Things Could Get Wild On The Road At CMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 23 2018

Martin Truex Jr. tested the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield road course recently. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Jim Fluharty)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Perhaps Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. provided the best summation of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s new challenging road course Monday when he said it would “break some people’s hearts.”

That’s heartbreak that could come in the form of elimination from the playoffs.

“It’s a wildcard for sure,” Truex said. “It’s not a place you want to come to and have to do something or have to have a great day, especially needing a win. It’s going to break some people’s hearts, no doubt about it.”

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile road course includes two chicanes – one near the end of the oval’s backstretch and another just off turn four on the frontstretch. Competitors will enter the road course at the end of pit road, wind through a portion of the infield, and then return to the oval at the entrance to the 1.5-mile speedway’s first turn. There is a 35-foot elevation change between the road course’s turn four – the track’s lowest point – and turn nine, its highest. It also has 440 temporary rumble strips constructed of steel.  

“I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to have one really excited person at the end of the Bank of America 500 and we’re going to have a lot of others who are not very happy at all,” Speedway Motorsports Inc. President and CEO Marcus Smith said. “Victory lane will be a fun place and pit road may need extra security.”

Named the Roval by speedway executives, it finally provides fans with a road course in the playoffs. It’s also the final race in the playoffs’ first segment when the field will be reduced from 16 to 12.  

“It’s a game changer,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said about the course. “One of the things you hear from our drivers, especially on road courses, is the ability to go on IRacing and try and learn the turns. In this case, it’s going to be new.”

It’s that newness and uncertainty that concern Truex.

“Running on the big track, going through turns three and four with that road course setup, it’s nothing like we do here. It feels totally different,” Truex said. “It’s pretty wild. Then you come off of (turn) four and you’re trying to stand on the brakes and slow it down for that chicane – it’s just crazy. There are going to be guys running off the track all day long just because it’s so hard to hit your marks; there’s not a lot of runoff room. There is no room for mistakes. It’s a really challenging race track.”

International road racing veteran Max Papis helped design the course and believes something has been developed that will be copied by numerous people in the future.

“The main challenge of the race track will be to really make all of the 17 corners as clean as you can,” Papis said. “The curbing will play a big part of it.”

Papis said there were at least three really heavy braking zones.

“The backstretch, you will reach it in fourth gear, at least well over 160,” Papis said. “After the chicane on the backstretch, you will roll wide open into the frontstretch, so that’s another really heavy braking opportunity. We emphasize a lot on the angle of the corner.”

Papis became involved in the project about 1 ½ years ago and noted the course continues to evolve.

“The main goal was making sure there was a flow to the track,” Papis said. “We also wanted to create suspense all the way to the last corner. You have the heaviest braking corner right in front of the grandstand with the opportunity to take at least three different lines in it.    
“I’m really convinced this (course) will be a surprise for a lot of people. I can promise you, it will not be boring.”  

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, January 23 2018
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