Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose fought hard for a victory last year at Watkins Glen. NASCAR could use more exciting moments like, and adding more road course races could provide it.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Watkins Glen on Sunday for its second road-course race of the season. Last year, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose battled in this event, which NASCAR named the top race of 2012.
Road racing is always exciting because it challenges the competitors, bringing driver skill to the forefront while pushing aside aerodynamics and engineering. It's because of this that NASCAR needs more road courses on its schedule.
The Sprint Cup schedule needs more diversity. A few weeks ago I wrote another article detailing why a dirt race made sense for NASCAR's top series (you can read it by clicking here). Many of the same arguments I made hold true for road racing. Road racing has tradition—NASCAR got its start on the beach road course at Daytona—and it also has loyal fans. Most of all, road racing is all about the drivers, and that is what fans pay to see.
But while Eldora Speedway may be the only dirt track that can handle a Sprint Cup event, there is no shortage of road racing venues for NASCAR to choose from.
Here are five tracks that would be a perfect fit for the Sprint Cup Series.
Of all the tracks on this list, Lime Rock Park would probably the best fit as far as the actual race track. With just seven corners over 1.5 miles, the track races more like a short track than a true road course, giving NASCAR fans the close quarters racing they love while putting the race back in the hands of the drivers.
Just watch the video from last year's Grand-Am sports car race to see the kind of racing that NASCAR fans could expect at the track.
Though the Sprint Cup Series has never raced at the track, it is not new to NASCAR. The K&N Pro East Series raced at the circuit 18 times between 1993 and 2010.
The track's proximity to major media markets also makes it appealing. Lime Rock sits in northwest Connecticut, about two hours north of New York City and three hours west of Boston. With the sport still trying to break into these markets, a race at Lime Rock could give the series the increased exposure it desires.
There are downsides to Lime Rock, most notably is the track's lack of grandstands. Lime Rock Park was not built to host big spectator events. It was built to host car clubs and sports cars.
But with NASCAR's dwindling attendance numbers and a higher emphasis on television ratings, maybe the lack of seating isn't the hindrance that it once was.
If not a Sprint Cup date right away, a Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series race would fit perfectly at the smaller venue, providing great racing and eventually paving the way for the NASCAR's biggest stars.
For my money there is no finer road course in the United States than Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. At 3.1 miles, the track would become the longest on the circuit, and arguably it's toughest.
The Sprint Cup Series has a history at the track, albeit a limited one. Tim Flock won the tour's only stop at Road America in 1956. Fifty-four years later the Nationwide Series began racing at the track, and NASCAR's top development series now has now held four successful races at the venue.
With 14 corners and natural elevation changes, the track would challenge drivers like no other on the circuit. The run down the long front straight into turn one is very reminiscent of Watkins Glen and provides a great passing opportunity but, as the video above shows, there are places to pass all around the twisty circuit.
There really is no reason why the Sprint Cup Series should not race at Road America. Last year's Nationwide Series race drew 56,000 fans, according to racing-reference.info, and a Sprint Cup date would likely draw even more.
The track layout is also great for stock cars, providing several excellent passing zones while also testing drivers with a mix of high-speed straights, tight corners and sweeping esses.
With a successful Nationwide race at the circuit already, there is no reason that the Sprint Cup Series should not be racing at this Wisconsin landmark in the near future.
With Atlanta Motor Speedway down to just one race per year, the Atlanta market can sustain a second major event for the Sprint Cup Series and Road Atlanta is the perfect venue for it.
Many teams are already familiar with the track, having used it for testing in the past.
The video above shows Kyle Busch testing his Nationwide car at the course a year ago. As you can see, the driver is constantly working the steering wheel and transmission. It's a track that tests driver and car. It would make for one heck of a show.
The track played host to a pair of Nationwide Series events in the mid-1980s, but it is best known for the annual Petit Le Mans, one the biggest sports car races of the year. Two years ago the race set an attendance record, with Road Atlanta's PR staff claiming a four-day attendance of 131,400.
Road Atlanta not only has the seating capacity to support a Sprint Cup race weekend but it has an excellent layout for stock car racing.
The front straight leads into a tight, 90-degree right-hander followed by a series of esses. The long run into Turn 10, a slow left-hander that provides the best passing zone on the course.
A place early on the schedule, like Atlanta Motor Speedway, would be a welcome addition to the Sprint Cup calendar.
The Camping World Truck Series is making the trip to Bowmanville, Ontario, later this year for its first visit north of the border, but NASCAR's Canadian Tire Series has called the track home since 2001 when it was still under the CASCAR banner.
Like Road America, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has a long, storied history, having played host to six Formula One Grand Prix and multiple USAC and Champ Car races.
The location of the track is also ideal: just an hour northeast of Toronto, the largest city in Canada and fourth largest in North America. It's a major market that NASCAR has yet to capitalize on, and the track has plenty of seats to hold Canada's rabid fans.
This year's Canadian Tire Series race had about 20,000 fans in attendance, according to racing-refrence.info, but the track can hold much more. According to the track's website, 58,000 fans packed the circuit in 1965 for a USAC stock car race.
A Sprint Cup date could easily eclipse that mark.
And like the other tracks on this list, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park sets up nicely for Sprint Cup cars. In the clip above, Andrew Ranger and Scott Steckly have a heated battle for the lead, swapping the top spot a couple times around the 2.5-mile course.
IndyCar has a second home in Canada, having raced on the streets of Toronto since 1986. It's about time that NASCAR takes the Sprint Cup Series north of the border, and there is no better place than Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
The newest road racing facility in the United States is also one of its best. The Circuit of the Americas has everything NASCAR would want in a venue: modern amenities, ample seating and a prime location.
Set just outside of Austin, Texas, COTA is within easy driving distance of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. It's also far enough away from the Texas Motor Speedway to not draw fans away from its two events.
The circuit opened last year with the running of the United States Grand Prix, Formula One's first race on US soil since 2007. Brad Spurgeon of the New York Times reported that 117,429 fans were in attendance for the event, a number NASCAR would love for the Sprint Cup Series.
At 3.4 miles, the Circuit of the Americas would dwarf every other track on the schedule, but it would also provide some of the best racing. The track features 20 turns, including two very long straights, both leading into sharp left-hand corners that would facilitate passing.
One Sprint Cup driver already got a taste for the track. Kurt Busch and Australian V8-Supercar-Racer James Courtney traded rides for a day at the track.
As you can see in the video above, the circuit is wide and has plenty of racing room. It features winding esses and a very tight back-and-forth between turns 12 and 20.
It's the most state-of-the-art racing facility in the United States, and it's a track that needs to be on the Sprint Cup schedule.