Perhaps Dale Earnhardt Jr. is happy he’s retiring from NASCAR before the Cup Series runs on the infield road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2018.
Junior, who is retiring at the end of the season, said Friday that he wasn’t a big fan of the switch from the oval to the “roval” for Charlotte’s fall race. The roval will include nine turns throughout the infield in addition to the oval’s four corners.
He even went a step further when he was asked if the speedway had made a “desperate” move to add a traction compound to the high grooves in the corners for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. The racing at Charlotte, especially at night, has been far from spectacular in recent years and the hope is that the sticky stuff will make the high line competitive with the bottom groove in the corners.
“Well, they’re going to run that road course next year, so that tells you how desperate they are,” Junior said.
One of the potential flaws with the road course, Junior said, is the potential for cars to get strung out throughout the 2.4-mile course, especially on the parts of the track that are used for the oval.
“I’m not a big fan of the roval,” Junior said. “But you’ve got to be open-minded to it because what if it does do really well? I anticipate it will be more spread out than what we see at Sonoma and The Glen. Once these cars come out of the road course and go onto the track, they’re just going to distance from each other and so I don’t know, really, what a race like that is going to look like for stock cars. But, they’re going to try it. We’ve got a lot of other race tracks that are rovals as well, and if it happens to work, there are opportunities for them other tracks to do the same.”
The move to the Charlotte road course was made to spice up the racing at the track and to also add a road course to the Cup Series’ 10-race playoffs. But the roval race comes at the expense of the day race at Charlotte, which has traditionally had much better racing than night races at the track have had. The 2017 fall race, originally scheduled for Saturday night, was pushed to Sunday afternoon earlier in the season.
“I’m really excited to see how this race runs later this season that will start in the afternoon,” Junior said. “If we get deep into that race, like 250 or 300 miles, that place is going to be slick. This track changed so much just in that bit of practice we ran [Thursday afternoon]. You saw guys starting to get in the fence there a little bit late in that practice, that track got slick right there at the end. So, running this race during the day is probably the best decision.”
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