Written by Gabriel Tsui, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
What a race weekend we just had at Charlotte. Being the final race in the Round of 12, the playoff drivers fought tooth and nail to keep themselves above the cut line. This is the race weekend gone-by debriefed, if you missed this amazing race, arguably the best race weekend in 2022, and a summary for the events that happened before Sunday.
Christopher Bell does it again!
After surprising most fans by advancing to the Round of 12 as the highest point scoring driver in the prior Round of 16, Christopher Bell came through to win at Charlotte, to advance towards the Round of Eight. Things were not looking good for Bell with six laps to go, running only in seventh place. However, a late caution gave him a shot for the win, and Bell’s team took advantage of the opportunity, and brought him in for new tyres. He rejoined in 11th position, for the restart. Bell then utilized his new tyres to overtake multiple cars, going up into second place with two laps to go. On overtime restart, Bell overtook Kevin Harvick down Turn One, and led the rest of the way. This was one of the best crunch time performances in NASCAR, and congratulations to Christopher Bell.
AJ Allmendinger is back in NASCAR Cup Series
Ahead of the weekend, it had been announced that AJ Allmendinger would return to the cup series as a full-time driver in the 16 car. Then on Saturday, he won his fourth XFinity Roval race, marking a 100% win rate in Roval, and two wins in a row. Featuring in the Sunday race, he put on a show for the fans, challenging for the lead during the mid-stage of the race. He finished fourth in the end amidst all of the carnage, marking another strong finish in the number 16 car.
More playoff shock
In a shocking series of events, Kyle Larson was knocked out on Sunday. Larson was beaten to the Round of 12 by Chase Briscoe, who made it through by only a single point, and this marks another Championship winner eliminated from the playoffs. Fan favorite Daniel Suarez has also been eliminated from the playoffs. Rookie Austin Cindric was also eliminated after losing multiple points due to a failed “go-big-or-go-home” dive bomb attempt. Alex Bowman, who suffered concussion-like symptoms, rounds out the series of eliminated drivers in the Round of 12.
The Monday after the race, Cole Custer and crew chief were handed penalties on the grounds of race manipulation. The officials took into account Custer’s action to slow down on the final laps, blocking off potential Round of Eight candidates, including Austin Cindric, as an attempt to help teammate Chase Briscoe secure more points to advance, which proved to be successful. This saw Custer receive a heavy penalty of 100,000 USD plus 50 drivers and 50 owner points taken away. In addition to the above, crew chief Mike Shiplett had also been fined 100,000 USD and indefinitely suspended from NASCAR.
This has raised questions around the community about the officiating, due to the fact that this has been happening frequently throughout the seasons. Whether it was Tyler Reddick helping Austin Dillon in Daytona, or Chase Elliot and Larson in 2021, etc. NASCAR’s officials need a slap in the head, and need to get more consistent in their officiating. Whether it’s consistently good or consistently poor, like the NFL in recent times, the audience needs consistency. If calls aren’t consistent, what is the point of professional officials?
I have been saying this for a long time, the community has been saying this for a long time: NASCAR, get better.
This concludes the crazy weekend in Royal. This was one of the best races in the 2022 season, and I can’t wait to see what unexpected events will occur next up, in Las Vegas.