Podium Preview: Bank of America ROVAL 400

By all means, today's Bank of America ROVAL 400 won't be dry, but it'll deliver in excitement. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

By all means, today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 won’t be dry, but it’ll deliver in excitement. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

If last Sunday’s Talladega marathon provided fireworks, then today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 will provide incredible NASCAR moments. In the meantime, it’s more than Round 32 of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

All things considered, the cutoff race for the Round of 12 might prove quite trickier and tougher than last Sunday’s YellaWood 500. By all means, the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL remains a tricky variable on its own. However, heavy rains from Post Tropical Cycle Delta might make the Bank of America ROVAL 400 even more thrilling.

Each race weekend, The Podium Finish’s panelists, consisting of columnists, photographers, and fans, preview the racing action. This weekend, Ashley HobbsCody ShoppeKobe LambethLuis TorresMatt SisolerMatteo MarcheschiMichelle RaynorTerra Jones, and yours truly alongside special guest Landon Cassill, a veteran NASCAR racer, discuss Alex Bowman taking over the No. 48 car and the incredible Round of 12 cutoff battle.

Podium Preview: Bank of America ROVAL 400
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Question 1
Certainly, Alex Bowman earned the most coveted seat in NASCAR Cup Series racing. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Certainly, Alex Bowman earned the most coveted seat in NASCAR Cup Series racing. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

Alex Bowman will take over the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet in 2021. How momentous is this opportunity for this two-time Cup race winner with one of the most coveted rides in NASCAR?

Sisoler :  It’s nice to see a fellow HMS driver take over the No. 48 for next season. And that long-term success story Alex Bowman is the man to grab the seat makes that news all the better. It is a huge opportunity for him considering for years, he drove backmarker cars and regularly finished outside the top-30 in points. He’s now got regular sponsorship. This is a career-making chance for Bowman. So he needs to show he belongs in that Camaro next season. But the way he’s been improving, I think that won’t be an issue. 

Jones :  I appreciate that someone from within the HMS stable is taking the reins. I don’t know that much will change in terms of performance given that it’s still the same organization. But I’m glad to know that an established driver with a decent reputation will be piloting the machine. Additionally, I think Bowman was a logical choice in terms of handling the spotlight since he has felt that pressure from filling the 88 seat after Dale Jr.

Hobbs :  This move for Alex Bowman is just as momentous as Chase Elliott and William Byron getting tagged to drive the No. 24. Just like Jeff Gordon is synonymous with the 24, Jimmie Johnson is synonymous with the 48 and those are huge seats to fill. To be a young driver tagged to take over for the seven-time champion is a huge honor. Clearly, Rick Hendrick, Johnson, and Gordon see something in Bowman that is deserving of that ride. After all the success Hendrick Motorsports and the 48 team have had over the year, I have faith in their decision-making process when it comes to a driver.

Marcheschi :  It’s good that the 48 will be taken over by someone with Cup experience, and even more importantly, Cup wins. Bowman has a good resume and a bright future. It’s hard to say how much will change with his performance in 2021 since he’s staying at Hendrick. But he’s certainly worthy of the 48 and its legacy, just as he was worthy of the 88 after Dale Jr. retired.

Lambeth :  This is certainly a great thing for Alex Bowman’s career moving forward. As we all know, he has experienced some difficulties securing sponsorship for a full season. As the new driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet, he can relax knowing that he has a sponsor committed to him for the foreseeable future. In modern NASCAR, we do not really see many sponsors, willing to fund a car for the entire season. We usually have multiple sponsors supporting the same car throughout the season.

With Kyle Larson’s name linked to Hendrick Motorsports, it makes sense that Ally zeroed in on Bowman instead of Larson. Ally chose a “clean” driver without any sort of baggage that comes with him. If Ally decided to sponsor a driver like Larson, then they are likely to take a major PR hit. Choosing a safe driver in this situation means that Ally is doing it right!

Torres :  No question, it’s viewed as a safer route to put a clean-cut reputable driver in the coveted No. 48 machine over a raw talented guy with a rather unflattering rep like Kyle Larson. That said, Bowman has shown flashes of brilliance. He’s been at times the most consistent HMS driver where luck isn’t always hurting him like Chase Elliott throughout his career. Now with the spotlight being as big as the time he took over for Dale Jr., expectations are high in 2021. Keeping Greg Ives as the race general is vital because it further establishes the great chemistry they’ve had and will continue to grow over time.

Raynor :  This is going to be a huge opportunity and challenge for Alex. I think he has potential and the drive with the right people and crew chief behind him. I hope he can live up to the expectation. Also, I hope he can go out and win races and contend for the Championship.

Question 2
All things considered, Kyle Busch remains a dangerous threat for the NASCAR Playoffs. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

All things considered, Kyle Busch remains a dangerous threat for the NASCAR Playoffs. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

The Bank of America ROVAL 400 typically presents chaos and mayhem in Turn 1. With this year’s serving as the cutoff for the Round of 12, which driver and team have to like their chances on Sunday? And which ones will be sweating it out for their Playoff hopes?

Cassill :  I don’t see the 18 or the 3 in a “sweating it out” position, because they’re likely thinking they just need to win to get in. -21 points is a big enough gap that they’d both need to put together a top-10 effort in both stages and a top-five finish no matter what happens. If I’m the 88 or the 22 teams, I’m gonna sweat a little on Sunday just making sure we don’t mess up and give up our decent cushion.

Shoppe :  With this week’s announcement that Clint Bowyer will retire from full-time cup racing to become a FOX analyst, Sunday’s ROVAL race could be his last real chance to get a win. Much like his SHR teammate Aric Almirola, Bowyer is basically in a must win situation. These are certainly the guys who will be sweating out both the strategy gambles and beating and banging that this Road course will present! 

Tiongson :  I still stand by the fact that Kyle Busch and his No. 18 team must feel like the ones with the most pressure to breakthrough this Sunday. Yes, he was speaking tongue in cheek about his Playoff chances but truth is, they’ve been off a bit in 2020. Every NASCAR Cup Series icon has endured a season with struggles and perhaps this is that one. That might seem like good news for his competitors. Come 2021, that could be bad news when the lead Toyota driver and team are ready to heat up in one of the most interesting seasons for NASCAR.

In terms of a driver and team that has to like their chances this Sunday, Clint Bowyer seems to be a good choice for this. He’s thrived on road courses for the past seven years. Also, he’s a man who might not have much to lose now that we know he’s going to FOX NASCAR in 2021. While there hasn’t been a walk-off Cup champion during my lifetime, Bowyer could make a compelling case for such if he gets the win on Sunday.

Just like Nico Hulkenberg at the Nuburgring, the TPF crew negotiate around the rainy ROVAL quite nicely. Next, let’s consider last Sunday’s marathon at Talladega with our race and points reports.
Indeed, the infernal machine ruled at Talladega.

Indeed, the infernal machine ruled at Talladega.

As a result, the machine continues to demoralize us all.

As a result, the machine continues to demoralize us all.

Now, Ashley Hobbs provides numbers that might make you turn into a 21st-century wizard for today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.
First, here's how your favorite teams fare in the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte.

First, here’s how your favorite teams fare in the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte.

For sure, it pays to drive a Ford in the ROVAL.

For sure, it pays to drive a Ford in the ROVAL.

For the past two Bank of America ROVAL 400 races, the winner has an average starting spot of 14.0, led an average of 25.5 laps, never started within the top-five, but started within the top-five 50 percent of the time.

For the past two Bank of America ROVAL 400 races, the winner has an average starting spot of 14.0, led an average of 25.5 laps, never started within the top-five, but started within the top-five 50 percent of the time.

Once again, Joey Logano thrives in wild card races.

Once again, Joey Logano thrives in wild card races.

Next, here's the trends in the past two Bank of America ROVAL 400 races.

Next, here’s the trends in the past two Bank of America ROVAL 400 races.

Not a total surprise.

Not a total surprise.

Last but not least, here’s our picks for today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte!
All things considered, it's quite a Fab Four with today's Bank of America ROVAL 400.

All things considered, it’s quite a Fab Four with today’s Bank of America ROVAL 400.

Torres :  It’s a toss-up between Chase Elliott and Martin Truex, Jr. because they’ve been the modern-day standard-bearer of guys you must beat to get the job done on road courses. Last time we’ve seen that was Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. That said, I don’t see things changing because it’s Elliott’s race to lose. Not because he’s an easy pick, he’s on a hot streak on those left and right turns. And he’ll leave the ROVAL sweeping the road course campaign. Ultimately, he’ll go four in a row dating back to last year.

Marcheschi :  Elliott has been insanely fast at road courses in the last few years. He’s won each of the last three road course races, including last year’s ROVAL race. Elliott will certainly be in contention on Sunday. And it shouldn’t be any surprise to see him in victory lane for the second consecutive year at the ROVAL.

Hobbs :  Come on – the guy has mastered the Charlotte ROVAL and has been beyond solid on road courses lately.

Raynor :  He’s good at this track

TPF Stats :  He might just be the active driver known as a road course ringer. With a win on the ROVAL last year and being victorious on the Daytona International Speedway road course this year, one must expect Chase Elliott to have great success.

Sisoler :  Isn’t it obvious? The kid dominates road courses, and as the defending race winner, it is a no brainer to take Chase to repeat at arguably the trickiest track on the NASCAR schedule, especially if inclement weather hits and we get to see a possible wet Cup Series race for, I believe, the first time ever.

Shoppe :  Don’t know how you bet against the guy who’s dominating any kind of road course these days! Heck, Chase Elliott has even shown he can crash going into turn one and still pull off a win at the ROVAL!

Cassill :  Our special guest panelist chooses Chase Elliott.

Jones :  Given the news this week and with two top-five finishes at the ROVAL, I think Alex Bowman comes out of the gate swinging and makes some noise! Prepare to see the Showman in Victory Lane!

Lambeth :  With the threat of being eliminated from the playoffs, Kyle Busch will finally breakthrough in 2020 and conquer the Charlotte ROVAL!

Tiongson :  I’ll be the fun one of the group who goes with an “unusual pick” by choosing Clint Bowyer. He’s outside of the top-eight but he’s so good on these road courses. With finishes of third and fourth in the last two years, look for old “Rawhide” to at least nab a top-five or maybe a win.

Race fans, thanks for joining us for our preview of the Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL! Also, thanks to Landon Cassill for joining us for a special Podium Preview!

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

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  Let’s stay connected as we focus on getting back together on the track soon!  Please stay safe, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.

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. Ultimately, they 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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