June 24, 2012
By Kim Roberson
Today is one of two days each season that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes not only left, but right over the course of a race.
And it isn’t only the Sprint Cup Series making right turns, but the Nationwide Series took their turn at Road America in Wisconsin yesterday.
Since the inception of the Chase eight years ago, there has been a question of whether there should be a road course as part of the final ten races of the season. We currently go to the largest oval track on the circuit (Talladega) and the shortest (Martinsville), along with several “cookie cutter” 1.5-mile tracks (Chicago, Kansas, Charlotte, Texas, Homestead), however the closest road course to the Chase is a month before the Chase kicks off, when the Sprint Cup drivers hit the road at Watkins Glen, NY.
The usual argument for not having a road course in the Chase is that we only go to a road course twice in the 36 race season. But if you look at it as the “regular” season versus the “Chase”, we only go to a short track three times in the regular season, and yet we have Martinsville in the Chase. We only go to superspeedways three times in the regular season, yet we have Talladega in the Chase.
Don’t we want our Champion to face the challenge of taking on every kind of track they race on during the Chase, not just some of them?
Road course racing isn’t just the “lark” it used to be back when drivers hated the idea of having to turn both ways on a race track. Teams now spend days at the road course at Virginia International Raceway testing cars and getting drivers used to the feel of taking curves in both directions.
Some of the men who are classified on race days as “road course ringers” give classes to rookie drivers -- and not so rookie drivers -- on the best ways to enter and exit various turns and get on to and off of pit road “backwards” from the usual entry and exit.
Speaking of those ringers, a “ringer” hasn’t won a road course race in years, which begs the question as to why they are even in the race to begin with. Sprint Cup Series regulars like pole sitter Marcos Ambrose, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch have all proven they can contend for the trophy at the end of the day by turning in both directions. There has been a different winner at Sonoma every year since 2006 -- and every one of those different winners has been a Sprint Cup Series regular.
The only problem with having a road course in the chase is that all of the tracks that NASCAR uses over the course of the season, both in Cup and Nationwide, are in the north, and the Chase begins in early fall. If NASCAR were to add a race to the Chase, regardless of the track, it would have to be run in the first month -- any later and you would run the risk of cold weather interfering with track conditions.
This also begs the question, if there is a race in the final ten, where would it be run? Would the series go back to Sonoma or Watkins Glen, or would they add a third track, like Road America? Would the possibly go up to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, adding an international flair to the Chase, and allowing Canadian NASCAR fans a chance to be part of the “playoff” excitement?
Many of the people I queried in an unscientific poll feel now is as good a time as any to ensure that the men running for the NASCAR Spring Cup Series Championship prove their abilities on every kind of track they race on during the regular season. Five fans agreed that it would add diversity and excitement to the last ten races if a road course was added; only one felt that NASCAR was “an oval racing series with two oddity road races.”
I know I would certainly be happy to trade out one of those cookie-cutter races for something different like a road course.
What do you think? Should there be a road course in the Chase?
Drop me an e-mail or send me a tweet and let me know your thoughts on it. I’d love to hear your opinion!
Follow Kim on Twitter: @ksrgatorfn
The thoughts and ideas expressed by this writer or any other writer on Insider Racing News, are not necessarily the views of the staff and/or management of IRN.