Charlotte Motor Speedway introduces final road-course layout

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CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR and track officials revealed a revised layout Monday for the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, which will make its debut in September’s race weekend.

The new layout, which combines the 1.5-mile oval with the infield road-racing section, removes what was labeled Turn 8 on the original track map, released last October. The final version of the circuit will be 2.28 miles over 17 turns instead of 2.4 miles over 18 turns, reducing lap times and making the infield section less technical.

The final layout was the centerpiece of Speedway Motorsports Inc.’s kickoff to the annual NASCAR Media Tour, a three-day stretch of announcements and media availabilities. Marcus Smith, SMI’s president and chief operating officer, said the new layout should save 15-20 seconds per lap, with benefits from the addition of a short straightaway before the infield portion transitions onto the oval.

“It’s really fun to drive, but felt like maybe the best racing would be if we bypassed that lower loop area and created a faster short chute to the turn onto the main track,” Smith said. “It’s really fun. Driving for fun is a lot different than driving it to win a race, so the testing that’ll happen out here in March, I’m really excited to see it.”

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The layout is scheduled to host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Bank of America 500 on Sept. 30. The race is scheduled as the finale to the Round of 16 in the playoffs, with four drivers eliminated from postseason eligibility.

That placement on the schedule drew the attention of defending series champion Martin Truex Jr., on hand for the festivities in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield. According to Truex’s view, the 10-race postseason stretch may have just added another wild-card event.

“I would throw this in the category of Talladega in that round,” Truex said. “It’s a wild-card for sure, and it’s not a place you want to come to and have to do something or have to have a great day, and especially needing a win. It’s going to break some people’s hearts, there’s no doubt about it.”

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Teams have already had some experience with the concept of a combination oval and road course at Charlotte, having a limited test here last Oct. 18. A Goodyear tire test at the 2.28-mile track is scheduled March 20-21.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, indicated there was some initial talk of prepping the road-course circuit for last year’s playoffs, but that NASCAR and track officials opted to make sure the track had sufficient vetting and testing before it was approved for competition.

“We all collectively took a pause and said, hey, let’s do this and make sure we’re right,” O’Donnell said. “Get Goodyear involved as much as we could and have some contingency plans. Same with the race teams, let them go out and experience the course a little bit. Think we feel real comfortable about what it is. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody. We’ll have proper testing and be ready to go.”

The weekend will also feature the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina on Sept. 29. It’s set as the second event in the Xfinity Series’ seven-race playoffs and will be run on the road course.