Cup Drivers Test Tires On Charlotte’s ‘Roval’

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 19 2017

Kurt Busch, driving the No. 14 car of Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer, drives past signage for the “Roval” at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a tire test on Wednesday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – “Interesting”, “challenging”, “intimidating” and “tricky” are just a few of the words used Wednesday by NASCAR drivers to describe Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course that will be used next year for the Bank of America 500.

“(We’re) still trying to figure it all out,” said Martin Truex Jr., one of four drivers participating in a two-day Goodyear tire test at the facility. “It’s not our typical road course. It’s been a unique challenge with the infield all being flat and the race track having the banking that it has.

“With the chicane on the back straightaway, you go from the race track banking to the flat in the middle of it, so it’s a huge challenge there. Then coming off of turn four, you’re 18 degrees and you transition down to about 8 degrees and then all of a sudden you hit the flat again in that chicane. So those transitions have been pretty challenging and tricky. It’s definitely an interesting track.”

The 2.42-mile course utilizes the 1.5-mile speedway and its infield road course. Turn one is the turn that takes the cars off the oval and onto the road course. A driver must then negotiate eight turns before returning to the oval, which has two chicanes – one on the backstretch and one on the frontstretch. Kurt Busch noted the road course was similar to the one used by Daytona International Speedway for its 24-hour race, just shorter.

Named the “Roval”, the 18-turn course will be the first road course race in NASCAR playoff history. It will be used for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series races scheduled for Sept. 28-30 next year, and will mark the first Cup race on a road course-oval configuration. The 500 kilometer, 130-lap race will be the cutoff event in the playoffs’ first

Kurt Busch powers through a curve in the CMS “Roval” during Wednesday’s tire test. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

round. That fact has Truex already hoping he wins one of the first two races in the 2018 playoffs’ opening round.

“I’m putting this race right in there with Talladega (as a wildcard event),” Truex said. “There are a lot of places we can crash (on this course). I’m not real sure about the passing yet.”  

Busch believes the race will be about survival and being smart.

“We have an 800 horsepower car and we’re driving it through these corners designed in an infield that are not on a permanent style road course,” Busch said. “Therefore, a lot of the corners are sharp and low grip. We’re always trying to put the power down and we are sliding the tires quite a bit. We may need to speed up the track a little bit.”

Truex said the test began Tuesday with tires used at Watkins Glen, but he believed they were too hard. Busch agreed, saying he would like to see a softer tire because the course was more like Sonoma than Watkins Glen.

“I think the average speed caught people by surprise,” Busch said. “We were all focused on the high speed number, so the average speed of the track is a little slower than anticipated. It’s very difficult to balance a tire and its durability for a 165 mph road course setup on an oval and still have it get the grip we need for all of the slow speed sections.”         

Truex said there were many “exciting” parts to the track.

“It’s very narrow. It’s very rough,” Truex said. “There are a lot of swells and whoop-tee-dos. There are all kinds of craziness going on. Turn one and turn two are pretty wild, narrow; concrete walls on both sides so it’s a little intimidating. There were a lot of spots that kinda made me nervous most of the day yesterday (Tuesday); getting more used to them now. Definitely need to look at some walls and tire barrier options.”

Daniel Hemric, who was driving a Cup car for the first time in his career, said “you almost get tunnel vision” due to the layout of some of the walls.

“It adds a different element, which I think will be cool for the fans,” Hemric said. “I think it will add a bit of a speed sensation for the drivers. There is not a lot of runoff room so it makes us know that we have to be as perfect as we can be every single lap.”

Truex put the top speed on the course at 175 mph, but he wasn’t sure about the low speed, estimating it at 40-to-50 mph. He cited turn nine, the last turn on the road course before the cars return to the oval, as the slowest section.   

“It’s just a unique track,” Truex said. “I don’t know that I’ve ever run on a road course that’s anything like it because all of the elevation changes inside the track, the bumps and the humps. Charlotte is not a smooth track to begin with and then you add in the infield which has been around for a long time and there are a lot of swells in it. It’s a unique challenge.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 19 2017
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