For the second straight season, the roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway posing as an elimination race provided all the drama needed to end the first round of the playoffs, and then some.
((Moving it to the last race of the second round for next season will only make it better.))
Chase Elliott crashed into the heartburn turn barrier with 40 (?) laps to go in the race, and would race his way back through the field from P37 to ultimately take the lead from Kevin Harvick with four laps remaining.
Running P2 behind Elliott was Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, who outran Ryan Newman to earn the 12th and final spot into the second round.
Here are a bit of my thoughts following Charlotte:
NOTEBOOK: Alex Bowman drives into Second Round behind Chase Elliott at Roval
Chase Elliott Showed Why he should be considered a top five talent in NASCAR
When Elliott went through the start/finish line and locked up his breaks going into turn one, it looked like his day might be over.
He would have to bring the car down pit road and, despite the madness we had seen all day at the Roval, would be put back in 37th on the ensuing restart.
Within a couple of laps, Elliott was wheeling through the field, making it up to 21st.
Thanks to a few opportune caution flags as the laps started to wind down, Elliott found himself in striking distance during the final restart.
There, with seven laps to go, the Dawsonville, Georgia native began working on Martin Truex Jr. – a well-respected road course racer – for second and Kevin Harvick for first.
He drove around them with ease. Elliott made his beaten, battered car the fastest on the track and his 44-lap swing from 37th to first should go down as one of the greatest moments of this year’s season.
Alex Bowman literally drove himself to exhaustion to earn a spot in the next round
Behind Elliott at the start/finish line on as the checkered flag was flying was Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman.
Ahead of the final restart, Bowman was restarting P6 and sitting three points behind Ryan Newman for the final transfer spot into the second round.
Newman was starting P17 on the restart, trying to hold his position and pass some slower cars than Bowman would have to.
Though Bowman would make a drive that saved his season.
He got by four cars in front of him and made it up to second place by lap 104 before the No. 9 would pull away for the win.
Meanwhile, Newman had made it up to 16th and the two were tied for the last spot with two laps to go in the race. That’s when Newman flinched.
Ryan Newman MISSED THE CHICANE!
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 29, 2019
Newman accidently cut the chicane and would be given a penalty, giving the final spot in the Round of 12 to Bowman. We’ll get to Newman more later on, though.
Bowman climbed out of his race car and immediately sat down leaning on the driver’s side.
Alex Bowman gets out his car and immediately sits on the ground. pic.twitter.com/DgV3B5PStY
— Jordan Bianchi (@Jordan_Bianchi) September 29, 2019
The Hendrick driver said he had been sick all week in a twitter video he posted after the race, but that didn’t stop Bubba Wallace from sending a strong message regarding an incident from earlier on.
Bubba Wallace isn’t mincing any words to Bowman after being taken out on purpose, mid-race
Nearing the end of Stage Two, Bowman was unimpressed with the amount of times he had been flipped off by Wallace, and he vowed to make him pay at the next opportunity.
Coming out of the chicane on the backstretch, Bowman spun Wallace.
"If he doesn't put that finger away, he's gonna get it."
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) September 29, 2019
Despite Bowman’s post-race condition, Wallace still made sure to let Bowman know what he thought of the move.
Bubba is NOT HAPPY.
📸 NASCAR pic.twitter.com/gVcfXYa1FH
— Always Race Day (@AlwaysRaceDay) September 29, 2019
Bowman told NASCAR.com after the race that it was a, “Smooth move of playing the sick card so I couldn’t bust him in his mouth.”
Wallace went on after the race.
“He don’t like to race. He just runs over everybody,” Wallace told NASCAR.com. “He gets to Lap 1 and he runs over me and the No. 3 into the back chicane. We’re back there in the trunk, man. Just take it easy for a lap. He had a fast car and he just run over us. Shoot us through the chicane and then we get a penalty for it. Every time he gets to me, he just runs over me.”
No matter what side your on regarding the mid-race incident, which is a ratings-booster regardless, Bowman drove the best seven laps of his career to put himself into the playoffs and he’ll be ready for Dover.
Ryan Newman a chicane away from putting the No. 6 car into the next round
On the losing end of the Bowman situation was the No. 6 of Ryan Newman, who won’t be advancing to the next round of the playoffs.
That result, however, shouldn’t go without mentioning what a year it was for that team.
Last season, the No. 6 found itself with two top 10 finishes the entire season and was leaps away from the playoffs.
Since Newman returned to Roush, he scratched and clawed his way to picking up result after result and has collected 11 top 10’s with a handful of races left this season.
Making the playoffs was a grand accomplishment for those guys, and the fact the team was so close to advancing yet another round is insane. He’s expected to be returning to the team next season.
The top seven setting themselves apart in standings
The Round of 12 in the playoffs this season will be quite interesting when it comes to the top dogs in the standings.
Usually in earlier rounds, the number of drivers who have really set themselves apart in the playoff point category is a bit smaller, but with Elliott climbing to 24 playoff points after Sunday’s race, it is looking like the top seven are going to go into the semifinal round pretty close to each other.
Look for those teams to try and avoid spoilers winning and chasing playoff points through the round to try and close up their gap on leader Kyle Busch as much as they can.
The series returns to the track for the first race of the Round of 12 next Sunday as it heads to the Monster Mile at Dover.
|Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||41||3041||+36|
|Second Round cutoff|
Second Round Races
Oct. 06 | Dover @ 2:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Oct. 13 | Talladega @ 2:00 p.m. ET (NBC)
Oct. 20 | Kansas @ 2:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Roval results, Roval starting lineup