Through the Field: Playing It Smart
“Through the Field” is a seasonal column by Elliot Hicks. It follows the NASCAR season and provides broad driver analysis to support Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) and NASCAR betting. Elliot is in his third season writing the column and sharing his perspective on life with the In-Between Media community. This week, he discusses the importance of concussion protocol. He also shares his NASCAR DFS and betting picks as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course hosts the Bank of America Roval 400.
Controversy returned to the NASCAR Cup Series scene prior to the Talladega race after it was announced that Alex Bowman would miss the playoff race due to concussion-like symptoms.
We’ve seen Kurt Busch lose his playoff opportunity and miss roughly half the season once it’s all said and done. Now another driver facing head injuries, following what appeared to be relatively minor contact from a crash, has sparked concern over the Next Gen car.
Prioritizing Long-Term Health
Though that is certainly worthy of discussion, I’d rather focus on the fact that these drivers aren’t putting themselves at risk for further injury. They are taking the necessary precautions right away when the symptoms are present. A situation like we saw with Tua Tagovailoa happening when a driver is in the car would not be good, to say the least.
Without perhaps the most influential man in the sport, Dale Earnhardt Jr., taking time out of the car on two separate occasions late in his career, who knows if it would be happening as often today. But for the short and long-term health of Busch, Bowman or anyone else with head injuries that aren’t feeling 100 percent, it’s the correct choice to make, no matter how difficult it is.
Taking the time away to ensure that physical and mental health is well is vitally important in any scenario. Hell, I’ll even be looking forward to taking the time away from this column once the season is over.
Here’s hoping that Bowman’s head injury is the last of this season and that any issues are fixed heading into 2023.
The offseason will arrive sooner than we think, with just five races left in 2022. Next up, drivers meet in an elimination race at the Charlotte Roval. I’d say Chase Elliott would be a favorite, but clinching a spot in the next round with his Talladega win may result in a relaxed day for his No. 9 team. Bowman is also solid at the track, with the third-best average finish there. However, I don’t anticipate him being able to race. Here’s who you should be watching this weekend;
Charlotte’s 2022 Bank of America Roval 400 Best Bets
Ryan Blaney (+1500): Ryan Blaney has yet to win this season, but has remained one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit. In the last four races, removing his issues at Bristol, he’s finished no worse than ninth. He “backed into” a win here in 2018 and could become the 20th different winner in 2022 with a checkered flag there again.
Kyle Larson (+800): Kyle Larson hasn’t shown the same dominance that he did last season, but I expect him to be the best Hendrick Motorsports car on Sunday. Though the road course finishes haven’t always been there for the No. 5 this year, I expect a good run here, similar to his Watkins Glen win or Sonoma third-place finish.
AJ Allmendinger (+1200): With the news leaking out that AJ Allmendinger will be returning to Cup in 2023 full-time, I am immediately high on his prospects long-term to return to perhaps unprecedented success for his Cup career – with the amount of road courses on the schedule and how well he and Kaulig Racing have gelled with each other. Why not start the celebrations early with a win at the Charlotte Roval for yet another playoff victory spoiler?