Podium Preview: Bank of America ROVAL 400

Can Ryan Blaney repeat his victorious feat of 2018? (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

All things considered, today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 presents the biggest challenge in the NASCAR Playoffs.  Of course, Talladega remains one of the tremendous wild card races of the season.  However, the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway and its 17 unique corners demands perfection for anyone seeking for the win.

Moreover, Race 29 of the season provides a golden opportunity for the Round of 12 for those still in the Playoffs.  Not to mention, Playoff Points still count and a win at the ROVAL may go a long ways for the remaining races.

On the Podium Preview side, the Playoffs are about warming up for us competitive columnists. Ashley HobbsChristina BowmanCody ShoppeJose Acero JrKobe LambethMatt SisolerStephen ConleyTanner Brown, and yours truly preview today’s exciting race and potential Playoffs spoilers for fantasy racing players!

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Question 1
Could Team Penske or its affiliate, the Wood Brothers Racing team, win at the ROVAL? (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Could Team Penske or its affiliate, the Wood Brothers Racing team, win at the ROVAL? (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

The ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway presents plenty of unknowns despite last year’s race.  With a wider chicane on the backstretch, might we see the same amount of craziness today?

Tiongson :  If the XFINITY Series race is any indication, this ought to be a wonderful cutoff race for the Round of 16.  As my esteemed colleague and friend Alanis King Jones of Jalopnik pointed out, the ROVAL takes drivers out of their element and away from what they’re familiar with at Charlotte and other tracks.

Let’s face it, with only a single race of notes to look at, that’s not to say teams and drivers are in the total dark.  However, if a bubble racer is in position to win, all bets are off on Sunday school etiquette.

Hobbs :  The inaugural race was certainly an entertaining one. And, similar to movies, it is hard for the sequel to live up to the original. However, there are four drivers at risk for not making the next round of the Playoffs.  So, they are poised to do anything it takes to win and ensure they move on.

But, there are also drivers who are safely into the next round and drivers not in the Playoffs at all that would like to add a Roval victory stamp to their NASCAR passport. That can certainly lead to excitement. I also think there are some rivalries and paybacks some drivers are holding onto. Ultimately, a road course is a place that those may come due.

Acero :  Who can forget all the craziness that the ROVAL offered last season. I know that we can expect the fireworks that were forgotten to go off last week at Richmond. Drivers within a handful of points both above and under the infamous cut off line will do anything and everything to make it to the next round! 

Sisoler :  I think we could see some craziness for this iteration of the BofA ROVAL 400, because the fact that the chicane has been altered means that it makes for a better overtaking opportunity. Drivers will be willing to take bigger risks into that corner.  With that comes the possibility for bigger wrecks in the vein of that Turn 1 wreck from last season. Also, there’s the added factor of the higher closing speeds for the corner coupled with the desperation of drivers trying to grab a spot in the next round.

Brown :   The inaugural ROVAL race arguably exceeded all the expectations and hype that surrounded it, so this year’s race has some big shoes to fill. I think the new backstretch chicane will add an unknown factor to the race that could add even more craziness. The new design of the chicane makes it more of a passing zone.  As a result, the drivers will need to use more brake, so the hope is they’ll be rewarded with more excitement!

Question 2
All things considered, Jimmie Johnson may be a Playoffs spoiler at the ROVAL. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

All things considered, Jimmie Johnson may be a Playoffs spoiler at the ROVAL. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Which non-Playoffs racer has the most potential to be a spoiler in the remaining NASCAR races of 2019?

Lambeth :  I think Matt DiBenedetto or Jimmie Johnson could potentially surprise some people and contend. In fact, DiBenedetto’s team has been performing well down the stretch. So, it would not be a surprise to see him sneak off a win. Also, Jimmie Johnson ending the longest losing streak of his career is a possibility, given the 48’s improved form lately. 

Bowman :  I feel like Austin Dillon or Ricky Stenhouse could make a vie for a win. Though, I still think the odds are not likely that that will happen.

Shoppe :  Although I don’t think any will actually win a race, among the non-playoff drivers that could steal a victory are Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. If a spoiler win happens, It most likely will happen at the ROVAL this weekend or Talladega coming up.

On road courses this year, not many have a better average finish then Matt DiBenedetto! Considering how much confidence Matty D has from his breakout year, he is a potential spoiler this weekend in Charlotte.

As for Talladega, anyone could pull off a win regardless of where you are in the playoff conversation. With the recent news that Ricky Stenhouse will be let go at season’s end at Roush Fenway, he could show his worth to a potential team for next year with a win!

Conley :  I’m not sure anyone outside of the playoffs have a real big chance to upset the Apple cart. But, if I’m held against my will and forced to pick one or two, I’d have to say Jimmie Johnson and maybe Matt DiBenedetto. But, I believe if anyone could throw a wrench into the spinning wheel, it would be Kurt Busch if he’s eliminated this week. 

Somehow, the team managed two laps around the ROVAL without going off track!  Now, let’s review last Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond with our race and points reports!
Cody Shoppe wisely went with Kyle Busch.

Cody Shoppe wisely went with Kyle Busch.

Meanwhile, yours truly leads the points race for the first time in 2019.

Meanwhile, yours truly leads the points race for the first time in 2019.

In like manner, Ashley Hobbs works on Crunching the Numbers for the Bank of America ROVAL 400!  With this, stats consider prior fall races including those run in the NASCAR speedway layout.
How does your favorite team fare at the ROVAL?

How does your favorite team fare at the ROVAL?

In addition to races prior to the ROVAL in 2018, the winner has an average starting spot of 8.4 while leading an average of 80.4 laps.

In addition to races prior to the ROVAL in 2018, the winner has an average starting spot of 8.4 while leading an average of 80.4 laps.

Johnson has spoiler material based on this statistic.

Johnson has spoiler material based on this statistic.

Here's the trends at Charlotte since 2009.

Here’s the trends at Charlotte since 2009.

Also, here's the trends at Charlotte since 2014.

Also, here’s the trends at Charlotte since 2014.

Most importantly, here's last year's race stats at the ROVAL.

Most importantly, here’s last year’s race stats at the ROVAL.

Of course, the machine likes Kyle Busch.

Of course, the machine likes Kyle Busch.

As the Round of 16 wraps up today, here’s our picks for today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400!
Might one of these five emerge victorious in today's Bank of America ROVAL 400?

Might one of these five emerge victorious in today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400?

Acero :  Fellow Las Vegan Kyle Busch takes the checkers! 

TPF Stats :  The ROVAL is back for it’s Sophomore appearance; but can it live up to its inaugural run? So many factors play into predicting this particular race, but the machine is playing it safe and going with Kyle Busch to come back and perform better than his first ROVAL appearance.

Brown :  Chase Elliott avoids the ROVAL chaos and punches his ticket to round 2!

Lambeth :  Chase Elliott is going to tame the tricky Charlotte ROVAL™️.

Conley :  Martin Truex Jr said the new chicane will make him better this week. That’s trouble for the field as he goes 3 for 3 in round one.

Shoppe : Considering his road course record the last two years, his near win at the ROVAL last year, and his amazing role he’s on right now, Hard to bet against Martin Truex Jr winning and sweeping the first round of the playoffs! 

Hobbs :  8 of the top-10 drivers in last year’s ROVAL race started within the top-10, so that will be key, again, to the race this weekend. Assuming a good starting position, I am going to tag Ryan Blaney as the driver to end up in victory lane again.

Sisoler : Ryan Blaney might have gotten lucky last year when Jimmie Johnson spun into MTJ and essentially handed the win to the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. But, we shouldn’t forget that Blaney led 16 laps, so he’s clearly got the talent to drive the ROVAL. He’s gonna go back-to-back at NASCAR’s most exciting track.

Tiongson :  If I had to play it safe, Ryan Blaney seems like a great bet with two top-fives in the road course races this year. Oh yea, he won here last year!

Bowman :  Clint Bowyer might make a run at knocking Truex off the podium. 

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte!

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 in 2019. 

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Podium Preview 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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