Talladega once again provided thrills and spills last Sunday. A minor dustup took out playoff contender Ross Chastain late in stage one and a “big one” on lap 161 ended the day for Brad Keselowski. As a result Keselowski is only two points above the cut line and Chastain is 10 points below. Joining Chastain below the line are Tyler Reddick -2, Bubba Wallace -9, and Kyle Busch -26.
Ryan Blaney nosed out Kevin Harvick by 0.012 seconds for the win as the second “big one” erupted behind them. However, Harvick was disqualified in post-race inspection and scored 38th. Apparently Harvick’s windshield fasteners were loose, giving him a possible aerodynamic advantage. Stewart Haas Racing will not appeal.
This weekend marks the elimination race for the Round of 12 with just eight drivers advancing to the next round. It will be only the sixth race at the Charlotte Roval, and only four drivers have posted wins there. Christopher Bell won last season with Kyle Larson taking the checker in 2021. Chase Elliott won back-to-back in 2019 and 2020 while Blaney took the inaugural Roval victory.
Blaney and William Byron are locked into the Round of 8 with wins in this round and Denny Hamlin is safe at 50 points above the cut line. But we may still see some shuffling of playoff participants before the day is over.
Opening odds have two-time winner Elliott as the favorite at 6-1 while William Byron is 13-2 and Tyler Reddick 7-1. Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell are tied at 9-1, A.J. Allmendinger is 10-1, and Martin Truex Jr. 12-1.
Saturday the Cup cars qualify at 10 a.m. on USA and the Drive For the Cure 250 for the Xfinity series airs on NBC at noon. NBC will also broadcast Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 starting at 11 a.m.
Formula 1 is back in action this weekend at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, and we will very likely see the 2023 World Driving Champion crowned Saturday. Max Verstappen needs just three points to clinch the title, and a finish of sixth or better in the Sprint race will do it for him. His team Red Bull clinched the constructors’ championship two weeks ago in Japan.
Look for the resurgent McLaren team to challenge Red Bull this weekend. They had an excellent result in Japan with Lando Norris taking his fourth second-place finish of the year and second in a row. Teammate Oscar Piastri scored his first Formula 1 podium in third.
Saturday’s Sprint race will air on ESPNews at 10:30 a.m. and the Qatar Grand Prix broadcast on ESPN2 starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
In other racing news, the FIA has cleared the Andretti organization to join the F1 grid in 2025 or 2026. But there are still hurdles to overcome with Formula 1 management and series owner Liberty Entertainment. However, the Haas F1 team’s rumored departure from the series may clear the way for Andretti. Stay tuned.
NASCAR’s 2024 calendar has not been finalized, but some changes have been revealed. All three national series will race at Iowa Speedway next season, but there’s no indication of which track will lose the date. Also, the Clash will once again be at the Los Angeles Coliseum and North Wilkesboro will host the All-Star race for the second year.
Shane Van Gisbergen, surprise winner of the inaugural Chicago Cup race, will run a part-time schedule across all three of NASCAR’s national series with Trackhouse Racing next season. He will drive the No. 91 Trackhouse Chevy in the Cup series. And the Legacy Motor Club is slated to switch manufacturers from Chevy to Toyota for 2024.