BOWMAN, BOWYER POWER INTO THE MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES ROUND OF 12 WITH INSPIRED ROVAL RUNS
FORT WORTH, Texas (September 30, 2019)
Alex Bowman started his Sunday battling illness, ending it battling dehydration, and somewhere in the middle produced an inspiring runner-up finish at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL to keep his 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff dreams alive.
The ROVAL was designed to entertain fans and bring chaos on the track, and it did both with the actual racing and with the playoff standings.
Erik Jones (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Kurt Busch (No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy) both came into Sunday needing a win to advance, and both wrecked out, ending their chances. That left Bowman (No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy) and Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) as the other drivers in the danger zone, and they proved up to the challenge. Bowyer’s fourth-place showing was his best since the April race at Richmond, and it was more than enough to get to the Round of 12 for the second year in a row.
Bowman and Bowyer’s magical Sundays came at the expense of Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman. Both drivers fought to overcome multiple mistakes throughout the day, and neither was able to do it.
Below are the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings as the series moves to Dover International Speedway to start the Round of 12.
1 Kyle Busch – 3,046 points (+41)
A runner-up finish at Richmond in the middle race of the Round of 16 is really all the regular season champion has to show for his efforts in the first three races. He was 37th at the ROVAL and left the race early when the team decided they had nothing else to gain by staying on the track. His lead has shrunk from 15 points to five. He’s combined for five wins at the Round of 12 tracks (Dover – 3 wins, Kansas – 1, Talladega – 1).
2 Martin Truex, Jr. – 3,041 points (+36)
The Round of 16 couldn’t have gone much better for the 2017 champion in his first year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Wins at Las Vegas and Richmond were followed with a seventh-place showing at the ROVAL, and Truex is now second in the points after starting the playoffs third. He also has five combined wins at the Round of 12 tracks including the spring race at Dover this year (Dover – 3, Talladega – 0, Kansas – 2).
3 Denny Hamlin – 3,030 points (+25)
Hamlin’s playoff run is off to a slow start in his best season since 2012. He finished 15th at Las Vegas and 19th at the ROVAL but hung his hat on a third-place showing in Richmond. He’ll need to be a little better in the Round of 12 where he has just two combined wins (Dover – 0, Talladega – 1, Kansas – 1).
4 Joey Logano – 3,029 points (+24)
Consistency is key in the playoffs, and it doesn’t get much more consistent than results of 9, 11, and 10 in the first round. The top-11 results were more than enough for Logano in the Round of 16, but he’ll need to be better to defend his championship. Logano hasn’t had much success at Dover, but he’s been strong at the rest of the Round of 12 tracks (Dover – 0, Talladega – 3, Kansas – 2).
5 Kevin Harvick – 3,028 points (+23)
A pair of top three finishes to start the playoff run following a win in the regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has Harvick looking locked and loaded. He’s finished in the top five at five of the last seven races, and he’s been great at the Round of 12 tracks (Dover – 2, Talladega – 1, Kansas – 3).
6 Chase Elliott – 3,024 points (+19)
Elliott locked himself into the Round of 12, almost immediately locked up his tires, going nose-first into the Turn 1 tire barrier at the ROVAL, then somehow rebounded to pass Kevin Harvick late and win the race. Could this be the start of the run people have been waiting for from the sport’s most popular driver? You can’t argue he’s got momentum on his side consider he won two of the three Round of 12 races a year ago and took the spring race at Talladega this year. (Dover – 1, Talladega – 1, Kansas – 1).
7 Brad Keselowski – 3,024 points (+19)
Bad Brad enters the chat to steal the title of Mr. Consistent from his teammate, Logano. Keselowski finished third, fourth, and fifth in the Round of 16 races, doing nothing to hurt his chances at a second championship. It’s hard to imagine he’s lacking in confidence considering he won the spring race at Kansas and is considered one of the favorites every time the No. 2 Ford hits the track at Talladega (Dover – 1, Talladega – 5, Kansas – 2).
8 Kyle Larson – 3,006 points (+1)
He didn’t even have to Mad Max a dying car across the finish line to advance to the Round of 12 this year. Larson won the opening stage in Charlotte, finishing 13th. Adding that to his eighth and sixth-place showings to open the playoffs, and he lives to fight another round. If he wants to guarantee his spot in the Round of 8 for the first time, he’ll need to do what he’s never done, win at one of those racetracks (Dover – 0, Talladega – 0, Kansas – 0).
9 Alex Bowman – 3,005 points (-1)
Bowman’s run to second place at the ROVAL seemed unlikely even as it was happening, but he’s through to the Round of 12 for the second straight season. Bowman overcame sickness, dehydration, having to start at the tail end of the field Sunday, and a 23rd place showing the week before at Richmond, but he made it. He’s never won at the three Round of 12 tracks, but he finished second at all three of them this spring (Dover – 0, Talladega – 0, Kansas – 0).
10 Ryan Blaney – 3,004 points (-2)
He overcame a broken strut on his car at the ROVAL to survive and advance, doing just enough to get the job done. Blaney started strong with a fifth-place showing at Las Vegas and his eighth-place finish in Charlotte was a gutsy result considering the issues his team had. He’s never won at the Round of 12 tracks, but Kansas is definitely his strongest circuit. He boasts three top fives in nine starts there. He has one top five combined at Dover and Talladega (Dover – 0, Talladega – 0, Kansas – 0).
11 William Byron – 3,001 points (-5)
Byron started his first playoff run outside the cutline in 13th, but a sixth at the ROVAL with the pole and a seventh at Las Vegas got him through to the Round of 12. He started in the top three at both Dover and Kansas this spring as part of an impressive run of five pole awards and 10 starts on the front row this year. He’ll need the finishes to advance to the Round of 8, though, and he has a single top 10 in nine total starts at the next three tracks (Dover – 0, Talladega – 0, Kansas – 0).
12 Clint Bowyer – 3,000 points (-6)
Bowyer’s fourth-place run at the ROVAL moved him into the top 12 of the standings for the first time in three months, advancing him in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Bowyer should be excited to go home to Kansas with a chance to advance, but his home track has actually been a challenge with just three top fives in 22 starts. He has won Talladega twice, though those were back-to-back in 2010 and 2011 (Dover – 0, Talladega – 2, Kansas – 0).
The NASCAR Playoffs are currently staggered across all three of the national series in 2019.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series closes its first round this weekend at Dover International Speedway. Christopher Bell and Cole Custer are clinched into the Round of 8 while regular season champion Tyler Reddick and two-time winner Austin Cindric are almost guaranteed their spots. Michael Annett holds the eighth and final transfer position with Brandon Jones and John Hunter Nemechek trailing him by 11 points.
The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is in the midst of a month-long break following its first round. The Gander Trucks Round of 6 opens October 12 at Talladega Superspeedway. 2018 champion Brett Moffitt starts the round with a 17-point advantage over Austin Hill and 18 over Ross Chastain. Stewart Friesen (-20), Matt Crafton (-23) and rookie Tyler Ankrum (-29) complete the playoff entries.
Texas Motor Speedway hosts playoff races for both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series this year. The Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 is Saturday, Nov. 2, and the Cup Series AAA Texas 500 is Sunday, Nov. 3.
For ticket or race information, please visit texasmotorspeedway.com or call the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500. With an adult ticket purchase, accompanying tickets for children 12-and-under are $10 for the AAA Texas 500 and free for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 playoff races.
Date Venue Time* TV Network Radio Network
Cup Series Round of 12
Sun. Oct. 6 Dover 1:30 p.m. NBCSN MRN/SiriusXM
Sun. Oct. 13 Talladega 1 p.m. NBC MRN/SiriusXM
Sun. Oct. 20 Kansas** 1:30 p.m. NBC MRN/SiriusXM
Cup Series Round of 8
Sun. Oct. 27 Martinsville 2 p.m. NBCSN MRN/SiriusXM
Sun. Nov. 3 Texas 2 p.m. NBCSN PRN/SiriusXM
Sun. Nov. 10 Phoenix** 1:30 p.m. NBC MRN/SiriusXM
Sun. Nov. 17 Homestead 2 p.m. NBC MRN/SiriusXM
* - All times listed are Central
** - Four drivers will be eliminated from playoff contention in round elimination race