We already knew that the ROVAL would produce some crazy moment during both NASCAR races on it this weekend. But, after the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice on Friday afternoon followed by two NASCAR XFINITY Series practices, the only word to describe what will ensue this weekend is chaos.
Kyle Busch led an eventful first Cup Series practice on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course Friday, with turning a lap at 106.397 mph in his No. 18 Toyota. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate of Erik Jones was second in the No. 20 Toyota, making his way around the Roval at 106.382 mph. Joey Logano (106.122 mph), Daniel Hemric (106.081 mph) and Clint Bowyer (106.012 mph) rounded out the top five.
But, the first “official” session on the 2.28-mile road course was nothing short of insane. In just 55 minutes, nearly 11 different cars had damage to their vehicles. While I get that this is practice on a new track and drivers are pushing the limits maybe more than they would in the middle portions of a race, but this still shows we could see some mayhem.
It started as early as the opening 10 minutes when Aric Almirola spun on Turn 3, sustaining some damage to his No. 10 Ford. Not long after, Denny Hamlin had damage done to his No. 11 Toyota when he went over the chicanes in one of the corners. Then, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall in Turn 4 which caused so much damage he’d have to go to a backup.
In the closing stages, Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney got into the backstretch wall in the chicane causing left front damage to both of their cars.
Darrell Wallace Jr. spun twice, as did Dillon again and Kyle Busch. The TV broadcast also said that Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott got some damage to their cars too.
That was just practice No. 1.
The XFINITY Series had some craziness to their day too. JJ Yeley got into the Turn 1 wall as several cars went around on the 17 turn course.
This weekend had sparked some fear into the NASCAR garage for just these reasons. The track is slick and finding the right setup is as difficult as it comes.
It’s not like this is fear for their safety or anything of that magnitude. This is fear for what this weekend’s action will do in terms of the playoff standings.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL on Saturday as well as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday will surely shake up both of their playoff standings. Like it or not, there are going to be some furious folks when the checkered flag drops on both races.
I mean, just look at how crazy the limited testing opportunities were on the ROVAL. It was crashing galore. A lot of good equipment was torn up in a short amount of time. Even team owner Joe Gibbs told his guys to just stop going over there at one point due to all the wrecks.
What’s crazy is that all of the chaos was single car incidents. Drivers pushing the limits by themselves struggled to make it around the track. What’s going to happen when you have playoff drivers with their championship hopes on the line pushing the limits even further with 39 of their closest friends around them?
That’s where the fear comes in.
When Talladega was a cut off race in the playoffs, there was fear among those on the playoff bubble, but not this much.
Some drivers say the chaotic nature of Las Vegas and the calmness of Richmond were a direct byproduct of the ROVAL. Everyone gave it all they had in Vegas to try to win and not have to worry about the ROVAL.
Hence all the mistakes.
Then, last weekend, we saw an odd sense of calmness out of everyone in Richmond. The drivers in turn said that they were so fearful of Charlotte that they didn’t want to push it too much. They just needed to maintain their position at that point.
When have you ever seen drivers so fearful?
That’s how chaotic this weekend is going to be. This is a new race, on a new design and a cutoff race in the Cup Series.