The first round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is now behind us. For the second straight year, Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway served as an elimination race of the opening round.
We knew heading into this weekend that 12 drivers would move onto the Round of 12 with a shot at the Cup championship still. We also knew that four drivers would see their championship hopes come to an end.
Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones were all elimination Sunday in Charlotte and for three of the four, their lack of consistency cost them.
Jones was the first out but he had some bad luck on his path to elimination. Jones’ gear box failed him on an early race restart in Las Vegas. He’d finish 36th as a result. A week later in Richmond, he crossed the finish line fourth but his No. 20 Toyota failed post race inspection. He was credited with a 38th place run instead.
Then, he was caught up in a crash not of his doing on Lap 22 in Sunday’s race which forced him to a 40th place finish. 36th, 38th and 40th respectively isn’t going to get the job done.
For Busch, he too lacked the results. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver had one top five finish in his last 14 starts on the season and two in his last 21 overall. That too isn’t going to get you very far.
Almirola was in a similar boat. He was 13th, 17th and 14th respectively in the first round. He also hasn’t had a top 10 finish since Daytona in July or a top five since Phoenix in March. Still, he was in contention late in Sunday’s elimination race but his tires fell off in the end and he had to pit for new ones in the closing laps.
Finally, Newman was running well enough but he made a costly mistake by running out of bounds on the backstretch chicane with two laps remaining. He was one point to the good at that point but fell to the outside looking in after.