finalized following Sunday’s race, he has only a narrow four-point margin on those facing elimination. And Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman is only one point ahead of Blaney – a slim five points inside the safety net.

Blaney’s best road course outing was an eighth-place finish at Watkins Glen in 2017. Bowman’s best showing is a seventh at Watkins Glen in 2015 driving for another team. He was ninth at Sonoma this season.


Introducing: Charlotte's Road Course


This week’s new track, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, has been the subject of debate, curiosity and prognostication since Monster Energy Series drivers turned their first test laps on it this summer.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course, which incorporates a new infield section and parts of the traditional Charlotte Motor Speedway oval is the first brand-new track ever introduced during NASCAR’s Playoffs. And this marks the first time since 1987 (Riverside-twice, Watkins Glen) that the Monster Energy Series has faced three road course races in a season.
Championship hopes are on the line in this first Playoff elimination race to narrow the title hopeful field from 16 drivers to 12.

Many competitors have had opportunity to make test laps at the venue and the reviews have been mixed. But with their title hopes on the line, an “open” attitude may be just the difference in a good outing or not.

“We can’t look at Sonoma notes, we can’t look at Watkins Glen notes,” Wood Brothers driver Paul Menard told NBC Sports after testing at the venue earlier this summer. “We have to create our own, because we’re going 170 (mph) through the banking … We don’t see anything like that at Watkins Glen. And certainly not Sonoma.

"Should be a hell of a show," he added.

The race starts on the new infield road course and then uses the oval at its Turn 1 entrance. The cars stay on the speedway portion of the track - navigating a chicane on the backstretch – before diving off into the road course again to complete the lap.

In terms of testing, on the final day of the final summer session, Kyle Busch set the fastest speed, followed by Joey Logano and A.J. Allmendinger.


Monster Road Course Aces


As strong as the 2018 Playoff drivers are, the strength and versatility of that field narrows a bit when it comes to road course racing. Among the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, only three have won at both the series’ regular road course stops at Sonoma, Calif. and Watkins Glen, N.Y. And, interestingly enough, those three have led the 2018 championship all season.

The “Big 3” Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers in this weekend’s field to have won at both longtime Cup road course tracks. And in Busch’s case, he’s won twice at each.

Busch won at Sonoma in 2015 and at Watkins Glen in 2013 and earned a rare season sweep of the two road courses in 2008. Truex has a pair of wins at Sonoma (2018 and 2013) and won at The Glen in 2017. Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017 and at The Glen in 2006.


Unstoppable 'Big 3'


The dominating topic for much of this season has been the overwhelming success of three drivers – regular season champion Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr.

They account for 18 wins through the first 28 races. Busch’s win last week at Richmond, Va. gives him seven trophies on the year – a mark tying Harvick. Truex has four victories.

And perhaps most telling of the competitive nature of these drivers – they finished 1-2-3 at Richmond; Busch-Harvick-Truex. It was the first time this year they swept the top-three positions, however, 13-times this season two of the three have finished in the top-three of a race.


Last week at Richmond, the top 12 finishers were all Playoff drivers.
Heading into Sunday’s first elimination race, Busch leads the standings ahead of Brad Keselowski – who automatically advances thanks to his win in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas – and Truex, who has advanced with top-three finishes in both Playoff races. Harvick is ranked fourth and only needs to start Sunday’s race to officially advance.


A Proud Stewart-Haas Racing


It’s already been a historic year for the Stewart-Haas Racing team, for the first time ever it qualified all four of its cars for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. And not only did these teams earn Playoff berths, they are all in good position to be among the top 12 drivers who advance to the second round.

Seven-time race winner Harvick leads the team and is ranked fourth in the standings, needing only to start Sunday’s race at the CMS Road Course to officially advance. Aric Almirola, in his first year driving the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford, is ranked sixth. Kurt Busch, who won at Bristol, Tenn., is ranked eighth. And two-time winner Clint Bowyer, whose had some bad luck early in the Playoffs, is 13th, only four points out of the top-12 heading into Sunday’s decisive race.
“That’s a great accomplishment for Stewart-Haas Racing and all the guys and girls back at the shop who put the cars together," Harvick said. “I think it really shows the effort and the chemistry of everything that we have going on at the organization, not even two years into a manufacturer change.

“Aric (Almirola) being there for one year and Clint (Bowyer) being there for two years. There are new crew chiefs and a lot of things that have changed, but I think you see the evolution of things getting better and really from an organization standpoint.

“When you start seeing the results of all four cars, that’s when you know that the processes and the things that you’re doing are working well.”


'ROVAL' Reminiscent

The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course may remind many of the configuration for the historic Rolex 24 at Daytona. The legendary IMSA sports car season opener on the famed track uses a 3.56-mile course that incorporates an infield road course with the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and a chicane on the backstretch. The ROVAL has a similar course using both an new infield road course and the Charlotte Motor Speedway banking.

Several drivers in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 field have won on that Daytona road course. Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jamie McMurray and Playoff driver Kyle Larson teamed to win the 2015 Rolex 24 overall. A.J. Allmendinger won the Rolex crown in 2012 with Michael Shank Racing.

Jimmie Johnson, another Playoff driver, finished runner-up in the Rolex 24 in both 2005 and 2008. Kurt Busch was third overall in 2008. And Paul Menard has a best finish of 15th in the Rolex in 2010.


Sunoco Rookie Race

As Sunoco celebrates its 15th season as the “Official Fuel of NASCAR,” it’s a good time to reflect on Sunoco’s commitment to recognizing rising talent since they joined the sport in 2004.

It’s interesting to note that three of the four most recent winners of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award are in the 2018 Monster Energy Series Playoffs – Erik Jones (2017), Chase Elliott (2016) and Kyle Larson (2014). Also of note? The 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Brett Moffitt, is in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.

In taking a look at this year’s Sunoco Rookie race, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron is ranked 22nd in the overall driver standings and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace is ranked 27th heading into the race this weekend at Charlotte. And there is now a 114-point gap between them.
Byron, 20, who drives the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, hasn’t had a top-10 finish since the Watkins Glen road course (eighth) seven races ago. Since then he’s had only one top-20 - a 20th-place finish last Saturday night at Richmond – and had two DNFs.

Wallace, 24, who drives the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, hasn’t had a top-20 since Daytona (14th) 11 races ago. He’s had four DNFs in that time including three in the last five races.

“Hopefully, we can just survive the whole race and see what happens at the end," the Charlotte native Byron said of this weekend’s road course challenge.

“The road courses have been solid for us this year – we qualified in the top 10 in both and had some good results – so hopefully we can lean on those notes some. But at the same time, this is going to be a completely different beast.”

Charlotte Playoff Track Facts: 2018 Bank of America ROVAL 400

Four drivers to be eliminated from championship contention Sunday at Charlotte. 
Monster Energy Playoff Fast Facts Race #3: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
·        This is the first season the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff’s third race has been held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.  
·        The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course is the fourth different track to host the third race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; joining Dover International Speedway (2011 – 2017), Kansas Speedway (2006 - 2010) and Talladega Superspeedway (2004-2005).
·        When Dover International Speedway hosted the third race in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs (from 2011 – 2017), two drivers won the event and went on to win the title later that season.
o   In 2012, Brad Keselowski won Dover’s Playoff race, and went on to win his first MENCS title. It was Keselowski’s lone win during the 2012 Playoffs. 
o   In 2013, Jimmie Johnson won Dover’s Playoff race, and went on to win his sixth MENCS title. It was his first of two Playoff wins that season (Dover-2, Texas-2).
·        When Kansas Speedway hosted the third race in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs (from 2006 – 2010), only one driver won the event and went on to win the title later that season.
o   In 2008, Jimmie Johnson won Kansas’ Playoff race, and went on to win his third consecutive title. It was his first of three Playoff wins that season (Kansas, Martinsville-2, ISM Raceway-2).
·        When Talladega Superspeedway hosted the third race in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs (from 2004 – 2005), no drivers that won the event went on to win the title later that season.
·        The worst finish by a driver in the third Playoff race that went on to win the title was:  
o   At Dover (2011-2017):
§  In 2011, Tony Stewart finished 25th at Dover International Speedway – the third race of the 2011 Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
§  Last season’s champion, Martin Truex Jr. finished fourth in the third race of the 2017 Playoffs at Dover.
o   At Kansas (2006-2010):
§  In 2006, Jimmie Johnson finished 14th at Kansas Speedway – the third race of the 2006 Playoffs - and went on to win the title later that season.
o   At Talladega (2004-2005):
§  In 2004, Kurt Busch finished fifth at Talladega Superspeedway – the third race of the 2005 Playoffs – and went on to win the title later that season.
·        No non-Playoff driver ever won the third Monster Energy Series Playoff race at Dover International Speedway (2011 – 2017).
·        Two non-Playoff drivers won the third race in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs when held at Kansas Speedway (2006 - 2010) – Tony Stewart was ranked 11th in points when he won the 2006 Kansas Playoff race and Greg Biffle was ranked 14th in points when he won the 2007 Kansas Playoff race.
·        Only one non-Playoff driver won the third race in the Playoffs when held at Talladega Superspeedway (2004-2005) – NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett was 14th in points when he won the 2005 Talladega Playoff race.
·        Since the inception of the elimination-style format in the Playoffs in 2014, the deepest seeded driver entering the Playoffs to go on and win the title was Kevin Harvick, 2014 (seventh seed); the remaining champions all started within the top five: Kyle Busch, 2015 (No. 1 seed); Jimmie Johnson, 2016 (fifth seed); Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 seed).

Season
Track
Winner
2017
Dover
Kyle Busch
2016
Dover
Martin Truex Jr
2015
Dover
Kevin Harvick
2014
Dover
Jeff Gordon
2013
Dover
Jimmie Johnson
2012
Dover
Brad Keselowski
2011
Dover
Kurt Busch
2010
Kansas
Greg Biffle
2009
Kansas
Tony Stewart
2008
Kansas
Jimmie Johnson
2007
Kansas
Greg Biffle
2006
Kansas
Tony Stewart
2005
Talladega
Dale Jarrett
2004
Talladega
Dale Earnhardt Jr



At Charlotte Motor Speedway:
History
·       Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959.

·        The track’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson in a Chevrolet.
·        The track was repaved midseason in 1994.
·        The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999. It changed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 2010 season.
·        The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season.
·        In 2017, the track underwent renovations to add what is now known as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (ROVAL) a 2.28-mile, 17-turn, multi-elevational road course.  
·        There have been 119 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway, two races per year since the track opened in 1960.
·        In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65).
·        A total 543 different drivers have competed in at least one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points-paying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway; 391 in more than one.


NASCAR in North Carolina
·        There have been 812 NASCAR national series races held in the state of North Carolina among 31 different tracks.
·        The very first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race all-time was held in the state of North Carolina at Charlotte Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina on June 19, 1949. The track is a 0.75-mile dirt track and the race was won by Jim Roper in a Lincoln. 
·        Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted the most NASCAR national series races in the state of North Carolina with 281.


Tracks in North Carolina
     
Track Name
City
Monster Energy
Xfinity
Camping World
Total Races
Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord
119
73
16
281
Rockingham Speedway
Rockingham
78
42
2
122
North Wilkesboro Speedway
North
93
4
2
99
Hickory Speedway
Hickory
35
42
0
77
Asheville-Weaverville Speedway
Weaverville
34
0
0
34
Occoneechee Speedway
Hillsboro
32
0
0
32
Bowman Gray Stadium
Winston-Salem
29
0
0
29
Orange County Speedway
Rougemont
0
27
0
27
Southern States Fairgrounds
Charlotte
17
0
0
17
Charlotte Speedway
Charlotte
12
0
0
12
Concord Speedway
Concord
12
0
0
12
Wilson Speedway
Wilson
12
0
0
12
New Asheville Speedway
Asheville
8
0
0
8
Dog Track Speedway
Moyock
7
0
0
7
Raleigh Speedway
Raleigh
7
0
0
7
Cleveland County Fairgrounds
Shelby
6
0
0
6
Champion Speedway
Fayetteville
4
0
0
4
Caraway Speedway
Asheboro
0
3
0
3
Greensboro Agriculture Fairgrounds
Greensboro
3
0
0
3
North Carolina State Fairgrounds
Raleigh
3
0
0
3
Tar Heel Speedway
Randleman
3
0
0
3
Forsyth County Fairgrounds
Winston-Salem
2
0
0
2
Harris Speedway
Harris
2
0
0
2
Jacksonville Speedway
Jacksonville
2
0
0
2
Tri-City Speedway
High Point
2
0
0
2
Asheville Speedway
Asheville
0
1
0
1
Gastonia Fairgrounds
Gastonia
1
0
0
1
Harnett Speedway
Spring Lake
1
0
0
1
McCormick Field
Asheville
1
0
0
1
Salisbury Super Speedway
Salisbury
1
0
0
1
Star Lite Speedway
Monroe
1
0
0
1
Totals

527
192
20
812


North Carolina Drivers In NASCAR
·        A total of 458 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as North Carolina.
·        52 drivers from North Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 31 have won in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.




 
Drivers From North Carolina
   
 
Driver
Monster Energy
Xfinity
Camping World
Total
1
Richard Petty
200
0
0
200
2
Dale Earnhardt
76
21
0
97
3
Lee Petty
54
0
0
54
4
Ned Jarrett
50
0
0
50
5
Junior Johnson
50
0
0
50
6
Herb Thomas
48
0
0
48
7
Buck Baker
46
0
0
46
8
Bobby Isaac
37
0
0
37
9
Dale Jarrett
32
11
0
43
10
Rex White
28
0
0
28
11
Dale Earnhardt Jr
26
24
0
50
12
Jim Paschal
25
0
0
25
13
Benny Parsons
21
0
0
21
14
Speedy Thompson
20
0
0
20
15
Buddy Baker
19
0
0
19
16
Harry Gant
18
21
0
39
17
Bob Welborn
9
0
0
9
18
Kyle Petty
8
0
0
8
19
Morgan Shepherd
4
15
0
19
20
Brian Vickers
3
3
0
6
21
Bill Blair
3
0
0
3
22
Gwyn Staley
3
0
0
3
23
Jimmy Pardue
2
0
0
2
24
Austin Dillon
2
9
7
18
25
Billy Myers
2
0
0
2
26
Phil Parsons
1
2
0
3
27
Ryan Blaney
1
7
4
12
28
Donald Thomas
1
0
0
1
29
Richard Brickhouse
1
0
0
1
30
Buddy Shuman
1
0
0
1
31
Leon Sales
1
0
0
1
32
Jack Ingram
0
31
0
31
33
Tommy Houston
0
24
0
24
34
Sam Ard
0
22
0
22
35
Robert Pressley
0
10
2
12
36
Scott Riggs
0
4
5
9
37
William Byron
0
4
7
11
38
Dennis Setzer
0
2
18
20
39
Hank Parker Jr
0
2
0
2
40
Johnny Rumley
0
2
0
2
41
Ronnie Silver
0
2
0
2
42
Ty Dillon
0
1
3
4
43
Ed Berrier
0
1
0
1
44
Stephen Leicht
0
1
0
1
45
Justin Labonte
0
1
0
1
46
John Settlemyre
0
1
0
1
47
Timothy Peters
0
0
10
10
48
John Hunter Nemechek
0
0
6
6
49
Andy Houston
0
0
3
3
50
Shane Hmiel
0
0
1
1
51
Austin Cindric
0
0
1
1
52
Ricky Hendrick
0
0
1
1
 
TOTALS
792
221
68
1081



2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Results
Date
Track
Busch Pole
Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Race Winner
OEM
2/18/2018
Daytona
Alex Bowman
Kurt Busch
Ryan Blaney
N/A
Austin Dillon
Chevrolet
2/25/2018
Atlanta
Kyle Busch
Kevin Harvick
Brad Keselowski
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
3/4/2018
Las Vegas
Ryan Blaney
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
3/11/2018
ISM
Martin Truex Jr
Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
3/18/2018
Auto Club
Martin Truex Jr
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
N/A
Martin Truex Jr
Toyota
3/26/2018
Martinsville
None-Weather
Denny Hamlin
Ryan Blaney 
N/A
Clint Bowyer 
Ford 
4/8/2018
Texas
Kurt Busch
Kevin Harvick
Kyle Busch
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
4/15/2018
Bristol
Kyle Busch
Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
4/21/2018
Richmond
Martin Truex Jr.
Joey Logano
Joey Logano
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
4/29/2018
Talladega
Kevin Harvick
Brad Keselowski
Paul Menard
N/A
Joey Logano
Ford
5/6/2018
Dover
Kyle Larson
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
5/12/2018
Kansas
Kevin Harvick
Ryan Blaney
Kyle Larson
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
5/19/2018
All-Star Open
N/A
Alex Bowman
Daniel Suarez
N/A
AJ Allmendinger
Chevrolet
5/19/2018
All-Star Race
Matt Kenseth
Kevin Harvick
Kyle Busch
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
Ford
5/27/2018
Charlotte
Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Kyle Busch
Toyota
6/3/2018
Pocono
Ryan Blaney
Martin Truex Jr
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Martin Truex Jr
Toyota
6/10/2018
Michigan
Kurt Busch
Ryan Blaney
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Clint Bowyer 
Ford
6/24/2018
Sonoma
Kyle Larson
AJ Allmendinger
Denny Hamlin
N/A
Martin Truex Jr
Toyota
7/1/2018
Chicagoland
Paul Menard
Aric Almirola
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
7/7/2018
Daytona
Chase Elliott
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
N/A
Erik Jones
Toyota
7/14/2018
Kentucky
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
N/A
Martin Truex Jr.
Toyota
7/22/2018
New Hampshire
Kurt Busch
Martin Truex Jr.
Chase Elliott
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
7/29/2018
Pocono
Daniel Suarez
Chase Elliott
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
8/5/2018
Watkins Glen
Denny Hamlin
Martin Truex Jr.
Chase Elliott
N/A
Chase Elliott
Chevrolet
8/12/2018
Michigan
Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick
N/A
Kevin Harvick
Ford
8/18/2018
Bristol
Kyle Larson
Ryan Blaney
Joey Logano
N/A
Kurt Busch
Ford
9/2/2018
Darlington
Denny Hamlin
Kyle Larson
Kyle Larson
N/A
Brad Keselowski
Ford
9/9/2018
Indianapolis
N/A
Clint Bowyer
Matt Kenseth
N/A
Brad Keselowski
Ford
9/16/2018
Las Vegas
Erik Jones
Martin Truex Jr.
Brad Keselowski
N/A
Brad Keselowski
Ford
9/22/2018
Richmond
Kevin Harvick
Martin Truex Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
N/A
Kyle Busch
Toyota
9/30/2018
Charlotte






10/7/2018
Dover






10/14/2018
Talladega






10/21/2018
Kansas






10/28/2018
Martinsville






11/4/2018
Texas






11/11/2018
ISM






11/18/2018
Homestead









Monster Energy Series - Achievable Milestones
  
Starts






       
Jamie McMurray

Has:
574

Needs:
1
To become the 32nd driver all-time in the Monster Energy Series to make 575 starts or more.
       
Wins






       
Jimmie Johnson

Has:
83

Needs:
1
Tie Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the all-time series wins list.
       
Kevin Harvick

Has:
44

Needs:
2
Tie Buck Baker (46) for 16th on the all-time MENCS wins list.
       
Denny Hamlin

Has:
31

Needs:
1
To tie Dale Jarrett for 24th on the all-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins list.
       
Busch Poles






       
Ryan Newman

Has:
51

Needs:
3
Tie Bill Elliott for eighth on the all-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series poles list.
       
Jimmie Johnson

Has:
35

Needs:
1
To tie Rusty Wallace and Rex White for 18th on the all-time series poles list.
       
Kyle Busch

Has:
30

Needs:
2
To tie Fonty Flock for 23rd on the all-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series poles list.
       
Laps Led






       
Jimmie Johnson

Has:
18,692

Needs:
308
To become the ninth driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 19,000 laps.
       
Kyle Busch

Has:
15,589

Needs:
411
To become the 10th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 16,000 laps.
       
Kevin Harvick

Has:
12,365

Needs:
635
To become the 12th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 13,000 laps.
       
Matt Kenseth

Has:
11,756

Needs:
244
To become the 16th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 12,000 laps.
       
Kurt Busch

Has:
9,354

Needs:
646
To become the 18th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 10,000 laps.
       
Denny Hamlin

Has:
9,151

Needs:
849
To become the 18th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 10,000 laps.
       
Martin Truex Jr.

Has:
7,484

Needs:
516
To become the 26th driver in the MENCS all-time to lead 8,000 laps.