For the first time in the NASCAR Playoffs drivers will compete on a road course. And for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Charlotte Motor Speedway will be turned into a road course — the Charlotte road course, or the Roval as it is popularly being called.
Here’s what to know about the new track before Sunday’s race, the Bank of America Roval 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Series racing on the Roval: Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series
Length: 2.28 miles
Change in elevation: 35 feet
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Speedway Radials (Cup: 3 sets for practice, 1 set for qualifying, 7 sets for race; Xfinity: 8 sets for the event).
Driving in the rain? Yes, wet weather tires will be on hand should conditions warrant their use. Cup teams are allowed two sets of “wets” for practice and up to four sets for the race; Xfinity teams are allowed up to two sets of “wets” for practice and up to two sets for the race.
Penalty for short-cutting any part of the course: If you short-cut the course (ie: blow through the chicane), you will be required to come to a full stop in one of the pre-determined zones (the restart zone alongside Turns 15-17 if the violation occurs in the Turn 11-12 chicane; the apron before the start/finish line if the violation occurs in Turns 15-17). Teams would be assessed a pass-through penalty if drivers fail to serve their penalties by stopping in the designated areas. Read More
What about restarts? Restarts will not include the chicane in the trioval so that all cars are on an even-playing field, and that the front of the pack does not have an advantage over the back.
Will “local” cautions be in effect? Yes. A spin or incident on certain portions of the track may not yield a full-course caution, but rather a blue flag specific to the area of the track where the incident occurred to warn competitors of an issue.
Playoff implications: This is the first elimination race in the 2018 playoffs for the Monster Energy Series. Twelve playoff drivers in the 16-driver field will advance to the Round of 12 next week at Dover. For the Xfinity Series, this is the second race in the opening round of the playoffs.
The schedule: NASCAR’s top division hasn’t had three road courses in a single season since 1987, when the series visited Riverside (California) International Raceway twice and Watkins Glen once. The Roval’s placement on the Monster Energy Series schedule also breaks up the all-oval monopoly that had held since the 10-race postseason format was introduced in 2004.
The tight confines: Unlike Watkins Glen and Sonoma, which both have gravel traps and paved run-off areas, the Charlotte oval/road course offers few places to veer off course in the event of a problem. That’s led to more than a handful of significant wrecks during testing, with drivers pushing the limits of the curbing and tire barriers that define the course.
Gallons of paint used to give Roval its look: 5,400 (RoadGrip, a British track surface painting company, painted the course. Mycroft Signs painted the frontstretch turf, the wall designs and signage, giving the Roval Grand Prix-style visuals.)
The ‘grass:’ Track officials installed 112,000 square feet of new synthetic turf in place of the existing frontstretch grass. The project stemmed from questions raised by Kevin Harvick among others about how to minimize damage from off-track skids. The intended goal is an even surface that prevents car bodies from digging into the turf. The first driver to overcook Turn 17 in practice will be the guinea pig.
Why is the pit wall pink? To salute breast cancer awareness. Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson led other drivers, celebrities and dignitaries in painting the 1,500-foot wall pink on Thursday, Sept. 20.
How big is the new pedestrian bridge? The 80-foot long, 22,000-pound infield pedestrian bridge is between Turns 2 and 3 and features an open walkway as well as two elevators and will allow spectators to access Roval camping and infield Circle K convenience store.
Track layout: See map below
Contributing: Zack Albert, George Winkler