This year, the Charlotte Motor Speedway will be hosting the NASCAR Cup Series, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the road course will be one of the highlights of the entire season! Although the great American sport of stock car racing has been around for almost a century, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the ultimate symbol of speed and performance – is still the gold standard for road courses. With its long and winding layout, the Indianapolis road course is still ranked as one of the most difficult race courses in the world.
But if you’re not familiar with the unique challenges of a road course, then here’s your chance to find out what they are. The Charlotte Motor Speedway is one of the biggest races in the world, so it stands to reason that the road course is going to be a whole lot of fun. The good news is that the NASCAR Cup Series road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway is only three laps long, so you’ll only need to keep count on one hand. The bad news is that the first two laps are essentially warm-up laps, so make sure you’re prepared for that before the race even starts.
What Is A Road Course?
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably already aware that a road course is simply an open-air racing circuit. The drivers take on the challenge of a winding, hilly course to prove their skill and determine the fastest lap for each individual race. Thanks to the Internet and Wikipedia, the general public is aware of what a road course is, so you won’t face any surprises there. Let’s take a look at some of the basics of a road course.
Lap Length Is Important
In most cases, the NASCAR Cup Series road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway is around three laps in length. As mentioned above, the first two laps are essentially “warm-up laps” for the actual racing. This means that even though it’s a three-lap race, the drivers will still be forced to slow down and make some strategic stops.
While it might be tempting to go all out on the first lap and completely whiff on the first corner, taking it easy on the first lap will actually make the difference between a good and a bad race. Going too fast on the first lap might cause you to brake or skid, and that’s what causes most accidents on a road course. Going too fast will also make you lose control of the vehicle, so instead of having an exciting and smooth ride, you’ll be experiencing a violent ride that could cause you injury. The same thing goes for the second lap, too. On the third and final lap, you’ll be able to put your foot down and really go for it. However, even on the final lap, you should still be mindful and aware of the corners and maintain control of the car.
The unique thing about a road course is that it throws up unique challenges for the drivers. To begin with, the turns are often tight and require precise steering to get the car up and around them sharply. Even when you get the hang of it, the twists and turns can literally challenge your brain’s ability to process what’s going on. Another unique aspect of a road course is that the elevation changes are often drastic, creating an instant rush of air that stings your face as you go past. If you’ve ever been to the top of a rollercoaster, then you know what I’m talking about.
One of the biggest challenges for any driver is keeping the vehicle under control. The slightest error in judgement can result in disaster. Another major issue is the space the cars occupy on the road, forcing you to share the road with other vehicles. This puts a premium on driving skill and awareness, as well as the ability to read the road signs and warnings clearly. Last but not least, the amount of wind resistance is totally different from that of a normal automobile, creating an additional element of danger from the very outset. A good chunk of the season is spent either battling the wind or having it blow under your hood, making it harder to keep cool with all that heating. This makes it even more critical to have a good strategy for the weather conditions and be ready to deal with a variety of situations. If you’re not, then it’s basically you versus nature on a wild and winding road, and the chances of you coming out on top are pretty slim. At least, that’s what the experts say.
As you can see, there are a variety of challenges that present themselves on a road course. Some of the above are specific to oval tracks while others are inherent to the format itself. It takes a special kind of driver to be able to handle all of that, which is why it’s considered one of the most difficult sports in the world. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a professional driver to have fun on a road course, just need a decent car and a driver’s license. I mean, it’s still not easy to find a parking spot on the right side of the track, as that’s usually reserved for the teams and staff. And who drives the car like a pro anyway? The people you watch on TV, of course! A whole season of NASCAR just to learn the ins and outs of a road course might not seem like a practical idea to you. Or, maybe you’re thinking that it’s only the drivers who get paid to drive those fancy cars on the track, not the people who park them on the side of the road. Rest easy, bro, cause that’s not how it works. The best part of a road course is being able to drive those cars as fast as you can, which is why you’ll find lots of amateurs competing in the sport. It’s all about having some fun before the end of the season, and maybe giving it a shot at winning a championship or two. You might actually end up having more fun than you know what to do with, trust me.
Hopefully, the above has provided you with enough information to have an idea of what a road course is and the unique challenges it presents. From there, you can decide if this is a sport you’d like to try out or if you’d prefer staying away from it. Regardless, have fun out there and remember to be careful and respectful of other drivers on the road!