What’s the best “Road” to Charlotte?
Ryan Newman had a novel thought.
Prior to racing the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy Cup Playoffs, why not test the current road course at Daytona International Speedway in July?
Daytona road course first?
Given that the track has used the course for IMSA racing during the Rolex 24, the layout is a known commodity for many competitors.
“I think we should do it at Daytona in July first to get a good taste for it,” Newman told Motorsport.com. “Put us on a race track that we, as drivers, probably seventy percent of us have some experience with it. And put us in a position where we can do a litmus test for what that would be.
“If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. But I’m all for it. I’d rather go to a road course in Birmingham than go to Talladega in the Chase. And I’d rather, right now at least, run the road course in Charlotte than the oval, which we’ve already done twice that year. So….”
AJ Allmendinger, who performed the road course test at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has won the Rolex 24 at Daytona, suggested Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a possibility. IMS also has used the Brickyard’s road course for Formula One, IndyCar, IMSA and Moto GP. But for the last few years, NASCAR racing has left fans cold at the iconic track.
“I like change. I like the opportunities and obviously, I’m going to be biased towards it,” Allmendinger said of adding another road course to the schedule. “But I will say the infield (Daytona) getting into Turn 1, it’s pretty tight. Now Charlotte, it was pretty tight as well. I think you could make (Daytona) work.
“What it comes down to, if they are looking at change–and that is a change–then great. Whatever it takes to build more excitement into some of these races. Especially during the summer stretch, or like NASCAR talked about, if it was for the Chase at Charlotte, just to change something up to bring some more excitement to it.
“I look at probably the best road course to try it on would be the Indy road course, being able to drive that race track before, when I was in the Rolex cars. I think that would be a fun course to try it on, but if they want to keep adding road courses, I’m okay with it.”
Joey Logano has qualified for the Chase every season since moving to Team Penske in 2013. Had it not been for his run-in with Matt Kenseth in 2015, it’s likely that Logano would have been one of the final four drivers to transfer to the Championship Round of the Playoffs.
The effect of a road course on the Playoffs
Logano believes adding a road course would alter the complexion of the Playoffs, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“It will change some stuff, that’s for sure — a lot,” Logano said. “I don’t know how that will all work. Lucky for us, I feel like I’m a pretty good road racer. We’ve been able to be successful at Watkins Glen, for sure, and even had some success at Sonoma as of late.
“It’s definitely going to throw a loop, because there’s not a lot of drivers that have made a lap around the place (Charlotte’s road course). So I don’t even know what it’s going to be like, but neither do a lot of other drivers. It will definitely change up the Playoffs at that point, depending who can adapt and who’s a good road racer or not.”
Although logistically it’s easier said than done, Logano advocates shaking up the 10 races in the playoffs. Refreshing the schedule from time to time would offer a different dynamic in determining the champion.
“I like changing it up,” Logano said. “I think we should change up the races in the playoffs every year, in my opinion. It shouldn’t be the same races every year. I think it should end in different spots, do different things and mix it up every year.
“I know that’s hard to do with schedules and everything. At the end of the year, there’s some places that are really cold. But I think we should change it up all the time.”
Dillon is not a supporter
While some drivers embrace change, Austin Dillon isn’t one of them. He believes that switching over Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval into a road course is simply a quick fix that will not produce long-term benefits. Once the novelty wears off, Charlotte could be right back where it started. Dillon believes it will take more that just a road course in the Chase to reignite the passion of NASCAR’s fan base.
“If we put on good races at these ovals, which we are capable of doing, and we start rivalries and stuff like that, that’s what’s going to bring the fans back,” Dillon said. “I don’t think because we change the place we’re racing at is necessarily going to bring back the fans.
“We just have to race well and have a couple of people wreck and start fights, and people will be back at the tracks. You’ve just got to start some of these rivalries and get people latched into it and get them excited and make sure some of these drivers are making it exciting.
“To me, when you change something, you come to see it for the first time, and you might get a bump in the first time, but in the end it’s still got to be a good race. If the road course is not a good race, it’s going to be back to kind of where we were anyway. So I just think we need to put on good racing until we get there, and that will kind of fix itself.”