The final road course race of the season awaits the NASCAR Cup Series this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 2.28-mile, 17-turn ROVAL is hosting its fourth annual event after converting its second oval date following the 2017 season.
It’s the seventh such road course on the 2021 schedule, a record for the modern era as NASCAR looks to diversify its racetracks in the coming years. During its short existence, the ROVAL has showcased some of the sport’s rising stars, with Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott combining to win all three Cup races held thus far. While not as much of a wild card as pack racing, like Talladega Superspeedway last week, the race is already known for exciting finishes and wild swings as it serves as a playoff cutoff race for the Round of 12.
Since most drivers have ample experience on this layout, NASCAR chose to utilize its off-track qualifying metric for this race. With COVID-19 restrictions still in effect, it’s a way to limit track time for personnel while allowing them some extra days with their families this week as they race within driving distance of their race shops.
The method means the first lap the drivers take at speed will be under the green flag Sunday afternoon. NASCAR officials have set the 40-car field through a metric calculated by the percentages below.
50% of the metric is based on finishing position from the previous race (split between driver and owner).
35% of the metric is the team’s current position in the NASCAR Cup Series owner point standings.
15% of the metric is based on the team’s fastest lap during the previous race.
The team with the lowest total starts on the pole, then the next lowest, etc. until the starting grid is complete. During the postseason, there’s one small twist: all 12 playoff drivers remaining are guaranteed to start in spots 1-12.
Thirty-nine cars are entered at Charlotte, leaving the grid one spot short of a full field. All 36 teams who have guaranteed spots are here along with three “open” cars: the No. 16 of Kaulig Racing (A.J. Allmendinger), the No. 37 of JTG Daugherty Racing (Ryan Preece), and the No. 66 of MBM Motorsports (Timmy Hill).
Open cars are not guaranteed a spot and, when more than 40 cars show up, need to qualify for a race on speed.
1. Denny Hamlin (P)
2. Brad Keselowski (P)
3. Joey Logano (P)
4. Christopher Bell (P)
5. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
6. Ryan Blaney (P)
7. Kevin Harvick (P)
8. Chase Elliott (P)
9. Kyle Busch (P)
10. Kyle Larson (P)
11. William Byron (P)
12. Alex Bowman (P)
13. Kurt Busch
14. Austin Dillon
15. Bubba Wallace
16. Chris Buescher
17. Erik Jones
18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
19. Michael McDowell
20. Anthony Alfredo (R)
21. Aric Almirola
22. Chase Briscoe (R)
23. Cole Custer
24. Ryan Newman
25. Daniel Suarez
26. Corey LaJoie
27. Ross Chastain
28. Quin Houff
29. Tyler Reddick
30. Matt DiBenedetto
31. Ryan Preece
32. Cody Ware (i)
33. AJ Allmendinger (i)
34. Garrett Smithley (i)
35. Scott Heckert
36. Joey Hand
37. Josh Bilicki (i)
38. Justin Haley (i)
39. Timmy Hill (i)
(P) – Playoff driver
(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
- Denny Hamlin (pole) will start on the pole in back-to-back races. Hamlin’s the one playoff driver guaranteed a spot in the Round of 8 after his victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago.
- Brad Keselowski (second) is the highest-qualifying Ford. The 2012 Cup Series champ has yet to win a road course race in his Cup career.
- Christopher Bell (fourth) the highest-qualifying Toyota. Bell starts 25 points behind the cutline for the Round of 8 but won a race on this track type back in February (Daytona).
- Ryan Blaney (sixth) won the first edition of this race held here in 2018.
- Chase Elliott (eighth) is the defending race winner, taking the ROVAL trophy in 2019 and 2020.
- Bubba Wallace (15th) was last week’s winner at Talladega, becoming the first African-American to visit NASCAR Cup Series victory lane since Wendell Scott in December 1963.
- Anthony Alfredo (20th) is the highest-qualifying Cup rookie.
- AJ Allmendinger (33rd) replaces Justin Haley in the Kaulig Racing No. 16 Chevrolet. Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series winner at the ROVAL won the last time the Cup Series went to a road course – at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August.
- Garrett Smithley (34th) moves to the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Ford this week, replacing Joey Gase.
- Scott Heckert (35th) finished off his limited schedule running the No. 78 Live Fast Racing Ford, replacing co-owner BJ McLeod.
- Joey Hand (36th) will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this week behind the No. 52 Rick Ware Racing Ford, replacing Josh Bilicki. The 42-year-old veteran sports car racer has five starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, including a class win in 2016 as he tries his “hand” at stock car racing.
- Josh Bilicki (37th) moves into the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet this week, bumping Garrett Smithley to the No. 53.
- Justin Haley (38th) is back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet this week, replacing Justin Allgaier who ran Talladega on a one-race deal.
- Timmy Hill (39th) replaces James Davison in the No. 66 MBM Motorsports Toyota. It’s Hill’s first Cup start with the team since Indianapolis in August.
NASCAR Race Breakdown
Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL
Date: Sunday, Oct. 10
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 109 laps (252.8 miles)
Stage 1: 25 Laps
Stage 2: 25 Laps
Final Stage: 59 Laps
Brandon Brown stops by the Frontstretch Podcast to chat about his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Talladega. Then, host Davey Segal and company turn their attention to whose championship hopes will survive following 400 kilometers of racing at the Charlotte ROVAL.