How Charlotte Roval Could Unsettle NASCAR Playoffs Dynamic Amid Looming Desperation to Survive

Published 10/07/2023, 9:37 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

As we gear up for the sixth race in the 2023 NASCAR postseason, all eyes are on Charlotte, where the excitement is reaching fever pitch. This second elimination race will determine the final eight drivers who will continue their pursuit of the championship, with the Championship 4 looming just three races further away. The Charlotte Roval, a challenging road course, is set to be the stage for another heart-pounding elimination showdown. As we’ve seen in the past, this race can shatter championship dreams in an instant, with its 17 treacherous turns. After the surprises of the Round of 16 eliminations, brace yourselves for more shocking developments.

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Bristol night race witnessed defending champion Joey Logano and the legendary Kevin Harvick bid farewell to their title hopes. Now, the question is, who will thrive under the bright lights of the EOVAL, and who will see their dreams crumble?

Recapping the past Charlotte Roval drama

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Talladega’s closing laps ignited a thrilling Ford vs. Chevy showdown, with Toyota hardly in the conversation. The superspeedway race concluded with Denny Hamlin emerging as the sole Toyota driver amidst a sea of Chevys and Fords in the top 10. However, the narrative is set to change dramatically at the upcoming Charlotte Roval race. Toyota’s prowess on road courses promises to shine, with Toyotas expected to be at the front of the pack and potentially taking a trip to victory lane.

Recent races like Watkins Glen saw William Byron‘s Chevy secure a win, but closely trailing were the JGR Toyotas of Hamlin and Christopher Bell, the 2022 Watkins winner. Martin Truex Jr., the regular season champ, triumphed at Sonoma, while the corners of COTA witnessed Tyler Reddick’s No. 45 Toyota emerging victorious.

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What happened last year? 2022 witnessed the reigning champion Kyle Larson’s title defense crumble. Larson, who had dominated the 2021 season, found himself eliminated from playoff contention. The spotlight shifted to Bell, a driver who had largely been overlooked in conversations about potential winners.

The race that unfolded was nothing short of chaotic, with playoff cars spinning and fortunes changing on a dime. Bell, facing a do-or-die situation at the 2.33-mile track, seized the opportunity to capitalize on the misfortunes of others and secured his place in the next round. For those who couldn’t pull off a similar feat, their championship dreams were well over.

With numerous variables at play, there is no guaranteed winning formula—only the imperative of victory itself. Teams hovering near the playoff bubble must decide whether to chase stage points or go all-in for the final win, a strategy that could make or break a driver’s season.

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Currently, two-time champ Kyle Busch and 23XI Racing prodigy Bubba Wallace find themselves perilously close to the cutline, with their championship hopes hanging by a thread. As they enter the Concord layout, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. With such high stakes, it’s a full-throttle sprint from start to finish.

Championship dreams on the line: 2023 Roval outlook and contenders for victory

As we gear up for the upcoming race at North Carolina, a closer look at the drivers’ past performances unveils the odds stacked against them and who the favorites are this weekend. One standout favorite who isn’t even in contention for the championship is NASCAR’s golden boy, Chase Elliott. Known as the road course king, Elliott has been grappling with a winless streak that has stretched over a year. His record on road courses, however, is nothing short of remarkable. In 28 race starts on such tracks, Elliott has led laps in 19 of them and claimed victory in 7 races, with an impressive 16 Top 5 finishes—a feat that remains unprecedented amongst the current grid.

Another driver with similar prospects is Rick Hendrick’s star, Kyle Larson. In 2021, Larson made history by becoming the first person ever to win three different road courses in a single year, dominating Watkins Glen, Sonoma, and the Charlotte Roval. Larson’s undeniable talent behind the wheel is complemented by his success on road courses, with 8 Top 5 finishes to his name.

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Turning our attention to JGR’s Denny Hamlin, while he has only secured one victory on road courses back in 2016, the 2023 season has been a breakthrough for him. Hamlin’s 51st win showcased his prowess on asphalt, and his never-give-up attitude paid off when he clinched a P3 finish after being a lap down at Talladega. His aggressiveness on the track has also been evident, as he’s shown a willingness to put competitors in the wall while pursuing victory. Despite sitting comfortably in the standings, 50 points above the cutline, Hamlin is still hungry for that win, even though he’s not in immediate danger of elimination.

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Joining Hamlin on the list is his own protégé, Tyler Reddick, who drives for Hamlin’s 23XI outfit. Hailed as the ‘Jesus’ of road courses by his teammate, Bubba Wallace, Reddick has already notched three road victories, all within the last and current year. His impressive qualifying prowess has earned him pole positions thrice and front-row starts six times. As he claimed the Pole position for the 2023 Roval outing, all eyes are on Reddick to see if he can convert his qualifying success into a win when Sunday rolls around.

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With the Sunday event just around the corner, it’s a moment of truth to see who will be able to turn the tide in their favor, and who will fall prey to fate.

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Written by:

Rashi Shetty

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Rashi Shetty is a NASCAR Author at EssentiallySports. Her passion for the world of motorsport extends beyond the thrill of on-track racing, as she finds the behind-the-scenes aspects of car development and sportsmanship equally captivating. Her favorite motorsports moment of 2023 is the NASCAR Garage 56 entry at Le Mans, which she covered extensively at the time.
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Edited by:

Nischal Kandpal

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