With one turn remaining at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “roval,” seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson sat in second place, a result that would have easily allowed him to move into the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs. Moments later, a wreck left him out of the playoff picture.
Ryan Blaney won the Bank of America 500 on Sunday after Johnson attempted to pass Martin Truex Jr. on the final turn of the race, causing the two leaders to spin out with the finish line in sight.
Johnson Eliminated on Tiebreaker
Johnson recovered after coming to a stop and was able to finish in eighth place. But that left him in a three-way tie for 11th place with Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola in the playoff standings, and with only 12 drivers advancing to the next stage of NASCAR’s postseason, a tiebreaker was needed to determine who would be eliminated.
The first tiebreaker was the best finish for each driver at any race in this round of the playoffs. Larson had a runner-up finish, while Almirola finished fifth in Richmond. Johnson’s best finish was eighth, meaning he was the odd man out.
“I was more worried about the win than anything else,” Johnson told reporters after the race. “We were in a transfer position and didn’t get it. Just going for the win. The wins are so important and the veteran could have taken the safe route and didn’t.”
Truex put the blame on Johnson for the ugly finish, implying that Johnson deserved to miss out after his attempted pass.
“We could have raced side-by-side off the last corner for a win and that would have been cool,” Truex said after the race. “The fans would have been digging it, but instead we finished 14th and he’s locked out of the playoffs. I guess that’s what he gets.”
Roval Gets Rave Reviews
The race was the first on the so-called roval, a hybrid track that uses the previous 1.5-mile oval track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in conjunction with a road course that runs through the infield. The race was run cleaner than expected given the complex layout, but a couple of late incidents ended up having major playoff implications.
With just six laps remaining, leaders Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson were part of a multicar accident. Keselowski – already assured of advancement in the playoffs – was knocked out of the race, while Larson stayed on the track with a damaged car, doing just enough to reach the next round by finishing 25th.
Between the new course and the unbelievable finish, the race was a hit, with former NASCAR driver and current broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr. calling it “bonkers.”
I don’t believe this race. Bonkers. This season has been just wild. Never never saw this kind of drama happening. Fans win!
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) September 30, 2018
The NASCAR playoffs now continue with three second-round races, starting with the Alabama 500 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Twelve drivers remain in contention for the Cup Series championship, but only the top eight will advance to the third round.
NASCAR’s “Big Three” of Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Truex currently hold the top three positions in the playoff standings, with Keselowski having moved up to fourth position after winning three of the past five races. Other drivers that remain in the title chase include Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Chase Elliot, and Alex Bowman.