When it comes to the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway, expecting the unexpected is always a good call.
But Sunday (Oct. 8), it was one of the most decorated road-course experts in the field who notched his first win since 2021, as AJ Allmendinger held off William Byron and a desperate Kyle Busch to win the Bank of America ROVAL 400.
It was his third career Cup Series win overall and the second for Kaulig Racing since they began fielding cars in NASCAR’s top series.
“You don’t know when you’re going to get to do it again,” a tearful Allmendinger told NBC Sports after being asked why this win in particular was so emotional.
“My mom and dad, all my family friends, those people see how much anguish and how much I put on my shoulders when we’re struggling and it just means the world,” he said. “I hate crying right now, but it’s a freaking Cup race, man! You never know when it’s gonna happen again. Let’s go!”
Busch had several opportunities to get by the No. 16 after several cautions came out late, but couldn’t preserve his postseason. He, along with Brad Keselowski, Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace, have been eliminated from the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“I didn’t feel the pressure, really,” Busch told Frontstretch after the race. “Just tried to do my job and execute and get it done, but the [No.] 16, he’s a great road racer, call him ‘Mr. ROVAL’ if you will. He wins here all the time, so he’s super good here and knows how to do this stuff, so they earned it today for sure.”
Busch also took full responsibility for his team missing out on the next round, and praised their resilience.
The event started off in much the way other road course races have over the course of this season, as there were no cautions for cause for almost the entirety of the first two stages. That lasted until Josh Bilicki and Corey Lajoie brought out the caution at the very end of stage two, right before a leading Elliott could make it to pit road. Elliott won stage two, but lost all his track position.
Shortly after, Elliott felt something amiss with his car, pitting for a flat tire. He recovered, but only got back up to the top 10 at the very end.
From that point, Allmendinger seized the lead and never looked back. He led 46 laps, the most of anybody on the day.
The cautions began pouring in as the laps wound down and the intensity picked up, including one that collected Denny Hamlin. Hamlin spun off the frontstretch chicane and was finished off by Carson Hocevar hitting him in the right rear. The day ended there for Hamlin, but he had already advanced on points into the next round by that time.
Despite finishing in 20th, regular-season champion Martin Truex Jr. was the last driver in on points, as he had 12 points up on Chastain, the first one out. Truex barely survived the final laps, as he nearly spun and later tagged the wall on the way to the checkered flag.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday (Oct. 15) to open the Round of 8. Coverage begins on NBC, PRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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