Pa Bob Pokras
Posted by FOX Sports NASCAR

Chase Elliott will be a favorite this Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedwayconsidering he won there in 2019 and 2020.

In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising for Elliott to consider Charlotte one of his favorite races of the year. This is because thanks to his victory Sunday at Talladega Superspeedwayhe reached the round of 16, third round NASCARplayoffs. He enters this weekend’s race with no pressure.

The remaining 11 championship-eligible drivers will try to avoid relegation on Sunday. A win secures automatic passage to the next round, and the four drivers who do not win the round with the fewest points will be eliminated from contention for the championship.

“It should be a fun day,” he said Austin Cindric, which currently ranks last above the cutoff. “There are a lot of unknowns in this race. This race is very, very tough on the cars, tough on the machinery, tough on the drivers. And these tracks have not been very forgiving of the field this year.

“[You] keep that in mind and try to have some speed.”

Austin Cindric on his mindset heading into Charlotte

Austin Cindric is eighth in points heading into the elimination race in Charlotte. The main thing will be to reach the finish line without problems.

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NASCAR awards points for the top 10 on a 10-to-1 scale after each of the first two rounds, so a driver 35 points ahead of eighth in the standings after the second round would clinch a spot in the next round.

Drivers are awarded points on a scale of 35 to 1 for positions second through 36th, so heading into the final stage, drivers will have an idea of ​​where they should finish (or where they should finish compared to the other playoff drivers ).

Here are the top scenarios for drivers as they race at “The Roval,” a 17-turn, 2.32-mile road course and the sixth road race of the next-generation car era following the regular season circuit. Americas (Austin), Sonoma, Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin), Indianapolis and Watkins Glen.

STAY ON TRACK: If those drivers finish in the top 20, they must move on.

Ryan Blaney (+32 for eighth/ninth place riders): Blaney wins with 23 points, 14th and no stage points, no matter what the others do. He won the first Charlotte Roval race of 2018 and has not finished outside the top 10 in his four starts at the track. The Team Penske driver has two top-10s at road courses in the Next Gen car. Blaney probably doesn’t want to look at the stats; his elimination races were full of drama and he could wonder what else could go wrong to make him sweat.

Ross Chastain (+28): Chastain wins with 28 points, which would be a ninth-place finish and no points for the stage, no matter what the others do. He won at COTA and was seventh at Sonoma and fourth at Road America, so Trackhouse cars have road speed. Chastain’s two previous road races didn’t go so well — who can forget his run at the end of Indianapolis, where he was given a time penalty for cutting the course? – But he should be fine.

Denny Hamlin (+21): Hamlin wins with 35 points, which would be second and no points in the stage, no matter what the others do. He has just one win in 44 road starts, but he doesn’t need to win and likely won’t need to finish second. He has 19 career top 10s, and that will probably be enough. The problem? Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing have struggled on road courses, and Hamlin doesn’t have a top-10 finish on road courses this year.

Denny Hamlin on his strategy for Roval

Denny Hamlin has a simple strategy for the elimination race at Charlotte as he sits 21 points above the grid: “Have a decent day and don’t blow up.”

STAND AROUND FRAUD: If these drivers earn some stage points and finish in the top 15 or so, they should be fine.

Joey Logano (+18): Logano wins with 38 points no matter what the others do. The Team Penske driver will have to put aside the disappointment of Talladega, where he was left behind, thinking there was going to be a big crash, in the back. That should be easy to do because Logan has run well at the previous two tracks, finishing sixth at Indianapolis and third at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Larson (+18): Larsson, who won at Charlotte Road during his 2021 championship season, scoring 38 points regardless of what others are doing. He has four road wins in his career, including a victory in the last road race at Watkins Glen. He was also third at Road America. Hendrick’s driver simply cannot make a mistake, as he did in Indianapolis, where he misjudged a turn and crashed hard into Ty Dylan.

Daniel Suarez (+12): Suarez wins with 44 points regardless of what others do. He earned his first career win earlier this year at Sonoma and was fifth at Road America and fifth at Watkins Glen. He goes into this race with speed, but with the confidence that his Trackhouse Racing team has good cars for road courses.

Kyle Larson is 18 points above the cut line entering the Roval

Defending Charlotte road course winner and 2021 Cup champion Kyle Larson is 18 points off the mark heading into Sunday’s elimination race. He also won the last road race at Watkins Glen.

TAKE A RISK: These drivers will have to step up. They are able to take more than they give and repay the favors in the future.

Chase Briscoe (eighth): Briscoe hasn’t finished in the top five, but has three top-10 finishes in 12 road starts. His best road finish this year is 13th, and he has three finishes outside the top 20. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver must find a way to be stronger on the road courses, and he may need others to contend on Sunday.

Austin Cindric (New eighth place): Cindric has roots in road racing, with top-10 starts in six of his eight Cup road starts, two top-5 finishes and five top-10 finishes. He was second at Indianapolis and fifth at Sonoma. The key for the rookie Team Penske (and others at this level) will be to qualify well to score points early on.

William Byron (-11 from eighth): Byron has no top-5s and six top-10s in 20 road starts. One of those top-10 finishes was ninth at Sonoma earlier this year, his only top-15 finish at the road course this season. Byron’s biggest highlight of the week could be Thursday, when Hendrick Motorsports’ appeal of his 25-point penalty for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution at Texas will be heard. If Byron gets even one of those points back, they will have a much better chance of advancing.

Chase Briscoe on his disappointing day at Talladega

Chase Briscoe didn’t have a great day at Talladega, but a late caution helped him.

MUST WIN: These two drivers don’t need to look at the points. They need to win.

Christopher Bell (-33): If Bell earns some points in the stage and Briscoe and Cindric have trouble, Bell may not need to win. But he probably has a better chance of winning than having everything fall into place to do it on points. Bell won at Daytona last year and has three top-5 finishes in 14 road starts. The JGR driver was third at Circuit of the Americas this year and eighth at Watkins Glen.

Alex Bowman (-54): When Bowman returns from his concussion (he missed the Talladega race), he faces a must-win situation. Mathematically, he could pass the stages and finish second in the race, but he still needs both Brisco and Cindric to finish 35th or worse. In other words, Bowman should win. He has just three top-5 finishes in 24 career road starts. Hendrick’s driver finished second in the first road race of the season, but has not competed in a road race since.

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has covered motorsports for decades, including the last 30 Daytona 500s, and has worked for ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @dashand sign up for FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pokras.

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