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Treacherous Charlotte ‘roval’ awaits NASCAR playoff drivers

It has been given a whimsical name, like one of those “sniglets” from the 1980s.

“Roval.” Half road course, half oval.

But NASCAR playoff drivers are finding little humor in the new Charlotte Motor Speedway road circuit awaiting those trying to advance to the next tier of postseason races.

Even Kyle Busch, who already has punched his second-round ticket with a victory at Richmond Raceway, doesn’t seem thrilled about Sunday’s race on a 2.28-mile circuit that comprises part of the banked oval combined with what has been described as a diabolical infield road course with few runoff areas.

“If I’m ever up on the wheel and balls to the wall, I’m going to end up crashed, especially at the roval knowing how treacherous that place is,” the playoff points leader from Las Vegas said.

“I’m going to be all juked up, ready to go — and then when I get there, I’m going to take a melatonin and just drive Miss Daisy.”

Older brother Kurt Busch sits eighth in playoff points, 15 above the cutoff line. Only four of the 16 playoff drivers will be eliminated on the roval. But with only four drivers between him and also-ran status, the 2004 Cup Series champion can’t afford to make a mistake as many drivers did during testing.

“As someone who’s in the playoffs, we’ve got to play it cool,” Kurt Busch said after helping to dedicate a new pedestrian bridge at the roval on Wednesday. “We’ve got to look at it as a standard race weekend, get our points and advance to the next round.”

Gragson to race for Junior

Before the recent South Point 400 weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Noah Gragson said his 2019 NASCAR racing plans still were up in the air.

It turned out to be a soft landing.

The 20-year-old Las Vegan will switch from Kyle Busch’s Truck Series team to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Xfinity Series team. Gragson will take the place of retiring Elliott Sadler in the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Gragson this season made his Xfinity Series debut with two top fives, including a second-place finish at Richmond Raceway driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Green, white, checkered

— While TV ratings for the inaugural South Point 400 were not good, they weren’t as dismal as those for the NASCAR playoff race at Richmond Raceway Saturday night. Kyle Busch’s victory garnered a 1.0 rating and 1.77 million viewers — down 17 percent from last year. It was the lowest-rated and least-watched Cup Series race since 2000.

— The cream rises to the top: While playoff drivers swept the first seven finishing positions at the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway they were even more dominant in Round 2 at Richmond Raceway, claiming the first 12 spots. Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. — the so-called “Big 3” who combined to win 17 of the 26 regular-season races but had gone winless recently — finished 1-2-3 again.

— Jimmy Parker Jr., Doug Hamm and Landon Gresser clinched season championships in the Super Late Models, NASCAR Modifieds and USLCI Bandolero Bandits divisions on Pack the Track Night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ahead of Championship Night at the Bullring on Oct. 6.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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