The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ends the first round of its 2019 playoffs with one of its most anticipated races. Charlotte Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval has been transformed once again into a 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course for the Bank of America ROVAL 400.
After debuting to rave reviews in 2018, a few tweaks have been made to this unique NASCAR circuit. The backstretch portion of the course has been redone to include a new chicane, turns 11 and 12, which will challenge drivers with a heavier braking zone. The track in this area was widened to a maximum of 54 feet, encouraging drivers to potentially run side by side there.
More room has eased the pain and moved the trouble spot to turn 5, another heavy-braking area where several drivers have lost control. Already, Parker Kligerman and Denny Hamlin have gone to backup cars after wrecking during Friday practice. Chase Elliott spun his car during the first round of qualifying and will start 19th.
Elliott, though proved the exception on a Hendrick Motorsports team that has mastered this layout quickly. They posted three of the top four fastest speeds with William Byron winning his team-leading fifth pole of the season. Alex Bowman, sitting on the playoff bubble for the Round of 12, will start alongside while seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified fourth.
Forty cars showed up to compete for 40 spots on the grid. That meant no one failed to qualify for Sunday’s race.
1. William Byron (P)
2. Alex Bowman (P)
3. Joey Logano (P)
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Clint Bowyer (P)
6. Kevin Harvick (P)
7. Kyle Larson (P)
8. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
9. Ryan Blaney (P)
10. Paul Menard
11. Brad Keselowski (P)
12. Chris Buescher
13. Daniel Suarez
14. Ryan Preece
15. Erik Jones (P)
16. Aric Almirola (P)
17. Kyle Busch (P)
18. Matt DiBenedetto
19. Chase Elliott (P)
20. Daniel Hemric
21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
22. Michael McDowell
23. Kurt Busch (P)
24. Ryan Newman (P)
25. Bubba Wallace
26. Corey Lajoie
27. David Ragan
28. Denny Hamlin (P)
29. Ty Dillon
30. Austin Dillon
31. Cody Ware (i)
32. Landon Cassill (i)
33. Timmy Hill (i)
34. Josh Bilicki (i)
35. Garrett Smithley (i)
36. Matt Tifft
37. Ross Chastain (i)
38. Reed Sorenson
39. Joe Nemechek (i)
40. Parker Kligerman (i)
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
(P) – Playoff Driver
Failed To Qualify – None
- Byron’s fifth pole of the year is tied with Kevin Harvick for the most in the Cup Series. It’s also the most for any Hendrick Motorsports driver since Jimmie Johnson in 2008 (six).
- Alex Bowman (2nd) earned his second straight top-5 start at the ROVAL. He ran fourth here in the race’s debut last year.
- Joey Logano (3rd) was the fastest Ford. He hasn’t won at a road course since Watkins Glen way back in 2015.
- Jimmie Johnson (4th) had his best qualifying effort since Chicagoland back in June.
- Clint Bowyer (5th) has his fourth straight top-5 start.
- Martin Truex Jr. (8th) was the fastest Toyota. He was leading the ROVAL race last year with two turns to go before contact with Johnson cost him the victory.
- Ryan Preece (14th) was the highest-qualifying rookie.
- Michael McDowell (22nd) has been cleared to race after being rushed to the hospital with abdominal pain Friday morning. He was diagnosed with kidney stones that have since passed through his system. (Austin Cindric practiced the car in his absence).
- Cody Ware (31st) rejoins his family-owned Rick Ware Racing team for the first time on the Cup level since Michigan International Speedway in August.
- Timmy Hill (33rd) will make his fourth Cup start of the year for MBM Motorsports and first since Kansas Speedway on Mother’s Day Weekend.
- Josh Bilicki (34th) is driving a third car for Rick Ware Racing, the No. 53, with sponsorship provided by AQRE.app. It’s his seventh Cup race of the year for them and first since Indianapolis early this month.
- Garrett Smithley (35th) will run a No. 52 Ford for Rick Ware Racing as both team and driver explore their options for 2020.
- Joe Nemechek (39th) returns to the No. 27 of Premium Motorsports to make his third Cup start in the last five races.
- Parker Kligerman (40th) will make his 11th Cup start of the season for Gaunt Brothers Racing and their No. 96 Toyota.
NASCAR RACE BREAKDOWN
Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, N.C.)
Date: Sunday, September 29
Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 109 laps (248.5 miles)
Stage 1: 25 Laps
Stage 2: 25 Laps
Final Stage: 59 Laps