It’s bad when the best driver in the playoffs for Hendrick Motorsports right now is Jimmie Johnson. That’s not a shot at the seven-time series champion either. It’s just that Johnson didn’t make the playoffs this season.
Chase Elliott is sitting pretty good though as he’s +37 and seventh in the standings heading into the first round cutoff race this weekend on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. I don’t think he has too much to worry about.
The problem is, he may be the only driver among the HMS camp still championship eligible leaving Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/PRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Right now, William Byron holds the 12th and final spot that advances to the second round. But, Byron is only two points up on his teammate Alex Bowman for that spot. The best case scenario would be for Byron to move ahead of Aric Almirola who’s only one point ahead of him right now in the standings and hope that Bowman can gain at least three points on Almirola himself and move on to the Round of 12 as well.
It’s entirely possible too. Almirola, finished 19th in this race last year, was only ninth and 12th respectively on road courses in 2019 and hasn’t scored a top 10 finish since Daytona in July and a top five since Phoenix in March.
The issue is, Bowman hasn’t exactly been that much better. He has two top 10 finishes in his last 11 starts on the season and just one top five in his last 16 races as well. He finished 14th in both road course starts in 2019 too.
Byron, does have two top seven finishes in his last three tries on the year but only three career top fives. He was 34th in this race last year and 19th and 21st on road courses in 2019.
Where Byron can hang his hat is he was fast in both road course races. Those finishes don’t mean a whole heck of a lot. Here’s why.
Byron, went for stage points in Sonoma. The finish isn’t indicative on how strong his car was. He had a top five car that day. Same for Watkins Glen. The issue there was, Byron and Chad Knaus let their emotions get the best of them and when they went to retaliate against Kyle Busch at the end of the first stage, Busch brake checked Byron and caused damage to his front end.
Byron could easily have scored top five finishes in both road courses this season. His No. 24 Chevrolet should be strong this weekend. Knaus, gave Johnson a top two car for this race last year. If Byron can do that, he can move on. Bowman, may have more trouble advancing.