By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
CONCORD, N.C. – Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer have one more chance to advance to the Round of 12 at the treacherous Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.
Both drivers enter the Bank of America ROVAL 400 on the edge of advancing to the next round. Almirola and his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang sit 11th on the playoff grid with a three-point cushion. Bowyer’s No. 14 Rush / Cummins Ford Mustang is 14th, four points behind the cutoff.
There have been 11 instances between the four practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Luckily for Almirola and Bowyer, neither of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid drivers have encountered trouble.
The majority of those incidents took place at turns five and six in the infield section of the Roval.
Playoff grid drivers Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch both felt the bite of the Roval. Hamlin destroyed his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry in the first practice session and had to go to a back-up car. Busch spun his No. 18 M&M’s Hazelnut Toyota Camry with minimal damage.
“Man, I’m telling you I’ve never been on a track that’s as treacherous as this one,” Bowyer explained. “There’s so many opportunities to mess up and I think you’ve seen that in today’s practice sessions. Just people making mistakes, stepping over that line at least a little bit.
“I’ve never been on a racetrack that it’s that easy to do. It’s not just one corner, every racetrack has that one corner. This place, it seems like every single corner you go through you’re holding your breath.”
Almirola echoed Bowyer’s sentiments about the treacherous nature of the Roval.
“I think all of the spots on the racetrack are very treacherous. I think that’s one thing that’s very unique about this road course compared to any other road courses that we run on is that all the other road courses that we race at there is a lot of runoff room and you can make mistakes and you might spin out or make a mistake, but usually you don’t destroy your race car.
“Here, when you make a mistake you destroy your race car, so that’s the challenging part. At any place on this race track it will jump up and bite you.”
One part of the treacherous road course is the reconfigured chicane on the backstretch. Several drivers including SHR’s Daniel Suarez missed the entrance and went over the blue ‘turtle’ curbing.
In qualifying, Bowyer positioned himself fifth on the starting grid. Meanwhile Almirola is mired mid-pack after a 16th-place qualifying effort.