Can the Roval produce a surprise winner? Or is Chase Elliott’s road course dominance going to continue?
Elliott enters Sunday’s race as the prohibitive favorite. His odds at BetMGM are a staggeringly low +300 for a very good reason.
Elliott is the defending champion of the race and has won the last three road course races in NASCAR after his victories at Daytona in August and at Watkins Glen in August of 2019.
Who will be Elliott’s spoiler on Sunday? Maybe the better question to ask includes “what” and not “who.”
The forecast for the weekend doesn’t look great. Sunday’s forecast in Charlotte calls for scattered storms throughout the day. NASCAR would typically be unable to race in the rain at Charlotte. But since the track is using the road course layout, rain tires will be available to teams if NASCAR decides it’s feasible to race in the rain.
Rain tires will be a huge wrinkle. While they’ve been used in Xfinity Series road course races before, no points-paying Cup Series race has ever needed rain tires. It would be so very NASCAR if rain tires were needed on Sunday in a race that’s the final race of the second round of the playoffs.
Because it’s the final race of the second round, there could be some desperation among the playoff drivers in the bottom half of the standings. There are six spots available in the eight-driver third round after wins by Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin in each of the last two weeks. Joey Logano currently holds the final spot in the third round.
1. Denny Hamlin (win at Talladega)
2. Kurt Busch (win at Las Vegas)
3. Kevin Harvick, 3,121
4. Brad Keselowski, 3,094
5. Martin Truex Jr., 3.085
6. Chase Elliott, 3,080
7. Alex Bowman, 3,075
8. Joey Logano, 3,074
9. Austin Dillon, 3,053
10. Kyle Busch, 3,053
11. Clint Bowyer, 3,036
12. Aric Almirola, 3,026
Sunday, Oct. 10, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The favorite: Chase Elliott (+300)
Best bets among the favorites
Clint Bowyer (+1400)
Bowyer was fourth at the Roval a year ago and was third in the first race in 2018. His average finish is only surpassed by Elliott and Alex Bowman. Bowyer enters this race likely needing to win to advance to in the playoffs. He should be extremely aggressive. And he should have some speed.
Kyle Busch (+1400)
Kyle Busch at 14-1 odds? Why not. By now you know that Busch is carrying a winless streak that’s lasted the entire season and that he’s in danger of missing the third round of the playoffs. But he’s still one of the best drivers in the Cup Series and has shown some speed at the Roval even if his finishes don’t reflect it. If you’re not comfortable betting Busch, Bowman is at +1800 on the board.
Best bets among the longshots
Jimmie Johnson (+2000)
Johnson isn’t really a longshot. But he’s the 11th-best favorite and that means he’s outside the top 25 percent of drivers available to bet on. That’s good enough to call a longshot in our book.
Johnson has also been really good at the Roval. He’s finished in the top 10 both times and as you’ll see multiple times on Sunday, he was in position to potentially win the debut race before his car wheel-hopped into the final chicane and he took out Martin Truex Jr. It would be fun to see Johnson win a race in his final season, wouldn’t it?
Erik Jones (+5000)
Jones has been terrible at the Roval. He even crashed out of the race and finished last in 2019. But here’s something to consider: Jones finished 11th at the Daytona road course in August and he has five top-10 finishes in six starts at Watkins Glen and Sonoma. Oh, he’s also in a Joe Gibbs Racing car. You rarely see a driver in JGR stuff at 50-1. You might as well jump on it when you can.
– – – – – – –
Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
More from Yahoo Sports: