As the 2023 NASCAR playoffs hurtle into Charlotte for the third race in the Round of 12, Kyle Busch spoke for more than one driver when he said, “That’s our last shot. So we’ll see what we get.”
Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace and Ross Chastain are in the same boat as the two-time Cup Series champion. The foursome are below the cutline with one last chance to advance to the Round of 8 when the playoff drivers run at the hybrid road/oval course — the ROVAL — at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A win will do the trick — it’s an automatic ticket to the next round, as Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney accomplished by winning at Texas and Talladega, respectively, in the previous two weeks.
Reddick (two points in the red) has the track record for it, with three career road-course wins, although not yet at the ROVAL. Busch (-26), also, with two wins at Sonoma and two at Watkins Glen. Chastain (-10) has a road trophy, from Austin’s Circuit of the Americas. Wallace (-9) is in the toughest spot of all, however, with no road triumph yet.
But a win isn’t the only way to transfer. Points can be gained in the race, and Wallace avoided elimination at the end of the regular season and in the Round of 16 by doing just that.
The drivers above the cutline are certainly aware. Striving to keep their place when the green flag flies on Sunday (1 p.m. CDT, NBC) will be Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (+50), Christopher Bell (+22) and Martin Truex Jr. (+17), RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher (+19) and Brad Keselowski (+2) and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson (+15), the series champion two years ago.
The defending race winner is Bell. Larson won it two years ago. Non-playoff driver Chase Elliott® won it in 2019 and 2020. Blaney claimed the inaugural run on the ROVAL in 2018.
This year? Let’s see what we get.