This weekend of the Charlotte Roval races will most likely go down as one of the most eventful race weekends we have had in the entire 2018 NASCAR season, if not most eventful in quite some time. This was something completely new, there was so much uncertainty going into the weekend. Not only for the first time we had a road course race in the playoffs, something fans have wanted for a long time now, but it was an infield road course. NASCAR has never had an official race on a “roval” before but now as the races have gone by, here are some of my thoughts on the weekend’s races at Charlotte.
However, let’s start with the NASCAR K&N Pro West Series that took place at Meridian Speedway. One the last lap, Cole Rouse was in the lead when Halie Deegan performed the classic “bump and run” on Rouse to get the win. Deegan has been anticipated as a top prospect in NASCAR. She becomes the first woman to win a K&N Series race and the first woman in general to win a NASCAR sanctioned event. I definitely see her getting more wins in the near future, perhaps a truck start or two at this time next season. She has performed well for the K&N Series, even if the field sizes mostly involve 12 to 15 cars. Big win in NASCAR for Deegan, do you think she can become a superstar in NASCAR?
Chase Briscoe won the NASCAR Xfinity Series race that Saturday, earning his first career Xfinity win in just a handful of starts. With the 2016 ARCA Champion, he was racing last year for Brad Keselowski Racing in the Camping World Truck Series when the team had to shut down at the end of the 2017 season, in which he earned his first truck series win at the final race in Homestead. Briscoe also ended up winning the Eldora truck race earlier this season. With a win like this, driving for Stewart Haas Racing, this could certainly open the door for Briscoe to race full time for Smoke in 2019. Briscoe is a talented driver, I do believe that he may have been rushed from the truck, but he has a ride and he’s a Ford development driver. I could see Briscoe in two or three years taking over for Kevin Harvick.
Finally the 2018 Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway! The way this race ended will have people talking for many years about it. This arguably might’ve been one of the most exciting races, especially points-wise, since the 1992 Winston Cup season finale at Atlanta. In that race, Richard Petty was making his final start and wrecked early on, but was able to come back out and do a memorial salute to the fans. Meanwhile, a young man named Jeff Gordon, who would go on to win four championships and 93 wins was making his first Cup start. Then you had the exciting championship battle between Davey Allison, Bill Elliott, and the Underbird, Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki led the most laps which got him one of the biggest Cinderella stories in motor racing history. The engineer built his team from scratch, 7 full-time employees, wins the 1992 Winston Cup Championship.
Now fast forward to 2018, it’s the final race of the first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup playoffs, the round of 16 about the be cut to the round of 12. Twelve advances, four are eliminated. On a restart with about five or six laps remaining, we had a pile up into turn 1 with Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, William Byro, and Kyle Larson to name a few, were involved. This sets up a green-white-checkered to the finish with Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson leading to the restart. The two instantly take off and end up battling for the win, Aric Almirola was gaining spots to keep himself in the playoffs, and Kyle Larson was still in the race despite his car being badly damaged and was hoping to stay in the playoffs, now being in 13th and possibly on the brink of elimination. Coming the checkered flag in the final chicane, Johnson locks up and spins out behind Truex, the sliding up and collecting Truex as well, both had to come to a full stop due to Roval rules and this gives Ryan Blaney the win at the first Charlotte Roval race. Johnson finished 8th and Truex finished in 14th. Truex was easily into the next round, but with that spin, Johnson was in trouble. Coming to the finish, Daniel Hemric in his second cup start gets into Jeffrey Earnhardt and Earnhardt spins, which has Kyle Larson limping his car barely across the line past Earnhardt. Why did I bring this up? We had a three-way tie for the final spot in the playoffs between Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola. In the end, the 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson was out of the playoffs because of that incident. I was jaw-dropped by everything that had happened.
There are different arguments about why Johnson did what he did. Many say that Johnson could’ve finished 2nd and he would’ve been fine. Yes, that is absolutely true. But any driver in Johnson’s position would’ve done the same thing, they would’ve gone for the win. It means more points and momentum. This season has been Johnson’s worst season statistically speaking, hasn’t won a race in about 50 races, so there is that understanding. You could tell in the post-race interviews that he was massively disappointed, but he carried on with his interviews, never getting mad, never cutting people off. Johnson even tweeted his mistakes and simply said, “On to Dover!” It’s a shame for Johnson, losing his longtime sponsor Lowe’s, the tough season Chevrolet has had in general, it’s like Chicagoland. Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch nearly wrecking each other for the win on the last lap, but hey, it’s fair game and both drivers had one goal and that is to win. Winning is more than ever important in today’s NASCAR. Did Truex have a right to retaliate on the cooldown? Yes as well. But remember, both drivers wanted to win just as bad as the other.
What do you guys think? Do you like the Roval? Do you want to see more infield road courses or even street courses in NASCAR? I think the Roval is here to stay with that kind of ending and impact it had on the playoffs.