NASCAR fans will be treated to a brand-new fan experience that the sport has never seen before at the 2018 Bank of America 500. The series recently previewed the new “Roval” track format, which is a hybrid between the standard NASCAR oval track and a road course – is anything but traditional.
After inviting several veteran racers, including Mario Andretti and Jeff Gordon, and current star Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take some laps on the Roval, Charlotte Motor Speedway has gotten some great feedback on their new track, and NASCAR has officially approved it for its inaugural run at the 2018 BofA 500. It will be an exciting change for drivers, a difficult challenge for race teams, and a fresh fan experience for NASCAR enthusiasts who have never seen this format in the playoffs.
How Charlotte Motor Speedway Invented the Roval
Charlotte’s first proposal was to build an entire road course, to introduce some diversity into the playoff series. Race teams balked at the proposal, objecting that they would be required to create and maintain an entirely different car just for that one track. The compromise that CMS came up with is the “Roval,” which incorporates several elements from the road course they envisioned, while also using most of the traditional oval track.
The Roval track includes 18 turns over 2.4 miles of asphalt. The road course is situated inside the CMS infield, allowing the two courses to be combined to create one long and winding lap. In addition to the many sharp turns on the road course, drivers will also contend with a 35-foot change in elevation. The new course is being praised as an exciting development by many NASCAR drivers, but it is also expected to present a unique and difficult challenge to race crews.
Praise from Drivers for the New Fan Experience
“It’s difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” said veteran driver Mario Andretti. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line … depending on the capability of the car.”
“The track has definitely got potential,” said current NASCAR driver A.J. Allmendinger. “I had a lot of fun driving it. It’s a perfect mix for a race team to set up, whether you go for a full oval setup or somewhat of a road course setup. It’ll be a big challenge for the teams.
Former driver Jeff Burton expressed some concern upon hearing of the change. But after driving the track himself, he was full of praise for the design. “This is an exciting track. All the misconceptions I had about the track being too narrow, the no-passing zones, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, they slowly started going away once I got here and actually saw the track and drove on the track.”
Only the Latest from a Track Recognized for Innovation
Marcus Smith, president and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc – which owns the track – remarked that Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about innovation. He believes that the introduction of a road course to close out the first round of the playoffs will add drama and excitement to the fan experience.
In addition to being the first road course in the history of the NASCAR Playoffs, the Roval will also be the first NASCAR track to use synthetic turf in its design. The front stretch chicane between the fourth turn and the finish line is made from synthetic grass. The turf is designed to slow cars down as they come off of the oval track, while also cutting down the amount of dirt and debris that gets thrown up onto the track. This design has been used in Formula One, but the synthetic turf at Charlotte Motor Speedway is its first introduction on a NASCAR track.
Gearing Up for the First Fan Experience of the Roval
When the Bank of America 500 takes place on Sunday, September 30th, 2018 – it will be a day of firsts for NASCAR. It will be the first NASCAR road course in the 58-year history of the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It will be the first road course in the 14-year history of the NASCAR Playoff Series. And it will be the first new track introduced to the NASCAR Cup Series since 2011.
Marcus Smith believes this is a recipe for an unparalleled fan experience. “Tension will be high, and competition will be fierce as soon as the green flag drops.”
Steve O’Donnell, EVP and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR echoed Smith’s excitement about the new fan experience. “We applaud Marcus for the vision for putting this together. The fans wanted road courses in the playoffs, this does just that. [It has] a lot of exciting elements.”
Bringing the New Fan Experience to the Tailgating Lot
Here at TGSM, we will be keeping an eye on the news coming out of Charlotte over the next year as we approach the inaugural run of the Roval. We think it will be an excellent addition to the Playoff Series, and we can’t wait to see the new track in action.
Our only concern is about the loss of infield accessibility and how it will affect the overall fan experience. The infield is obviously an important aspect of the race day experience for some fans, and we will be interested to see whether the track compensates by placing more emphasis on other elements of the event in the concourses, the tailgating lot, and elsewhere.
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