NASCAR Cup Series
Points Report: NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte
Oct 9, 2023
William Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team have been nearly flawless over the last three races. With a runner-up finish at the ROVAL, Byron now has three straight top-two finishes.
With a NASCAR Cup Series-high six wins during the 2023 season, it's no surprise that William Byron is the championship favorite. But as we head into the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, Byron and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team are truly firing on all cylinders and are proving that if anyone wants to win the title this year, they're going to have to probably go through them.
In Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400, a race that was chuck-full of strategy calls and moves, Byron came home in the runner-up spot in his Z by HP Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
The solid second-place effort was a combination of great strategy by crew chief Rudy Fugle and great driving by Byron.
"Proud of the effort," Byron said following the race. "Was definitely a solid day. We weren't quite up front all day, and then at the end, we were able to get up there and challenge."
Byron did apply the pressure over the closing laps to A.J. Allmendinger for the race win, but Allmendinger, one of the best to ever run a road course race in NASCAR proved to be unflappable.
Still, the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team has now recorded three consecutive top-two finishes. Making that streak even more impressive is that the finishes have come at three drastically different race tracks -- Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.
Additionally, the No. 24 team has recorded seven top-10 finishes over its last eight starts. It's been an incredible stretch, and they are showing no signs of slowing down.
"Just hope we can do what we did this round with 1st, 2nd, 2nd. Just hopefully we can do that again, and continue to bring performance like we are," Byron explained.
The NASCAR Cup Series season, one of the longest and most grueling schedules in all of professional sports, sees a great deal of ebbs and flows throughout the course of the season.
While Byron has certainly seen some ebbs this year, he is without a doubt on a massive flow as we speak, and it seems that somehow, even with a dominant season overall, Byron, Fugle, and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team are peaking at the right time.
Photo Credit: Tyson Gifford, Racing America
While Byron is certainly surging as he continues to chase a Championship 4 berth, how are the rest of the Playoff contenders looking heading into the Round of 8?
Martin Truex Jr. heads into the next round as the second seed, but he and his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team need to stop the bleeding. Truex, who was the regular-season champion, and appeared to be the top challenge to Byron for the championship, has been skunked in the Playoffs.
Truex has opened the Playoffs with six consecutive finishes outside of the top-15, including a 20th-place finish in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400. While Truex had plenty of Playoff points, which helped him eek through the Round of 16, and the Round of 12, he's likely going to need to perform in the Round of 8 if he has aspirations of battling for a championship in Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin has had possibly more raw speed than any other driver in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team won the night race at Bristol and had legitimate chances at the win slip through their grasp at Darlington Raceway and Kansas Speedway.
Hamlin endured a rough day at the ROVAL, as he finished 37th, but he had more than enough points to clinch his place into the Round of 8. Hamlin has led 385 laps in the Playoffs, and looks to be the guy that can possibly go toe-to-toe with Byron.
Kyle Larson enters the Round of 8 as the final guy inside the cutline, as he is three points to the good. Larson has been incredibly fast to open the Playoffs, as evidenced by his win in the Southern 500 at Darlington, and his 2.33 average finish in the Round of 16. However, Larson has not had the best luck as of late.
While battling for the lead late in the race at Texas Motor Speedway, Larson spun and crashed, which resulted in a 31st-place finish. A week later, Larson wound up 15th after being involved in a last-lap melee heading to the checkered flag. And this week at the Charlotte ROVAL, he started at the rear due to a crash in practice.
If Larson can utilize his raw speed, and minimize the mistakes and bad luck, he's a good bet to make it into the Championship 4.
When you look at the four drivers that are below the cutline heading into the Round of 8, you realize that there are no slouches in this Playoff race. Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Ryan Blaney have all shown the ability to win this season, and aside from Bell, they have all won multiple races this season.
And even though Bell has just one win this season, he proved last season that he is very good at scoring wins with his back against the wall. With this much potential race-winning power outside of the cutline, it'll be a nervous three-race round for any driver who is barely clinging above the cutline.