All the hype, all the anticipation, all the unknowns, it was time to make or break for everything that was invested in making Charlotte a unique experience unlike anything in years past. The last 10 years, it has been either a Saturday night shootout, or a Sunday delight, on the 1.5-mile beast.
But things just get boring, and normal, when it keeps repeating every year. Fans began to shy away, and not spend money on tickets, hotels, and souvenirs. So, with an already adjusted first few rounds of the Playoffs, Charlotte decided to gamble, and make an entire right turn to give a challenge no driver had seen.
Testing wrecks, intimidating corners, high speeds, and unknowns of how the track would handle with so many cars at once left many questions when Sunday finally arrived.
Turns out, the investment…paid off. More fans attended this race than in the last 10 years, souvenirs were in such high demand they had to be reprinted during the weekend. Everyone that sat in the stands were hoping to see excitement from start to finish, and ultimately…they got it.
What better way to decide the inaugural “Roval” finish than not only a battle for the win, but also a battle to earn a Playoff spot. One corner decided both factors. Jimmie Johnson, winless in almost two seasons-worth of races, vs. Martin Truex Jr, who already had locked up his spot in the Playoffs because of points. A hop, a skip…and a bump later, both were unable to see victory in their hands.
Through all the chaos, a bright white and yellow Ford weaved through both spun vehicles, and saw a checkered flag wave in the air to declare a winner. It was a first time in 2018, a second career victory, and a first as part of Penske Racing that allowed Ryan Blaney to secure his place in the second round of the Playoffs. Meanwhile, a triple tie for that final spot saw Johnson have to wait for a call.
Finally, the call came down, and Johnson was denied his opportunity at an eighth championship, as Kyle Larson moved on despite a destroyed Camaro ZL1 that crawled to the finish line, as Aric Almirola also his hopes of moving on disappear in the same three-way tie.
The round of 12 is set, and for the League as well, it also means a reset in the standings.
Not one win came thanks to the crazy final corners, but what has come is the exit in the title hunt by one of the old guards in the League, Mr. Rob Blount. Meanwhile, everyone else gets reset even, then just as the NASCAR Playoff rules dictate, the playoff points get added in to give the official seeding for the top-8 in the League Playoffs.
Here’s the updated, and reset, standings following a wild Bank of America ROVAL 400:
Penny Whitecotton – 3056 – Chase Elliott finished 6th (7) 56
Billy Fellin – 3036 – Jimmie Johnson finished 8th (5) 36
Trisha Rodisch – 3034 – Martin Truex Jr. finished 14th (6) 34
Ashley Hobbs – 3026 – Chase Elliott finished 6th (5) 26
Misan Akuya – 3023 – Jamie McMurray finished 2nd (4) 23
Sal Sigala Jr. – 3023 – Chase Elliott finished 6th (4) 23
Rob Tiongson – 3022 – Chase Elliott finished 6th (4) 22
Dustin Parks – 3015 – A.J. Allmendinger finished 7th (2) 15
Rob Blount – 2096 – Jamie McMurray finished 2nd (2)
Next Race: The “Roval” proved to be a monster of a place to try and control the chaos, and somehow everything managed to escape to go on for another week. The sad truth is the monster that awaits has a reputation of being evil…since a monster stands outside the entrance.
Normally a race that would decide who is in and who’s out from the first round now is the first opportunity to move into round three. Welcome to the “Monster Mile” at Dover.
League participants, watch your email as those who are still competing in the Playoffs will see a list of who they have already picked. Those drivers are off limits still through this round. Although Rob B, you can pick whomever you want from here on out. But, everyone needs to ensure those picks are locked in by Thursday, October 4, at 10 p.m. ET for the Gander Outdoors 400.