THE LEFT TURN

The next NASCAR "roval?" 3 possible tracks that could benefit from a layout change

Could Daytona host the next "roval" race? Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Last week, for the first time in the series history NASCAR employed their Road Course/Oval Combination at Charlotte Motor Speedway and The outcome was a rousing success. Whether it was for first place or 15th place, there were battles for position all around the racetrack and the finish of the race was one that will always be remembered.  

Fan favorite Ryan Blaney was able to pass the spinning cars of Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr. to claim his second career victory and first of the season. This race helped launch the sport back into the spotlight as it was one of the most talked about races all season. With the success that came with the race, this opens up the discussion for which of the tracks on the schedule could benefit in transitioning into a road course in the future.

While there are plenty of great road courses and ovals around the country that the sport doesn’t currently go to and would love to see a race at, that is an article for a later date. (it is important to note that there are no immediate plans for NASCAR to run another “roval” aside from Charlotte in the future, these are simply ideas that NASCAR could consider).

Daytona International Speedway: We Start off with the most obvious of tracks in Daytona. While the most famous race track in NASCAR isn’t likely to become a road course in the foreseeable future because the two traditional Daytona races are two of  the most anticipated races of all season. It would be very feasible to turn the world center of racing into a road course. This track is one of the many on the schedule that is a “multi-purpose” race track that goes through an enclosed section of the infield as the IMSA Sports car series runs their annual  24 hours of Daytona there while  the AMA Sports bike series runs their Daytona 200 around a condensed layout of the course.

Even though certain favorable aspects of the track that we see with the traditional Daytona oval layout would be eliminated, it would still be captivating to see the drivers try and get around the track. One possible issue that could arise is the chicane in the back straight away appropriatly named “the bus stop.”  Entering these corners, The cars would be traveling at a high rate of speed from corners No. 1 and 2 that getting slowed down in time could be difficult. One solution to this though is to run the 10-turn motocourse configuration which, like I stated earlier is shortened. The one thing that would stand in the way of this happening is how great the racing is already and many fans might not appreciate losing a restrictor plate race.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Of all the tracks to possibly install a new road course configuration after Charlotte, this one is probably the most likely. Completed in 2000, the Speedway’s CEO and then President, Tony George wanted to bring a Formula One race to the track so he constructed a road course layout of the track which began in turns three and four of the oval and ran adjacent to the track's golf course in the infield. If  NASCAR was to race on the road course, it would drum up tons of interest that wasn’t particularly there for the oval. I truly would love to see the drivers try and adjust to the new version of the the track and how they would manage with the new layout and how they would adjust. While on the surface it might be a long shot now, don’t be surprised if in the future, the Brickyard is announced as the next “roval” on the schedule.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway: This is a track that doesn’t quite generate a lot of buzz around the circuit and one characteristic about the track that often gets overlooked is it’s incredible built in road course that extends all the way outside of the race track. Used primarily for motorcycle races and Sports car clubs, this track has several elevation changes and plenty of grooves to race around outside the track's oval. The only issue that would come with this layout is that the fans can not see what is going on around the road course area but with built in bleachers in that area of the track and the TV Screen that follows the track, I think that owner Bruton Smith could find a way to make it work like he did for Charlotte. While New Hampshire is extremely unlikely to do this in the future and there maybe a few logistical issues to work out but it is something that I would love to see and I am sure it would bring a lot more interest that may have not been there to begin with.

While some fans will read this and think adding more of these types of race tracks to the schedule would ruin the novelty of the Charlotte race, I believe adding more tracks like the one we saw on Sunday would only make the sport more interesting to watch, it would also be more challenging for the drivers to adjust to  new configurations. It should be interesting to see where the sport goes when they finally do decide to change up the schedule whenever that may be.

 

THE LEFT TURN

NASCAR Ford Ecoboost 500 preview

Martin Truex will try to send his team out in style. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

This week, the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series heads to Sunny Homestead-Miami Florida for the final race of the 2018 season, The Ford Ecoboost 500. After 36 weeks of battle, this race decides who will represent the sport as champion. Homestead-Miami  has played host for the season finale for the last 16 seasons. This is arguably the biggest race in all of NASCAR considering what is on the line and there is no better place in the world for it to take place. This track is a mile and a half in length and is known for its 18- degree banking in the corners. Over the years, the track has produced some of the best finishes in recent memory and with everything that’s at stake this week should be an all-time classic.

Last week at Phoenix, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag to officially cement his spot in the championship four. He did so after his brother Kurt Busch was involved in a multi-car crash involving him, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott. In the closing stages of the race, Hamlin entered turn four and got into the side of Kurt Busch causing both to hit the wall bouncing back into Chase Elliott.

Hamlin was criticized for his “lack of respect” for the situation that Busch and Elliott were in contending for a championship. At first glance it was easy to understand why fans were upset but upon further review of the video, it would appear that the track was not maintained properly by NASCAR’s clean up crew.  On NASCAR Race Hub Radioactive segment, Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. was quoted as saying “they didn’t clean up the bleeping track for one thing. Everyone went down there and it was like ice. They just don’t get it.” His Crew Chief Cole Pern responeded by saying “yeah they do, it creates excitement. That’s their plan.”

These are fairly serious allegations but it isn’t so farfetched seeing NASCAR has made some pretty dumb calls regarding track maintenance in the past. For example, last season at Dover, they decided to restart the race without fully cleaning the backstretch. This oversight caused Ty Dillon to spin and collect multiple cars with him in the crash. While it may not be intentional and it is definitely difficult to manage these instances but they are proof that NASCAR could do a much better job at track maintenance and cleaning up the track. Let’s hope they have learned their lesson from last week because it has cost two drivers a chance at a championship.

Of the four drivers, Joey Logano enters Homestead as the only one who has never won a title. He has however made it to the championship race three times including this year in 2018. Each attempt has ended in heartbreak whether it be dropping the car off the jack during a pit-stop in 2014, or being involved in a late race crash in 2016. This year Logano hopes that history won't repeat itself and will finally claim his first championship. If he is to win it, it will have been well deserved seeing how he has an excellent season. This year, Logano has 12 top fives, 25 top-10s and two victories including the win that got him here at Martinsville. While he has lurked in the shadows of his competition, he has consistently been in around the front all season. While Logano has a good chance to win the title, the one variable that he must be weary of are the drivers that he  has upset over the duration of the season including Martin Truex Jr and Aric Almirola. Regardless, Logano looks to have a real shot at winning his first title.

Easily, Martin Truex Jr, enters this race as the sentimental favorite to win the championship. As most fans know, Furniture Row racing will cease operations after this race. Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn have been the spark that have made this team a championship winning organization and now he has a chance to come back and send his team off with one last championship, This has been a rollercoaster type season for him though and while he has been in contention, Truex has yet to win a race since the announcement of his teams closure. In the end though, I don’t foresee this being an issue at Homestead. This is a track where Truex has struggled although as he has the lowest average finish of the group but he has shown that he can win here. Truex has a lot working against him but he still has a great shot at winning his second title.

After last week’s debacle, Kevin Harvick comes to Homestead with a chip on his shoulder. After his win was disallowed two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway, he looks to come in and prove his doubters wrong by claiming his second championship. If he does pull it off, he has definitely earned it with how incredible he has ran this year. Overall He has 22 top fives and 28 top tens with an average finish of 9.0! In percentages, he has finished in the top 10 in 80 percent of the races this year. This has easily been the most dominant season of his career as he has won more races now than ever before even in his championship winning season in 2014. Come Sunday, Harvick is going to be hard to beat.

While Harvick has had the best season statistically, Kyle Busch has come pretty close to matching the success of his championship rival. This year, Busch has eight wins, twenty-one top fives and twenty-seven top tens, nearly identical to the stats that Harvick has been able to put up. After winning last week at Phoenix, Busch comes to homestead with the most momentum on his side and when you get this 18 team in a rhythm they are hard to catch. Besides no one has made it to Homestead more than Kyle Busch as he has only missed the final round one time since the sport adopted this format in 2014. Look for Busch to be around the top three for most of the day as he looks to clinch his second NASCAR Championship.

Over the past four years that we have seen this format, I think this is easily the best four drivers we have ever seen make it to Homestead. Unlike the previous years, we won’t see a driver who got on a hot streak at the end of the season like we did with Ryan Newman in 2014 or Jeff Gordon in 2015. This is the cream of the crop and that’s why I think this will be one of the most memorable championship battles of all time. I look forward to seeing who gets to hoist the trophy come sunday evening.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

 

 

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