Entering the final race before the cut to the final eight drivers in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, only 27 points separate No. 6 from No. 11.
That makes for a potentially dramatic race to the checkered flag in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
Sitting precariously in the sixth position is regular-season champion Martin Truex. He has remained above the cutoff line in large part due to the 36 playoff points he started off with. Truex has not finished better than 17th in the past five playoff races, with an average finish of 21.6.
He is just 17 points ahead of Tyler Reddick, who enters Charlotte in ninth place, just two points behind Brad Keselowski for the final spot to advance in the playoffs. Keselowski has never won a Cup Series race on a road course. Nor has Chris Buescher, who enters the weekend in fifth place.
“Ever since we went to the NextGen car, everything has been closer, and it makes it challenging, for sure,” Truex said. “It’s harder to find an advantage. It’s harder to run at the front every week, consistently.
“Everything is tighter, closer together, less room for error — and you really have to be on top of things. The points situation is the same as every other race. It’s really, really hard to be at the front all of the time, and this weekend we just need a solid day to hopefully get us through with some good tracks for us coming up.”
BANK OF AMERICA ROVAL 400
Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
Date: Sunday, Oct. 8, 2 p.m. ET
Distance: 400 miles; 109 laps on the 2.32-mile, 17-turn circuit
Stages: 25 | 50 | 109
Defending Champion: Christopher Bell
Cup Series Leader: William Byron
Radio: SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
5 BEST BETS
Chase Elliott (+600 at BetMGM)
Elliott is the pre-race favorite despite lacking a win this year and failing to qualify for the playoffs at all. He qualified sixth before finishing 34th in the spring Charlotte race, but Elliott does have four career victories in October — including 2019 and 2020 in this race. He has four top-10s in his past six races and has an average finish of 7.8 since the playoffs began. Elliott is the book’s second-biggest liability as he leads all drivers with 11.3 percent of the bets and 24.9 percent of the money backing him to win.
Tyler Reddick (+700)
Reddick needs a strong performance to advance to the Round of 8, and he’s at a good track to do it. He has finished second and eighth in his last two starts at Charlotte, where he has an average finish of 7.33 — tops among the remaining playoff drivers. Reddick has been backed by 8.7 percent of the bets and 10.4 percent of the money since opening at +800.
William Byron (+725)
Byron leads the standings and he leads the Cup Series with six wins already this year. He also has 12 top-5s, 17 top-10s and is second with 895 total laps led. He qualified first here in the spring before finishing second.
Kyle Larson (+800)
Larson is seventh in the standings despite leading the series with 898 total laps led. He has three wins but is also second among all drivers with seven DNFS – only Austin Dillon has more with 10. Larson took the checkered flag at Charlotte in 2021 en route to the Cup Series title in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.
Kyle Busch (+1200)
Busch sits in 12th place, 26 points below the cutoff line. However, he’s BetMGM’s biggest liability this week as he has been backed by 9.7 percent of the bets and 18.6 percent of the money since opening at +2000. He qualified fifth and finished sixth in the spring race at Charlotte, but has struggled in the Round of 12 with no finishes better than 20th in his past three starts.
Alex Bowman (+3000)
To say 2023 has been a disappointment for Bowman would be a massive understatement. He has an average finish of 16.25 in 28 races and has a lone top-10 in his past five starts. However, Bowman has finished in the top-10 in each of his previous four starts on the Charlotte road course, topped by a runner-up effort in 2019.
–Field Level Media