Track Talk: Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte

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Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

Presently, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley HullChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie CoppleMatt Sisoler weigh in on Ryan Newman’s move to Roush Fenway Racing for 2019 and the craziness of the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

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Question 1
Does Ryan Newman have enough rocket fuel for Roush Fenway Racing in 2019?

Does Ryan Newman have enough rocket fuel for Roush Fenway Racing in 2019?

One of the first Silly Season dominoes fell as Ryan Newman will drive the No. 6 entry for Roush Fenway Racing starting in 2019.  Is this combination bound for success given how the struggles both have endured this year?

Acero :  I wouldn’t say it’s a recipe for success. Let’s be honest, it’s only a matter of time before Newman calls it quits on his NASCAR career. I understand that RFR at one point was a team that drivers wanted to race for (at least that’s what I think). So to say that this equation is bound for glory in 2019, is like me saying that I will hit the Megabucks jackpot this weekend. Not gonna happen!

Bowman :  That’s a bit of a stretch to say that Newman is going to help Roush or vise versa. Roush has had a plethora of both veteran and rookie drivers throughout the years, with little success. So it is doubtful to me that Newman would add any more value than say Matt Kenseth did.

Cassidy :  Roush Fenway Racing will not find success with Ryan Newman. However, Newman could be a great asset to the team in terms of experience and guiding adjustments for RFR. Either way – I do not see this partnership winning races.

Conley :  I don’t think so. At least out of the box. Even with Matt Kenneth behind the wheel, the 6 car has not been a front runner. Newman might be able to bring about a little speed but it’s not going to be an instant change. I thin RFR has other issues than just trying to find a successful driver in the 6 car.

Copple :  Hmm…I don’t think so. RFR has had a number of talented drivers in the last dozen years, yet it continues to be missing “something.” What that something is, who knows. Is this just a thing for the No. 6? No. Roush Fenway Racing is missing something important in their racing fleet and until they find it, none of their cars will be contenders this season or next.

Hobbs :  Combination for success? Probably not. Roush Fenway Racing could not find success with Matt Kenseth in the car. If Kenseth cannot find speed and success for that organization, a lot more help is needed. Ryan Newman is a driver past his prime, so I see him and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. performing about the same, which would be about the same for Newman either way.

Hull :  Sadly, I don’t think it’s a winning combination. Ryan Newman hasn’t been performing as great as he did 15 years ago.  I think this is a downgrade as well because Roush Fenway has also not been performing well. So, no, it will be mediocre at best.

Lucas :  So I have a funny theory about why Newman made the switch over to Roush Fenway Racing for 2019. If your a motorsports fanatic like myself and have been following Formula One’s (F1) silly season as well, you’re probably aware that Daniel Ricciardo made a side-step from one team to another. The current team he’s with is a contender, but are making an engine supplier change for next season that’s already been questionable at best.

Instead of potentially struggling with his current team, he decided to side step to a “best of the rest” team for 2019. Given the circumstances of both F1 and NASCAR’s current driver market and available rides, it made perfect sense. Ryan Newman is going from one mid-field team to another one. Why? Because the top teams are basically set, or are about to be “officially” set within the next few weeks.

I’ll be honest, I almost thought Newman was going to quietly make this season his final one and then drift off into the sunset. Thank goodness that is not the case!

Shoppe :  You have to understand what this team and combination considers success. A lot of people are looking at this move and saying no way Ryan Newman and Roush Fenway will be winning races or contending for a title in the future. Well yeah, of course not! But that’s not the point for them here. RFR has been struggling for years. They are not looking to set the world on fire anytime soon.

Instead, they’ll diagnose what is wrong with this once great team. They brought in Matt Kenseth out of retirement to evaluate this 6 car and have decided Trevor Bayne wasn’t a good fit going forward. Now they have a veteran that is known for getting all there is out of equipment that isn’t necessarily the best.

Ryan Newman won’t be winning poles and races like the days of old. But with his incredible engineering knowledge matched with his experience, not to mention being the hardest guy to pass out there,  Roush Fenway will soon know just what they have in their Fords!

Sisoler :  As much as both seem to need a boost, I don’t see the Newman-Roush Fenway connection working out that way. If Roush is hoping to get a boost from bringing in Newman, I don’t see that really boosting RFR. Newman isn’t that type of talent that’s going to get into a mid-pack car and, week in and week out, be able to get every last drop out of the car and be a threat to win.

Also, unfortunately for Newman, RFR is clearly not what it used to be when Mark Martin drove the 6. So, Newman jumping into the 6 Ford Mustang at RFR next year isn’t going to provide a late-career resurgence for him, a’la Kurt Busch or Clint Bowyer at Stewart-Haas.

However, I think that this was the best that Newman could do. With Childress promoting Daniel Hemric to the No. 31, there weren’t many places to go. Furniture Row is closing its doors after the season, making Truex Jr a free agent probably destined for a ride at Gibbs, means that team is set. Hendrick is also set unless Jimmie Johnson decides to shock everyone and retire at the end of the year.

Unless he would’ve been hired to take over the 41 from Kurt Busch at SHR, this was the best Newman could do. Now, I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to see Newman start putting the  6 car towards the front of the field again. But realistically, as for this making him as a top five or top 10 contender next year, I just don’t see it.

Question 2
Might we see some desperate racing at the Charlotte ROVAL?

Might we see some desperate racing at the Charlotte ROVAL?

After 28 races, the Cup drivers and teams head to a familiar track in Charlotte but with a much different layout in the ROVAL. What can we expect this Sunday given the prior test sessions, and might we see some playoff racers racing cautiously or desperately?

Acero :  Expect the unexpected! Lots of torn up race cars and yes, drivers are gonna be racing like it’s the last lap every lap! Lots of desperation from all drives except Keselowski and Kyle Busch who are comfortably in the next round!

Bowman :  I don’t think we can expect to know anything going into this weekend! This is a brand new course for drivers, crews, fans and strategists. Besides a few test runs, there hasn’t been any solid racing on this ROVAL. So, my plan is to just watch the madness play out and hope for a good race.

I think you’ll see the guys who are on the verge of not getting into the Round of 12 be more aggressive. Those who are on the bubble will probably be a bit more cautious not to get caught up in someone else’s mess.

Cassidy :  This weekend is going to be a mess, but fans will love it. No driver or team have taken on the ROVAL before, therefore it is anyone’s game. I would anticipate drivers top contenders getting knocked out early.  Patience will be in test this weekend.

Conley :  Jimmie Johnson said last week he could realistically see this race have 7 or 8 cars left at the end of this 400 miles. It’s such an unknown. With the drivers’ mentality of “win at all costs,” there are a couple drivers that might just try it. Look at Talladega, laying out there in the back. It didn’t always work and playing prevent defense often leads to the other team having quick success. I don’t think anyone can change their strategy that has gotten them here this weekend.

Copple :  The great thing about this weekend, is that it’s really anybody’s game. No one has truly raced on the roval. Yes, some have made laps, but those have just been tests. The race will be different. It gives all drivers a bit of an even playing field if you look at them all as “rookies.”

Of course, those front runners all season, are more than likely going to be the front runners this weekend. I can see some playing it cautiously at first, but once the drivers and teams get a feel for the track and the race itself, all bets are off. It’s championship time.

Hobbs :  For those on the bottom four right now, it is desperation. It is also hope those above them have issues. Because this is a familiar track but with a new configuration, mayhem is likely. If someone like Denny Hamlin finds himself sniffing the win, we might see more mayhem then not.

Hull :  This race is going to be NUTS. If the practice session was crazy, just wait until the race! I think it will be a repeat of the 2016 Xfinity Series Road America race, with or without the rain!

Lucas :  To phrase Terrell Owens, “Get your popcorn ready.” This race is going to be caution-filled, high drama infused, gooey-goodness! NASCAR wanted a show, they’re about to get one for the ages. If deemed a success by competitors, I think we could see another key motorsport mecca change their current oval layout for NASCAR in the near future.

Shoppe :  Anyone can speculate what may happen, but nobody really knows! And that is what makes it so exciting! Sure, lots of people are predicting yellows after yellows. Some say nobody will be able to pass. Regardless, we know this is the last shot for some hoping for a ticket into the next round and don’t care if this is a new, unique race course!

Sisoler :  I honestly have no idea, and I can’t be more thrilled for that! It’s going to be a wild one. This track does not have a ton of runoff areas, and proved to be ultra slick during testing, as multiple drivers proved by spinning, with Ryan Blaney doing the most damage. I think we’re gonna see a lot of torn-up race cars at the end of the 400 miles.

The combo of a narrow infield track with little runoff area, the slickness of the surface and around 40 cars that are going to try and run as little downforce as possible for the oval part of the ROVAL means that people are gonna be slipping and sliding and slamming into each other from the drop of the green flag.

Those factors, coupled with this being an elimination race with 14 uber-desperate drivers engaged in a tight playoff battle, means the fans will love this. I think this is more of a coliseum than Bristol just in terms of the mayhem that is gonna ensue. Also, s much as some drivers don’t really like this course, the ROVAL could very well end up as one of the most memorable races this season.

After 34 turns and over four miles of ROVAL action, we’re nearly ready for the win at Charlotte.  Before making the winning move, let’s review this past weekend’s action at Richmond!
It was a mixed bag race for our panelists.

It was a mixed bag race for our panelists.

In the meantime, Hobbs' points lead remains slim and within reach.

In the meantime, Hobbs’ points lead remains slim and within reach.

Even for an unpredictable race, well, we’re in the business of making picks! Let’s give it a shot and predict the winner of Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte!
Whoever knew that the Bank of America ROVAL 400 would be a true wild card race for picks?

Whoever knew that the Bank of America ROVAL 400 would be a true wild card race for picks?

Tiongson :  Seeing as he got his first career Cup win at a road course and how he’s the perfect blend of aggression and smarts, I’m going with Chase Elliott for the ROVAL win.

Hobbs :  No stats to help me here, but going on his Coca-Cola 600, Watkins Glen, and Sonoma performance, I am hoping for wonderful things from Chase Elliott this weekend.

Conley :  This race will come down to strategy and Paul Wolfe will lead Brad Keselowski to Victory Lane.

Cassidy :  2 Crew!

Sisoler :  See, this is so tricky! We have absolutely NO data about this! Making a random pick here or there could either make you look like a genius or a complete imbecile! It’s not hard to believe that a non-playoff driver wins here, but I think one of the playoff drivers grabs the win here, and I think we’ll see a Chevrolet Camaro in victory lane. More specifically a Hendrick Camaro.

I think Jimmie Johnson, who ran well at Charlotte and Sonoma earlier this year (we’ll gloss over Watkins Glen for the moment), and especially with the chaos the roval is certain to incite in the field, will bring the inaugural roval winner’s trophy the two miles from the track back to Hendrick Motorsports headquarters and lock himself in to the Round of 12.

Copple :  I’m throwing caution to the wind, or to the track in this case, and saying Jimmie Johnson takes the first ROVAL win.

Hull :  Kyle Busch will continue his dominance

TPF Stats :  While the stats do not exist for the Charlotte ROVAL, they do exist for Charlotte Motor Speedway and road courses. That being said, the inaugural ROVAL winner will be none other than Kyle Busch.

Acero :  *calls sportsbook director friend here in Vegas* OK, I made the call and after a brief chit chat, we both agree that Martin Truex Jr will take the first ever ROVAL race!

Bowman :  Clint Bowyer baby!

Lucas :  He may be out of a ride for 2019, but I think AJ Allmendinger will be able to give a bittersweet parting gift to Team Kroger ClickList JTG Daugherty Racing.

Shoppe :  Kurt Busch.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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