Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

TORRES: Instant Reaction on the 2020 Bank of America ROVAL 400

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

History was made in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the NASCAR Cup Series finally got a shot of competing in the rain on race day.

Well, sort of, because rain wasn’t a factor compared to Saturday’s wet and wild Xfinity Series race. In fact, the track was actually beginning to dry before the conclusion of Stage 1, so that monumental moment didn’t last.

That didn’t meant the race lacked any mayhem because there were plenty of wet spots that led to several spins. When the dust finally settled, who else but Chase Elliott captured back-to-back ROVAL victories.

Not only did Elliott accomplish that, he also swept all the road courses this year and joined Jeff Gordon by winning at least four straight wins on the tracks requiring left and right turns. Elliott is two away from equaling Gordon’s six-peat in a span of four years (Watkins Glen ’97 to Sonoma ’00).

If there was any doubt, seventh-place Martin Truex, Jr. has found a definitive road course rival come 2021 when there’ll be six road races. Right now, Elliott is the man on the road courses.

Going into this race, I felt like Elliott and Truex are the new Gordon and Tony Stewart where if you’re going to win at those tracks, you must go through them first. Now it’s the time to really say those guys are the modern standard for road racing excellence in NASCAR.

That being said, let’s dive into my main takeaways from each stage because there was some surprises that came out of the Round of 12 cutoff which saw Aric Almirola Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon out of title contention.

No Playoff Contending Glory

For the third time in his Cup Series career, Ty Dillon won a stage. Thanks in large part of a bold strategy where his No. 13 Germain Racing team went for slick tires.

At that point, talk about momentum sky rocketing as Ty’s team were fresh off a career best third-place result at Talladega last Sunday. Now Dillon has brought the team another stage win which people forget that he won two stages last season. I know it’s really not a big deal for many that Ty won, but it has to feel good starting the day right.

Ty wasn’t the only one who had a memorable Stage 1 because MBM Motorsports’ Timmy Hill got fifth. You’ve heard that right, fifth-place for also going for slicks early.

To show you how bizarre Stage 1 was, out of the top-10 finishers, only Joey Logano represented the Round of 12 drivers with an eighth-place result. The rest aren’t fighting for the championship anymore, so for those who needed points like a Busch or Bowyer (who led earlier on) were put an even worse box that only a win can guarantee them a Round of 8 spot.

Ty’s day completely waned after the stage win, highlighted with a spin that brought out the sixth caution of the afternoon on Lap 65 and wound up 23rd at race’s end. Hill wasn’t as lucky, finishing dead last out of the 38-car field. Bummer outcomes after a bright point to their seasons.

Semi-Mild Manner (Unless You’re Kyle Busch)

Aside from single-car spins by Almirola, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman, Stage 2 (won by Ryan Blaney) wasn’t terribly intense and the norm kicked back in where we saw the guys usually competitive take control.

Some spots remained wet, as tested by Almirola in Turn 3 and later William Byron, who saved his car from having a disastrous outcome on the backstretch chicane. It did created from some moments, but any sign of rain being in the forecast wasn’t a story.

The big story was the guys on the outside looking in because little progress was made and I’m saying this specifically about Bowyer and Busch, who battled hard for sixth until the caution came out with five laps left in the stage.

The cause? JJ Yeley backing into the Turn 5 barriers. Another instance where he altered the outcome of a race at Charlotte.

Stage 2 was settled with a two-lap shootout where Busch’s day went downhill as left front tire damage forced him to make a pit stop.

To no one’s surprise, Busch wasn’t pleased and it carried onto the final stage.

“Richard Petty” Plan Didn’t Pan Out

Even with the setback, Busch rallied back but had more wild moments, ranging from clipping Austin Dillon in the final corner to bring out a caution to one pit strategy with under 25 laps to go.

A strategy fitting for a king because crew chief Adam Stevens told Busch (who last pitted on Lap 65) to “Richard Petty” aka stay out and claimed the top spot. I saw it as pure desperation, but that’s what makes the sport compelling when a team goes for a last ditch effort.

This should’ve lead to a much needed result to make the next round right? Initially, it did on the restart thanks to Christopher Bell “derping it” (spun his tires) when the green flag waved.

His cup of coffee lasted a lap because Busch’s teammate Erik Jones took the lead with 19 laps remaining and that’s all she wrote. Talk about poetic justice as Jones dashed any shot of Busch making the Round of 8 and doesn’t even have a ride yet for next season.

Jones would lose the lead to Elliott following an amazing crossover pass with 18 laps to go. Such a beauty of a pass and shows why he’s NASCAR’s “King of the Road” because he was unmatched for the rest of day.

https://twitter.com/NASCAR/status/1315403324783353856

Busch would run out of fuel and when the checkered flag dropped, he finished a horrendous 30th and obviously, there won’t be a third Cup title.

As if that was bad enough, Busch now holds the dubious honor of the earliest elimination from a defending champion. Simply put, all he’s got for him is to extend his win streak to 16 consecutive years, but as I said last week, don’t count on it. It’s still 2020.

Conclusion

Lot of incidents, lot of costly moments from several drivers is what I’ll take to my memory bank Sunday. Even with that, it was a relatively tame finish compared to the previous two ROVAL races.

The rain never showed up after Stage 1, but there was plenty of excitement nonetheless to cap off the wildest three-race stretch of the playoffs.

Time will tell how the Round of 8 will pan out with three different types of tracks with different receptions as Kansas, Texas and Martinsville are right around the corner. Only this time, whoever wins will punch their ticket for the title fight at Phoenix.

Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography ranging from Idaho athletics to auto racing with ambitions of having his work recognized.