SANDERS: The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL Could Ignite A Trend In NASCAR

by September 28, 2018 0 comments

It’s finally here. The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. The most talked about and anticipated race of the season is upon the NASCAR community. The 17-turn road course is a true wild card as no driver has raced on its new format in a stock car. Anticipation and excitement are good for all sports, but for one with a grueling schedule like NASCAR, it is even more important.

After a few years of negotiations, CEO of Charlotte Motor Speedway Marcus Smith finally gets to try his experiment, which could reshape the NASCAR schedule as we know it or never to be seen again. Drivers, teams and fans are growing weary of the stagnant schedule in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the ROVAL could change things moving forward.

Whether the race is a fantastic, compelling road course event or a glorified demolition derby, the change is good for the sport. Races with multiple venues like Kansas, Las Vegas, Texas and Pocono may be more inclined to switch up their layout and give fans what they like, unpredictability, and drivers what they want, a new challenge.

It has come at an awkward time as the 1.5-mile ovals have produced much more invigorating racing this season than in prior years, but more road course and short tracks have been clamored for by drivers and fans alike and with the impending implementation of the drafting package in 2019, a track adding a ROVAL could provide two unique events. With the track contracts locked in, this can provide a stop-gap for negotiations before adding more permanent road courses like Circuit of the America’s or Road America to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule or simply provide track owners with another option moving forward.

Drivers are anxious about the unknowns going into the ROVAL weekend, not only due to the nature of the circuit, but also because it is a NASCAR Playoff race. A first turn pile-up or a broken transmission could mean game over.

Usually going into a road course event, names like Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and A.J. Allmendinger are the favorites, but with the vast number of young competitors driving on road courses in Legends cars and other series, someone like William Byron could be a favorite. With the dominance of the Big-Three this season, it could provide the chance for not only a different winner, but a new winner. Drivers below the cutoff line will have to be aggressive but stay out of the unforgiving concrete barriers and be smart to control wheel hop.

The Bank of American ROVAL 400 could also be an inadvertent experiment for a road course event as the ROVAL is a tight, twisty course lined with unforgiving concrete walls and a mixture of surfaces with differing grip levels. NASCAR is in a state of transition, where drivers, sponsorships and the sport in general has to adapt to the changing economic climate. If the sport is insistent on a 36-points race season, then adding a few ROVALs and a couple of short tracks can give fans more incentive to spend their hard-earned money on the sport and could possibly bring in newer and younger fans. Furthermore, Formula One, IndyCar, IMSA and the Supercars championship can make street courses work, so NASCAR theoretically could too.

Unpredictability is part of the allure of auto racing, and the ROVAL has the opportunity to seize just that. Everyone in the sport wants the ROVAL to be a success, but will it? Who knows, and that’s the best part.

The Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will broadcast live on NBC and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com

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