Earlier this month, Charlotte Motor Speedway unveiled its new ‘Roval’ course, a mix of the traditional oval track and a new infield road course segment.
This week, drivers finally got to try it out.
And the results were ... well, mixed.
“Definitely an interesting track, still trying to figure it all out. ... It’s been a unique challenge here with the infield all being flat and the racetrack having the banking that it has,” Martin Truex Jr., this year’s Bank of America 500 winner, said Wednesday. “It’s been growing on me a bit since we started on it yesterday.
“Just gonna tell you it’s very narrow. It’s very rough. There’s a lot of squiggles and whoop-de-doos and, I mean, there’s all kinds of craziness going on.”
Truex was just one of the drivers testing the Roval this week as part of a Goodyear Tire Test. Joining him were fellow Cup series drivers Jamie McMurray and Kurt Busch, plus Xfinity driver Daniel Hemric, a Kannapolis native.
“It’s going to be more about survival and being smart,” Busch said. “That’s what I see developing with this type of layout.”
For all the kinks in the track, there’s plenty of time to make changes. There won’t be a true race on the Roval until next September’s Bank of America 500, and there will be plenty of other tests between now and then.
As of now, the track has 18 turns and is 2.42 miles long. The novelty is that it’s basically two drastically different styles of driving – Truex said his top speeds were in the 175 mph range, and his minimum speeds were as low as the 40s and 50s.
“Don’t know that I’ve ever run on a road course that’s anything like it,” Truex said. “The bumps and the humps, and Charlotte isn’t a smooth track to begin with, and then you add in the infield, which has been around a long time, and it has a lot of swells in it.”
Busch and Truex have both made suggestions about potential alterations to the track, one of which may help speed up the race some. Busch wondered whether it was possible to eliminate one turn to create more of a straightaway for drivers and cut down on the awkward tightness of the track.
The Roval will surely command more attention over the next year, as it’s inaugural running is slated to be the first playoff cutdown race of next season. It’s also the first playoff road course in NASCAR history, so the race itself should be rather unpredictable.
“I’m gonna be hoping I win one of the first two of that round,” Truex said at the thought of racing here in the playoffs next season. “I’m gonna put this right in there with Talladega.”
Considering only 14 drivers finished last weekend’s race at Talladega without crashing out – and that the superspeedway is consider the wild card of the current playoff tracks – that says something about the Roval.
Now we’ll have to wait and see if that prediction comes true.