About this time last year, NASCAR announced that they were running the fall Charlotte Motor Speedway race using the infield road course tied in with the oval. My son and I decided that we really needed to see this for ourselves, firsthand. So yesterday, we arrived in Charlotte and spent the day today watching Cup and Xfinity cars practice, ending with Cup qualifying. What a hoot.
We like road courses, and we have a lot of experiences with road courses in the southeast driving various cars – none of them ton-and-a-half V8 NASCAR cars, though. Since the Cup drivers only see two road courses a year, seeing them attempt to negotiate Charlotte’s 2.2 mile, very tight road course would prove to be interesting to say the least.
The Xfinity drivers go to several road courses in their schedule, and after watching today’s activities, it was easy to see that the Xfinity drivers were smoother and seemed to have it more together than the Cup folks. The Xfinity cars have much lower power, but were only two MPH slower than the Cup cars.
If you haven’t seen anything of the Charlotte ROVAL – yea, that is what they call it – the oval part is a 1.5 mile banked trioval. What they have done is include an entrance – Turn One – just after start-finish and at the end of pit road, going left, right, right, right, right, left and left back to the oval, near where they entered. The infield course has some elevation change, off-camber turns and one place where you cannot see what hides at the end of the right-hander. To help control speeds, there is a bus-stop sort of chicane at the end of the back straight, then another on the front straight between the entrance to pit road and the start-finish line.
I won’t predict what will happen when they actually race here wheel to wheel on Saturday, but it should be interesting. Very interesting. Check back for updates.
Ken Squier was on hand at the track today doing play-by-play, and he had something interesting to say. To paraphrase, he said that we were there to witness the “new look of NASCAR.” More road course races?
How about the July 4th race in Daytona on the Rolex course?
UPDATE! It’s now Sunday Evening, and the race weekend has ended. Generally speaking, the NASCAR Cup regulars are definitely NOT seasoned road course drivers, but they did a great job nonetheless. Worth the trip, and worth another look!
Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.