The Xfinity Series drivers will also be at Charlotte Motor Speedway this week as they attempt to conquer the Roval in the second race of the Round of 12 in the Drive for the Cure 250. Important bonus points and some breathing room will be on the line for the drivers this week, as the number of championship-eligible drivers will go from 12 down to 8 after next week’s race at Dover.
As always, odds are on the right-hand side for desktop viewers and down below the comment box for mobile viewers as we take a look at Saturday’s race.
The Dirty Dozen
Christopher Bell was a lock to advance to the Round of 8 no matter what, but he put an exclamation point on it by sweeping the board in last week’s race at Richmond. The focus shifts to the bottom of the list, where the drivers in spots 9 through 12 really have no margin for error this week. They’re going to have to take some chances on the Roval, which could be dangerous.
Fifteen points separate Noah Gragson in eighth from Brandon Jones in ninth. Next week’s race at Dover is on a more traditional track and that could help Jones, Ryan Sieg, Justin Haley, and John Hunter Nemechek, but the likelihood is that it won’t. Those four guys will need to maximize this week’s race and hope for a little bit of craziness to advance.
As far as the other drivers that are a virtual lock to move on, additional bonus points would be helpful, since Bell now has 18 more than any other driver. Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick each have 44. The remaining drivers have 17 or fewer bonus points. Considering that we go from 12 to 8 to 4, it looks like only one spot will be up for grabs for the finale at Homestead-Miami. That means grabbing points now is essential.
A Long Drive for the Cure
The oval track at Charlotte Motor Speedway is 1.5 miles. The Roval track at Charlotte is 2.28 miles. The number of laps for this race went down from 200 to 55 and now up to 67 and the distance went from 300 miles to 125.4 miles to 155.34 miles with the reconfigured course. Last year’s inaugural run was 250 kilometers and 55 laps. This will be the second year on the Roval for the drivers, so everybody will have a better idea of what to do, but this is still the most unique layout in NASCAR. The race will also be longer.
In total, there are 17 turns on the Roval course. There are elevation changes, spots to put the pedal to the floor and a lot of spots that require shifting. The drivers and the pit crews will both have their hands full this week.
It was very clear from the results that last year’s race threw some of the top guys for a loop. Bell was the only top-five finisher of the final four guys that made it to Homestead-Miami. The winner was Chase Briscoe, who hadn’t finished higher than ninth to that point in 13 previous races. It was his only top-eight finish.
Custer was seventh. Austin Cindric, who is the favorite this week at +205, ran third. Road course ringer Justin Marks was second. He is not in this year’s race. The other top-five finisher was Ryan Preece. So, this was a new challenge for the drivers and many of them have to be disappointed with how they finished.
This is a road course and an oval, but the road course element is really the most important. As a result, we have to focus on guys that had road course success. Cindric, for example, won at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio, so he is a worthy favorite. Bell won at Road America, so his second favorite price at +385 is fair. It also makes sense that Justin Allgaier, who had wins at Mid-Ohio and Road America last season, is the third favorite at +660. AJ Allmendinger, now serving as a road course ringer, is also +660.
Custer is +880, with Tyler Reddick at +1760, and Briscoe, last year’s winner, at +1760. None of the other points-eligible guys or fill-ins are given much of a chance.
It is entirely possible that something weird and crazy happens. After all, Briscoe was +5000 last year to win and got the job done. Marks was +1175 and Preece was +1800.
It’s hard to do anything outrageous here. You basically have to keep an eye out for the best price on a driver with road course success. Cindric had the pole last year and learned how to win this year, so it’s really hard to look at any short price other than his. This is a good spot for Cindric to be aggressive. He’s not as strong on ovals, despite last week’s runner-up finish. He could use these bonus points if he wants to crack the final four. It would give him a big boost against the other drivers. At +205, the price isn’t stellar, but he’s the best bet and a good bet as a favorite in matchups as well.
If you wanted to step out on a longer shot, Noah Gragson makes sense at +3300. He had top-five finishes at Mid-Ohio and Road America as a rookie driver this season. He’s also run well at Talladega, where they can be some tight racing with a fourth last year and a Stage 2 win this year. That’s not a bad beer money bet to make this week.