No Practice or Qualifying Adds to the Unique Challenge of Bank of America ROVAL™ 400

Charlotte Motor Speedway

The stakes are high for drivers competing in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, especially those jockeying for position in the pivotal Round of 12 cutoff race, where the bottom four playoff drivers will be eliminated from championship contention. Adding to the intensity this season is the fact that drivers will take the green flag without the opportunity to practice or qualify.

As part of NASCAR’s reduced schedule, practice and qualifying have been eliminated for many races as the sanctioning body looks for ways to streamline at-track personnel amid the ongoing pandemic. A direct result: less time for teams to dial in tune-ups before the races begin. And at a track as wildly different as the ROVAL™, that has drivers expecting the unexpected.

“The ROVAL is going to be really tough without practice because it’s low downforce,” said Brad Keselowski, who currently sits fifth in the playoff points’ standings. “We ran the Daytona road course without practice, but it was high downforce so it was a lot easier to drive. The ROVAL will not be that way. I suspect it’s going to be chaos.”

While not yet locked into the Round of 8, at 41 points above the cut line, Keselowski enters the weekend with a comfortable margin. But several playoff contenders aren’t so fortunate. Aric Almirola, who is currently 12th in points, finds himself in nearly a must-win scenario heading to one of the most technically challenging tracks of the season.

“It’s so hard to describe how challenging it is,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said. “The infield asphalt is so slippery and treacherous. Some of the corners are actually off camber, so they are banked the wrong way. There’s just a lot of opportunity to get yourself in trouble.

“Thankfully we’ve had the opportunity to race at the ROVAL for two years now. I could not imagine showing up at the ROVAL to run with zero practice.”

While NASCAR has raced much of the season without practice, Martin Truex Jr., who narrowly missed out on winning the inaugural Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 in 2018, said the lack of track time will likely be more evident at a track like the ROVAL™.

“When you’re looking to get better at a race track, you typically have a few ideas you want to try,” Truex said. “You go out there and practice and try them and say, ‘ok, this didn’t do what we thought or this did do what we thought,’ and then you go from there. These days you don’t have that.

“It’s hard to get better at race tracks (with no practice), especially at very unique tracks like the ROVAL™ with so many turns. You change one thing on the car and it effects a few spots like you want it to, but does it effect other spots in a bad way that maybe slows you down?”

Perhaps Kevin Harvick best summed up what fans can expect.

“Unpredictable is a great word for it,” he said. “As we all go to the ROVAL™, we understand that it’s just an unorthodox road course. There’s not anything traditional about the way that it races, the way that you drive it, the things that you do. We prepare more for that race than just about any other race that we go to… You know that it’s going to get crazy, there’s going to be strategy, people are taking chances, and the race track itself can reach out and bite you at any time. It’s a very challenging race track that you have to try to adapt to.”

TICKETS:

While there are no tickets available for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, tickets remain for Saturday’s racing double-header, featuring the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina NASCAR Xfinity Series showdown and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GT Championship Series’ Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix. Adult tickets are just $50; kids 13 and under get in free. To purchase, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 800-455-FANS (3267).

TUNE IN:

In addition to getting in on the fun before the races go green, fans are encouraged to tune in to pre-race coverage of the Drive for the Cure 250 on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. and the Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Both races will be broadcast on NBC, the Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.

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