Who cheats when nothing’s on the line?
NASCAR Cup Series drivers with an uncontrollably competitive urge, perhaps.
A second group of drivers returns Tuesday for testing the new, one-of-a-kind Roval course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
They’ll run a course that NASCAR altered during the first phase of testing last week after several drivers took a shortcut by running through one of two chicanes instead of following the designated course, according to Jim Utter at Motorsport.com. The chicane in question, an extra twist in the course marked off by rumble strips, was designed to slow drivers down before entering Turn 3.
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To stop drivers from bypassing the chicane, track officials stopped testing to install more rumble strips and a tire barrier there. That seemed to work. Reports indicate that when Brad Keselowski drove over the new set of rumble strips, his car left the ground.
The basic layout of the Roval course — 2.28 miles, 17 turns and a 35-foot change in elevation — remained unchanged. It’s just harder to cheat the chicane.
It’s also possible that the drivers just need more time to learn the course, which will be used for first time in the Sept. 30 Bank of America Roval 400. That will mark an historic first: The Cup Series has never run a playoff race on a road course before.
The drivers that tested the track last week say they expect mistakes to be plentiful in the fall, reported NBC Sports’ Daniel McFadin.
“Basically if you make a mistake you hit something,” Kasey Kahne said.
Seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson said he never felt comfortable on the new track layout and expects many drivers won’t make it to the end of the 109-lap race.
“You’re on pins and needles, afraid you’re going to bust your butt,” Jimmie Johnson said. “There’s not a calm place around here.”
That “400” in the race name is kilometers, by the way, just under 250 miles, a bit less than half the distance of last year’s race on the track’s traditional oval.
But this might end up as a classic “less is more” scenario for fans at Charlotte’s first Roval race.
The challenging road course is unlike anything else in NASCAR. Even with testing and practice, not a single driver will have run the Roval under real race conditions before that weekend. And there’s added playoff tension.
All that makes for the possibility that Charlotte’s fall race could be more fun to watch than ever before.
▪ Drivers scheduled for Tuesday’s testing: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Alex Bowman, William Byron, A.J. Allmendinger, Ty Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon, Trevor Bayne, Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman and Chris Buescher. That’s subject to change, of course.
▪ Testing is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an hour break for lunch at noon. However, last week’s cheating — it’s sad that “chicanery” doesn’t quite work here — forced a two-hour stoppage to install the rumble strips and tire barriers, and testing ran an hour late.
▪ Weather reports for Tuesday’s testing indicate mostly cloudy skies with a high in the low 90s and about a 20 percent chance of rain.