We’re getting down to the final races of the 2020 season, and this weekend the second round of the Playoffs concludes at Charlotte Motor Speedway–but not the track you probably think of when you hear Charlotte. This weekend, the Cup Series will be racing on the ROVAL setup of Charlotte, which combines the oval with a road course. Typically we know who the strongest drivers are on road courses in general, but how strategies play out can make or ruin a team’s day in a hurry. We were at the Daytona Road Course in August, and that’s a great comparison, and you can also throw Sonoma and Watkins Glen in as well, but we didn’t race at either of those tracks this year. This will be just the third ever race on the Charlotte ROVAL track. Denny Hamlin will be on the pole yet again for Sunday’s race and you can click here for the Bank of America ROVAL 400 starting lineup.
*Please note: the picks and suggestions below are my opinions and strategy for the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest. These are not meant to sway your thinking in any way, but rather give you insight into the drivers I am most likely to pick on race day.*
Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest Picks for the Charlotte ROVAL
Martin Truex, Jr. ($12,500) – In my opinion, the top two drivers at road courses are Martin Truex, Jr. and Chase Elliott ($12,600), and then there’s quite a bit of a gap down to the next few drivers. Truex will start from 7th on Sunday while Chase Elliott will roll off 2nd. So because of the higher potential for place differential points, I’m going to go with Truex, although both are excellent options. Anyway, Truex should have won here at the ROVAL in 2018 but Jimmie Johnson went full send mode on the final lap and took them both out. At the Daytona Road Course earlier this year, Truex would have had a car to compete with race winner Chase Elliott, but an early speeding penalty put the #19 team in a hole early that day. In other words, if Truex can have a mistake-free day this weekend, he’s going to contend for the win. Over the last four road course races he has an average running position of 5.9 (best in the series) and an average finish of 3.3 (also best).
Ryan Blaney ($11,100) – I tried to fit both Truex and Elliott into the same lineup but couldn’t come up with one that I loved, so I’ll be plugging in place differential driver Ryan Blaney for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400. Blaney will start from back in 24th but should be at least a top 10 contender when this race is all said and done. He won the inaugural race here at the ROVAL, but that was more due to luck than anything, although you have to give Ryan credit for being in position to take advantage. His other result here was an 8th-place finish last season. Flashing back to 2019, Blaney also finished 3rd at Sonoma and 5th at Watkins Glen, so like I said, he has the potential for a great day here in Sunday’s race.
Jimmie Johnson ($9,800) – Hendrick Motorsports as a whole is really strong on the road courses right now, and Jimmie Johnson is right up there with his teammates (except for Chase Elliott, because he’s head and shoulders above them). Anyway, Johnson will start from back in 30th on Sunday thanks to his poor performance at Talladega, which means he’s a lock to be in my Slingshot lineup this weekend. In addition to having finishes of 8th and 9th in his two starts here at the Charlotte ROVAL, Jimmie came home 4th at the Daytona Road Course this season and also has the 5th-best average running position (11.3) over the last four road course races overall. JJ has the potential to score 120+ points in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest on Sunday.
Matt DiBenedetto ($8,800) – This is the one part of my lineup that I’m not 100% sure where I’m going to go. As of this post (Friday morning), I have DiBenedetto penciled in, but I’m also looking at Christopher Bell ($8,100) since he starts back in 35th, as well as Chris Buescher ($7,700), who starts 21st and ran 5th at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year. But let’s talk about DiBenedetto. There’s no doubt that he’s got the talent to run well here at the Charlotte ROVAL on Sunday, and in his two starts here thus far he’s wound up with finishes of 11th and 13th. Overall, DiBenedetto has the 4th-best average finish (9.0) on road courses over the last two years, and even when you add in the 2018 events, Matt’s average finish stays solid at 14.1. The #21 Ford will roll off the grid from 20th on Sunday, which means DiBenedetto could have a huge points day in the Slingshot Fantasy Auto Contest if he pulls off a top 10.
Michael McDowell ($7,500) – Michael McDowell starting 31st on a road course? Yep, hit that lock button for any Fantasy NASCAR game that uses place differential as a scoring parameter. McDowell has an average finish of 15.8 over the last four road courses overall, and that includes a 10th-place finish at the Daytona Road Course earlier this year (despite starting 30th), as well as finishes of 12th and 18th in his two starts here at the Charlotte ROVAL. At the very least, McDowell should be a top 20 driver on Sunday but I wouldn’t be surprised if he creeps up into the high teens before this one is over.