One part oval, one part road course, the Charlotte Roval is a hybrid. It is not just that it combines two distinctly different track types, but it also has characteristics of both Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International. The interior section of the track is technical and tight like Sonoma. The oval portion will allow drivers to get a full head of steam and separate from the competition.
Furthermore, there are choke points in the course that are going to be trouble on restarts. If two drivers get together in some of the narrow canyons that distinguish the infield portion of the course, the path could be completely blocked.
In the best of circumstances, road courses can be wild cards. The Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is going to be almost impossible to predict, so don’t get too emotionally invested in your NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster. There is always next week and the Monster Mile.
1. Kyle Busch (three-year average on road courses: 5.50) Playoff
Busch is a triple threat. He has the longest active streak of road course top 10s (eight), is coming off a victory last week at Richmond and is highly motivated to win on the Charlotte Roval to keep his record of winning on every track alive.
2. Denny Hamlin (three-year average on road courses: 5.67) Playoff
Hamlin can advance to Round 2 of the playoffs on points, but it is highly unlikely given his deficit and the drivers he needs to pass. That means nothing less than a win is going to be acceptable to the No. 11 team. Hamlin won the 2016 race at the Glen and finished second at Sonoma that same year. This season has not been as kind with a 10th at Sonoma and a 13th at the Glen after winning the pole.
3. Kurt Busch (three-year average on road courses: 8.17) Playoff
Busch’s best asset in 2018 has been the team’s consistency. That is also true of his results on road courses in the past six years. Since 2013, he has not finished worse than 12th. He has not won on this track type in that span, but he came close at Sonoma in 2015 with a second-place finish to his brother Kyle.
4. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average on road courses: 8.83) Playoff
If Truex’s team is going to unravel, it is unlikely to happen this week. He has been the strongest contender in the last three road course races with a pair of victories and a second-place finish. If not for an engine failure at Sonoma last year, he would likely have a six-race, top-10 streak going and would be much higher in the rankings.
5. Daniel Suarez (three-year average on road courses: 9.50 in four starts) non-Playoff
Fantasy players do not yet know whether Sonoma or the Glen will be more predictive of a driver’s finish at Charlotte. Suarez has been much better at the Glen than Sonoma in his two seasons of Cup competition with a pair of top fives to his credit.
6. Chase Elliott (three-year average on road courses: 9.50) Playoff
Elliott has gotten progressively better on road courses. As a rookie, he finished 21st and 13th at Sonoma and the Glen respectively. Last year, he was eighth and 13th. So far in 2018, he’s swept the top five and scored his first career win at the Glen. He sits above the cutoff line to advance to the second round of the playoffs and cannot afford to make any mistakes. That might keep him from gambling, which could be a good thing if he salvages a top-10 finish.
7. Brad Keselowski (three-year average on road courses: 9.50) Playoff
Keselowski has a three-year average that places him in the top 10, but his record does not necessarily recommend the No. 2. A pair of third-place finishes at the Glen in 2016 and Sonoma last year skews his average positively. His other four efforts on road courses in the past three years ended in results of 13th or worse.
8. Kevin Harvick (three-year average on road courses: 11.00) Playoff
One might be tempted to ignore Harvick’s three-year average on road courses because they are skewed by two bad results. He sustained crash damage in back-to-back races at the Glen in 2016 and ’17, but given his comments at the end of the Richmond race last week – that he was “terrified” of the Roval – there is a real possibility that he could get swept into yet another accident.
9. Alex Bowman (three-year average on road courses: 11.50 in two starts) Playoff
Bowman’s two road course starts this year are the only time in six career efforts that he finished among the top 25 on this track type. Granted, his equipment was not as strong in 2014 and 2015 as what he has, but there is simply not enough data for fantasy owners to make an informed decision.
10. Erik Jones (three-year average on road courses: 11.75 in four starts) Playoff
Jones has gotten progressively better in four Cup road course starts. He struggled to finish 25th in his rookie year at Sonoma, but backed that up with a top 10 at the Glen. This year, he finished seventh at Sonoma and fifth at the Glen. In order to be in a position to capitalize on prospective misfortune for the other playoff contenders, he is going to need to finish in or near the top 10.
Other Notable non-Playoff Drivers
12. Jamie McMurray (three-year average on road courses: 15.50) non-Playoff
McMurray has a bit of a reputation as a strong road course racer. One reason for that is a Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona victory on another hybrid road and oval course. In stock cars, he has been less predictable with only seven top 10s in 32 starts (21.9 percent). He should still be considered a top pick in the NASCAR Fantasy Live game among non-playoff contenders because six of his last seven road course starts ended in results of 17th or better.
14. William Byron (three-year average on road courses: 16.50 in two starts) non-Playoff
Byron will have a great set of notes from which to work this week. Hendrick Motorsports fields great equipment on the road course as evidenced by Elliott’s win at the Glen. The No. 24 team had a strong run there as well with an eighth-place finish.
16. Ryan Newman (three-year average on road courses: 17.83) non-Playoff
The best thing to be said about Newman is that he will probably go the distance this week. In 34 races at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, he failed to finish on the lead lap just three times. On two other occasions, he finished one lap down to the leaders. He has failed to complete a road course race only once in his career, which suggests he has a knack for keeping his nose clean.
Pole Winner: Kyle Larson has won the last two poles at Sonoma, so his mastery of the technical portion of the Charlotte Roval is liable to put him near the front of the pack. If a player is looking for a dark horse, AJ Allmendinger swept the two road courses in 2015 and is going to be highly motivated to run well after this week’s announcement that he and JTG-Daugherty will be parting ways.
Segment Winners: Predicting segment winners on road courses in almost impossible. In order to set themselves up for the final stage of the race, teams have been getting their service before pit road closes and foregoing stage victories. Even so, Truex stands head and shoulders above the remainder of the field with two stage wins and 44 points earned at Sonoma and Watkins Glen in the past two years.