NASCAR Cup drivers will barrel into a pointy left-handed flip, navigate a winding infield en masse and maneuver by way of two treacherous chicanes for greater than 100 laps this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The Bank of America Roval 400 (2 p.m. Sunday, NBC) is the closing hurdle for playoff drivers trying to safe a spot in the postseason Round of 8. It’s additionally the closing highway course race on a 2021 schedule rife with proper turns. Some of the newness of the 2.28-mile observe has worn off since its debut in 2018, however playoff teams, particularly these sitting beneath the factors cutoff, are removed from relaxed.
“All the cutoff races are critical,” No. 20 staff crew chief Adam Stevens stated. “And being that this (race) is in the round with Talladega, you have two, what you could call, ‘wild-card races.’”
Stevens, who works with driver Christopher Bell, stated that the playoff schedule places strain on teams to construct up bonus factors throughout the common season, noting that, “Frankly, we’re not in that situation.”
Bell is certainly one of 4 drivers sitting beneath the factors cutoff (28 factors behind) together with Kevin Harvick (9), William Byron (44) and Alex Bowman (52). Byron and Bowman escaped elimination in the final spherical after coming into the cutoff race at Bristol in a factors deficit. That may give them some confidence, however Byron described the Roval as a observe that’s “not like other road courses” and one the place “anything can happen.”
“It’s kind of its own beast,” Byron stated.
Bell, Byron and Stevens recognized the observe’s trickiest of its 17 turns — the ones that would finish any teams’ day early and the place race followers can anticipate to see the most motion this weekend.
Turn 1 and the Infield
The first activate the course is a pointy left coming off pit highway resulting in the infield.
“It’s very important to make this corner as quick as you can and get up to speed,” Bell stated. “Definitely the sharpest pit exit we have on the circuit.”
That flip results in one other, gentler left-handed flip in the infield with a slight elevation dip that may trigger vehicles to get free rounding Turn 3. Drivers subsequent navigate 4 proper turns weaving in a small circuit ending with two left turns earlier than rising onto the oval.
“It’s a delicate balance to hit with no practice, but there’s definitely a compromise there,” Stevens stated about the automotive setup. “The thing you would do to help this one (turn) is the wrong thing to do for the other one.”
He famous the frequent tire put on in the infield, whereas Bell described the benefit of utilizing the paint on the left sides whereas rounding the tight rights, relying on the grip degree. As the race carries on, sometimes extra drivers run wider into the paint in Turn 4, for instance, attempting to straighten out to choose up velocity.
And If it rains? Beware.
“If it starts raining at all, all those curbs are gonna be super slick,” Bell stated.
Drivers keep in second gear by way of the infield, climbing uphill as they straighten by way of Turn 7 and shade proper for a pointy left into Turn 8.
Cars will attain high speeds operating on the oval, however chicanes on the backstretch and frontstretch sluggish speeds and add drama. The authentic configuration of the course didn’t embrace a backstretch chicane, basically a U-shape from an aerial view, till famed crossover racer Mario Andretti examined the course and made the suggestion to Speedway Motorsports president Marcus Smith.
“He said, ‘You’ve got to protect us from ourselves,’ ” Charlotte Motor Speedway common supervisor Greg Walter stated. “And that aligned with a lot of the feedback we were getting from OEMs and Goodyear.”
Another nugget that the observe thought-about in including the backstretch turns was that “on road courses, braking equals passing,” Walter stated.
“We realized this was gonna be a passing zone because there’s so much braking back here,” he stated.
Byron referred to as the backstretch chicane the nook that’s given him the most bother to arrange a go. Stevens, previously a crew chief for Kyle Busch, pointed to the backstretch chicane as an space the place he’s seen the most vehicles torn up.
Another space Stevens talked about to look at is the frontstretch chicane as drivers attempt to make a go. Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson infamously spun out on the closing lap of the 2018 Roval race chasing down Martin Truex Jr. attempting to just do that.
Johnson locked his brakes, spun and had contact with the front-runner to knock Truex from the lead. Johnson fell from title rivalry. Three playoff drivers are greater than 25 factors beneath the cutoff heading to this 12 months’s race, which implies a win turns into extra crucial to advance and the racing may get extra aggressive.
Stevens stated that after the restarts and deep into the race, the frontstretch chicane is the place numerous the motion occurs. Drivers are more likely to make errors.
“Because it is bumpy and it’s easy to miss it, especially if they are protecting the inside and you feel like you need to get a run on ‘em on the outside,” Stevens stated. “And then maybe they miss it, and then you’re up over the curb.”
Cars may lose time, spin out, get handed and/or wrecked, particularly in these areas. Byron famous that’s a part of the deal on any space of the course.
“All of (the turns) are tough,” he stated. “You’re always turning and braking, because you’re always setting yourself up for another braking zone … It’s difficult.”
Stevens summarized the race from a staff perspective, wishing he had extra of a cushion earlier than Sunday.
“A lot of the guys that get through this round are gonna look back and say, ‘Thank goodness we had those bonus points.’ ”