In Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at the Charlotte Roval, 51 of the 59 scheduled laps in the final stage went caution-free but not without playoff drivers being victims of attrition, including Trackhouse Racing’s two drivers.
Daniel Suarez fell to 38th, off the lead lap, as he battled an issue that made his car nearly undriveable. Finally, on Lap 83, with a plan in mind, Suarez came to pit road for the crew to look under the hood and replenish the steering fluid.
On Lap 85, Suarez rejoined the race as teammate Ross Chastain pitted for a suspension issue.
Chastain spent some time on pit road before the team did a full fix in the garage, which went until Lap 94 when he finally rejoined the race.
Suarez and Chastain finished 36th and 37th, five and nine laps down respectively, ahead of Joey Hand who crashed out in the final stage.
Daniel Suarez missed the Round of 8 by nine points, despite earning 13 stage points and entering the race 12 points ahead of the cutline.
Ross Chastain, however, made the Round of 8 by six points, aided by a Stage Two win that netted him 10 points. Had Chastain finished eighth or worse in Stage Two, he would’ve missed the round and locked Kyle Larson in.
Like Chastain, Kyle Larson encountered suspension issues in the final stage. Like Suarez, Larson earned plenty of stage points – a race-high 14 points. Even after the issues, Larson had a 7-point advantage during the red flag before overtime.
However, overtime changed everything.
Christopher Bell charged to a win and Chase Briscoe to a 9th-place finish which locked each of them into the Round of 8 and eliminated Larson and Suarez after the Round of 12.
Larson missed by 2 points after finish 34th, 5 laps down. He tied Kyle Busch in 2020 and Jimmie Johnson in 2014 for the earliest elimination of a defending champion.
Larson is 9th in points with 2,200, while Bell is 10th in points, 38 points behind him. Bell and Briscoe are 4th and 8th in points, +3 and -9 respectively.
*pending an appeal of a 100-point penalty, amount doesn’t include the penalty