CONCORD, N.C. – Sunday afternoon’s inaugural Bank of America ROVAL 400 delivered as advertised.
The first-ever NASCAR Cup Series race on the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway made for a thrilling elimination race to cap off the Round of 16 in the playoffs.
And when the checkered flag waved, two Hendrick Motorsports teammates had advanced to the Round of 12, while one found himself in a three-way tie in the point standings that left him eliminated by the narrowest possible margin.
With a fourth-place finish Sunday, Alex Bowman moved on to the next round of the playoffs, and he will be joined by Chase Elliott, who also advanced on the strength of a sixth-place finish.
“Happy to make it through,” Bowman said. “Thanks to Axalta and Hendrick Motorsports and everybody for giving me a shot. To go to the next round means a lot. We’ve had a pretty poor round as far as finishes – we’ve run strong and just finished poorly, so glad to get a good finish today.”
Elliott enters the Round of 12 ranked ninth in the standings with 3,008 points. Bowman is 12th with 3,000 points.
“The big thing is we’re moving on and we can go to work these next three,” Elliott said. “Dover’s been a decent one for us. I feel like we’ve had some good runs at times at Kansas and then who knows about Talladega, I guess. Just looking forward to getting to them and seeing what we got and move on down the road.”
Jimmie Johnson finished eighth on Sunday after spinning out and making contact with the leader – Martin Truex Jr. – while battling for the lead in the final chicane on the final lap.
That placed him in a three-way tie in the point standings with Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola. Larson and Almirola advanced in the playoffs ahead of Johnson due to securing higher finishes in the Round of 16.
So, despite the top-10 finish, Johnson was left on the outside looking in.
“I was more worried about the win than anything else,” Johnson explained. “I hate that I started wheel-hopping and took Martin and I out. That’s the last thing that I wanted to do. I put pressure on him into Turn 3, he washed up and I thought that I was going to be in the prime braking zone going into that final turn and have a shot at it.
“When I went to the brakes, it started locking the rears and wheel-hopping. I didn’t think I hit him at first – I knew I was spinning, obviously, but I guess I collected him in my spin. Certainly regret doing that.”
As Elliott alluded, the Round of 12 begins next weekend at Dover International Speedway then moves on to Talladega Superspeedway and finishes at Kansas Speedway.
Bowman reiterated just how stressful Sunday’s elimination race was at Charlotte, and how nice the accompanying relief felt after officially advancing to the next round.
“I’ve never been one to let pressure get to me, but this one got to me, for sure,” Bowman acknowledged. “I think a lot of that comes from me knowing where I stand on road courses and knowing what my struggles are and how strong the guys that I was racing for the spot were. It was a long day, but glad to make it through.”