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Past Champions Biting The Dust In Cup Playoffs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 10 2022

Christopher Bell needed a win and got it Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. – When NASCAR’s Cup playoffs opened Labor Day weekend at Darlington five series champions were bidding for another title, but when the Round of 8 was determined at the Bank of America ROVAL 400 only two remained – Chase Elliott and Joey Logano.

Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch didn’t make it into the Round of 12 and on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway defending series champion Kyle Larson failed to advance into the Round of 8. Joining Larson on the sidelines are Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric, Sonoma victor Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman, who missed the last two races due to concussion-like symptoms. 

Mechanical issues were Larson’s and Suarez’s undoing while Cindric chalked his situation up to being “desperate and trying to make something happen with 30 lap old tires.”  

“I don’t feel like we had enough to be quite offensive with the car,” said Cindric, who missed the cut by 13 points. “It put us in a box on strategy and we probably could have executed better in a lot of areas. It was great to be in a position to try and make it into the Round of 8 coming into today, but … whatever way you cut it, we probably didn’t deserve it.”

Suarez and Larson both entered the season’s final road course race above the cutline. However, Suarez began dropping through the playoff field after he lost power steering on his Chevrolet in the race’s latter stages. He eventually finished 36th, five laps off the pace. 

“It’s disappointing to lose a race like that,” said Suarez, who missed the cut by nine points. “The car was good. The car was fast. I felt like it was going to be an easy transition, especially with the speed that we had.”

However, once the power steering failed, Suarez was just trying to survive. 

“My arms are destroyed right now. My hands are destroyed,” Suarez said immediately after the race.

Suarez noted his Trackhouse Racing team experienced the same issue eight months ago. 

“Somehow, we just didn’t fix it right, I guess,” a disappointed Suarez said. 

Larson and Ross Chastain experienced the same problem during the race’s final stage. Both smacked the wall and broke the toe-link on the right rear. Chastain’s occurred first and his crew took his Chevrolet to the garage to make repairs. Larson’s crew worked on his Chevrolet on pit road. Even though Larson finished 35th and Chastain placed 37th, Chastain won Stage 2 which provided him with the points he needed to advance in the playoffs. 

Larson called getting loose and hitting the wall in turn seven a “dumb mistake on my part.”

“It’s frustrating to end like this, but as up-and-down as I was this season, I’m not surprised I made another mistake and a costly one at an important time,” said Larson, who missed advancing by two points.

“It’s (season) been tough. There’s been no real rhythm to it for me and our team. It’s days like today that you can take positives from it, and you’re really focused on areas that you need to be better as a person and as a driver and as a team and come back stronger.” 

Adam Stevens, crew chief for race winner Christopher Bell, said the toe-links were breaking because they were the car’s suspension’s weakest link due to being the least expensive part.

“We have had a design revision to the fronts or the rears,” Stevens said. “They made them a little bit thicker and a little bit stronger cross-section midway through the year. Maybe they need to make ’em a little bit stronger, but if you have a direct hit on the wheel, something’s going to bend. It’s been that way for years. We just haven’t had a toe-link in the rear with a solid axle car. We have independent suspension on all four wheels now.

“You see the rears bend more because the fronts are connected to the steering wheel. If you take a shot in the wheel, it jerks the wheel out of your hands. The rears are connected solidly, and if you take a shot in the wheel, it’s going to bend something, and it bends the toe-link.”

Ironically, the 25 points Larson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron was awarded when the National Motorsports Appeals Panel amended his penalty for intentionally spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas was instrumental in Larson missing the cut. 

In addition to Elliott and Logano, the other six drivers advancing into the Round of 8 are Bell, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Byron, Chastain and Chase Briscoe. The third playoff round begins next weekend at Las Vegas and concludes the last weekend in October at Martinsville. 

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NASCAR Cup Series Race – 63rd Annual Bank of America ROVAL 400

Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, October 9, 2022

  1. (8)  Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 112.
  2. (22)  Kevin Harvick, Ford, 112.
  3. (20)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 112.
  4. (7)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 112.
  5. (13)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 112.
  6. (21)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 112.
  7. (14)  Bubba Wallace (P), Toyota, 112.
  8. (4)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 112.
  9. (17)  Chase Briscoe (P), Ford, 112.
  10.     (15)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 112.
  11. (26)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 112.
  12. (30)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 112.
  13. (24)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 112.
  14.     (31)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 112.
  15. (37)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 112.
  16. (2)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 112.
  17. (19)  Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 112.
  18. (1)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, 112.
  19. (25)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Chevrolet, 112.
  20. (9)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 112.
  21. (5)  Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 112.
  22. (16)  Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, 112.
  23. (29)  Noah Gragson(i) (P), Chevrolet, 112.
  24. (12)  Cole Custer, Ford, 112.
  25. (28)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 112.
  26. (6)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 112.
  27. (11)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 112.
  28. (23)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, 111.
  29. (34)  Mike Rockenfeller, Chevrolet, 111.
  30. (32)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 111.
  31. (38)  Josh Williams(i), Ford, 110.
  32. (35)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 110.
  33. (36)  Loris Hezemans(i), Ford, 110.
  34. (39)  Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 109.
  35.     (18)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 107.
  36. (3)  Daniel Suarez (P), Chevrolet, 107.
  37.     (10)  Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 103.
  38. (27)  Joey Hand, Ford, Accident, 79.
  39. (33)  Daniil Kvyat(i), Toyota, Engine, 17.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  86.661 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 59 Mins, 54 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.790 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 10 laps.

Lead Changes:  10 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Logano (P) 1-27;T. Reddick 28-30;A. Allmendinger(i) 31-48;R. Chastain (P) 49-51;A. Allmendinger(i) 52-54;T. Reddick 55-72;A. Allmendinger(i) 73-75;E. Jones 76;C. Elliott (P) 77-106;K. Harvick 107-110;C. Bell (P) 111-112.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Chase Elliott (P) 1 time for 30 laps; Joey Logano (P) 1 time for 27 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 3 times for 24 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 21 laps; Kevin Harvick 1 time for 4 laps; Ross Chastain (P) 1 time for 3 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 1 time for 2 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,24,99,12,2,5,14,11,8,16

Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,21,5,16,8,99,22,14,12,9

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 10 2022
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