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Playoff Update: What Just Happened At The Charlotte Roval?

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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The final checkered flag of the Round of 12 has been flown. 4 drivers have been eliminated and only 8 remain. Who are they? Let's break it down.

The checkered flag has flown in Charlotte, and the Round of 12 is over. That means that 4 more superstars get figuratively sent to the house. This round is widely considered the Wild Card Round due to the wild card tracks in it such as Talladega and the Roval and that reputation did not disappoint. But, even though this marks the end of 4 driver’s championship hopes, 8 emerge from the blue smoke, their dreams still alive.

We at the Daily Downforce present to you a quick rundown of the key moments for our Round of 8 drivers as well as tales of heartbreak for 4 others. Check it out.

Eliminated

Bubba Wallace

We knew going into the Round of 12-ending Roval race that Bubba Wallace was in a bad spot. Let’s face it: his Achilles heel is road courses. And even though he’s able to skid by on a few this year without being involved in a major incident, we’re past the point in the Playoffs where just getting by is good enough. So, we knew it wasn’t an ideal scenario as he entered the Charlotte Roval -9.

Not an impossible interval to overcome but the No. 23 team struggled today. He was generally slow and was involved in a late-race incident with Austin Cindric. He didn’t have any real major damage and he was able to quickly get rolling again after coming to a stop on the backstretch to serve a penalty. That said, it perfectly illustrates Wallace’s shortcomings as a Playoff contender.

There’s nothing left for Bubba and the No. 23 team to do but try to win a race and prepare for next season. Maybe in 2024 they can work out those bugs in consistency and make a better Playoff run.

He had this to say post-race:

Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch essentially entered the Roval in must-win territory. While not mathematically eliminated, it was going to be a tough hill to climb for Busch and his No. 8 RCR team if he didn’t, relying on the improbable misfortunes of other drivers to somehow sneak in. It’s been done before. But, as Kyle Busch said, he didn’t pack his bags to run second.

He did run second for much of the later stages of the race, trailing behind eventual winner and non-playoff driver, AJ Allmendinger. His best chance to win today was on a late-race restart with 20 laps to go. Busch started on the inside of Allmendinger heading into the tri-oval and spun his tires. As the laps would wind down, Busch would finish 3rd and miss the Round of 8.

Brad Keselowski

A pass-through penalty was what killed 2012 Cup Champ, Brad Keselowski’s playoff hopes as he would miss the front stretch chicane. Due to a lack of cautions and a generally short race, he never was really able to recover, bringing home his No. 6 RFK Ford in 18th. The good news for Keselowski, though, is that his team in RFK is still in the fight with their driver, Chris Buescher, who we’ll talk about in a little bit.

Ross Chastain

No major incidents took Chastain out of the championship hunt today, they were just generally slow and mired back in traffic. It doesn’t help, though, that he had a less-than-stellar Round of 12. Heck, their playoff run in general has been lackluster. Coming out of 2022 with the legendary Hail Melon move at Martinsville (preceded by 2 wins on the year), many eyes were on Chastain and that Trackhouse race team. They just had a way of doing business that was different and unique compared to most other more traditional teams.

Many expected them to take a huge step forward but, if anything, they took a step back. A baby step, perhaps, but still in the backward direction. Chastain is the best driver this team has currently and with him, Suarez, and, now, SVG, maybe this team can improve heading into the 2024 season.

Presenting The Round of 8

These next few weeks are about to get real. With the Round of 12 over, only 8 drivers remain in the hunt. With the points reset to 4,000 and then all the playoff points implemented, let’s see where 2023’s 8 greatest stacks up.

Ryan Blaney (-10)

Ryan Blaney was one of two drivers who went into this race breathing easy. The Talladega winner clinched a playoff berth to the Round of 8 last week and was able to play different types of strategies throughout the day to try to gain track position and earn playoff points. He never quite got to the front, citing difficulties passing when back in traffic. But the guarantees are over now and Blaney currently sits 10 points back from the cutline.

Looking at the tracks we have remaining, we have two intermediates and a short track. Blaney won the Coke 600 earlier in the year, so maybe an intermediate is his best bet to advance to the Championship 4. Regardless, he finds himself in a hole heading into the Round of 8. The good news: it’s one he can easily claw out of if he can keep his nose clean and earn some oh-so-valuable stage points.

Christopher Bell (-8)

Other than Ross Chastain and his Hail Melon at Martinsville, Christopher Bell was the talk of the 2022 Playoffs. The team ran largely mediocre all year but, once in the playoffs, he was able to score clutch victories in very key moments to advance to the next round, eventually making it into the Championship 4. Running off of that momentum, many fans were keeping a close eye on Bell, thinking that he may have his breakout year in 2023. That hasn’t exactly happened.

He did win this year but, otherwise, he’s run mostly just good enough, fading specifically in the later part of the year. Now, he heads into the Round of 8 with -8 points on the top-4. Not a bad margin at all but we’re starting to get into the part of the post-season where even small margins are impossible to overcome without scoring a win.

Tyler Reddick (-8)

Tied with Bell at 8 points behind the cutoff line is the driver of the No. 45 23XI Toyota. Reddick, who has always been a good road course racer, predictably ran pretty well today, even winning a stage, collecting that critical playoff point to tack on to his points reset. He finished the day in a respectable 6th place and has had a pretty decent run in the playoffs thus far.

With Vegas and Homestead coming up, it is possible that Reddick could nab a victory at one of those intermediates and secure a spot in the Championship 4. If not, with the speed that the No. 45 car has (he was one of the only cars today able to smoothly pass in traffic) it is possible that he could advance on points. He just needs to race smartly every stage and collect as many stage points as he can.

Chris Buescher (-3)

The last driver on the outside looking into the top-4 is Chris Buescher in the No. 17 Ford for RFK. Not typically thought of as a road course racer, Buescher finished a respectable 7th today at the Roval to advance into the Round of 8. Keeping his championship dreams alive, he currently sits 3 points out of the coveted Championship 4. Buescher has had a surprisingly good 2023 and we’re sure he hopes to end it on a high note contending for a championship at Phoenix. Who knows? He won Richmond earlier this year and that track kind of races like Phoenix. He’s just got to get through the Round of 8 first and he’s in a pretty good spot to do just that.

Kyle Larson (+3)

The first driver currently sitting in the Championship 4 heading into the Round of 8 is none other than 2021 Cup Champ, Kyle Larson. He didn’t run his greatest race today but persevered to a decent 13th-place finish to advance. Being only 3 points above the cutline, he’s far from safe but a couple of the tracks in this upcoming round suit his style quite nicely.

He won at Martinsville earlier in the year and Homestead has historically been his best track. Larson has every reason to feel optimistic heading into this round so long as he can avoid careless mistakes…or the mistakes of others.

Denny Hamlin (+11)

Denny Hamlin entered this race in good shape and was able to clinch a spot in the Round of 8 before the race was even over. That’s a testament to how strong they’ve been all year, especially through the summer months and the first round of the playoffs. Thought to be a popular pick to finally win the title, Hamlin finished dead last today in 37th after the incident below.

While that No. 11 team is strong and fast, these are the types of incidents that could end up hurting their chances of making it to the Championship 4 to contend for the Cup title. Hamlin currently sits 11 points to the good, far from safe. He’ll need to shed the mistakes and bad luck the next three weeks if he wants to be in the thick of the battle at Phoenix. The good news is that he has always been good at Martinsville, the go-home race for the Round of 8.

Martin Truex Jr. (+15)

Martin Truex Jr. entered the playoffs on a high. The regular season champion was clearly a favorite and all the bonus points were able to carry him this far (to being +15 in the Round of 8). But the truth is that his 2023 playoff run has been just abysmal! Through 6 races, he has not finished better than 17th and finished 20th at the Roval today.

RJ from Twitter compiled a list of Truex’s finishes in the playoffs.

William Byron (+20)

One of the most consistent drivers throughout the year has become the most consistent driver in the playoffs. He entered the Roval safe based on a win at Texas and now, as the points reset, is the points leader, sitting 20 points to the good of the cutline. In a season full of parity, Byron has been the best driver late in the season, bar none, and is certainly a favorite to make it to the Championship 4 and perhaps hoist his first title.

There you have it, race fans! How is your NASCAR Playoff bracket doing? Mine, personally, has been shattered. Let us know your biggest disappointment in regards to who missed the Round of 8. Shout it out at us on all of our social media platforms (Facebook, X, and Instagram) and, most importantly, keep it right here for all your latest NASCAR news and stories.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts