With the second road course race of the season coming up at Watkins Glen this weekend, the question of “Do road courses belong in NASCAR?” will be sure to come up.
I have always liked the road course races, and I think that not only are they an important part of NASCAR, but that NASCAR should add a third race to the schedule. Road courses offer great racing, challenges for the drivers and a terrific venues.
In this article, I would like to point out five reasons why road courses are awesome and why another track should be added to the schedule.
It really bugs when people say that road courses don’t have a place in NASCAR, but I beg to differ. When people talk about the history of NASCAR, they always start by saying it started in prohibition. The story goes, the moonshine runners had to modify their cars to run from the police in the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, and these cars were eventually used to run races and so NASCAR began.
My main point for arguing for road courses is, when these whiskey runners were hightailing it from the fuzz, do you think they just drove in a circle and only made left turns? The simple answer to this question is no; these runners were expert drivers and were able to handle any hair pin, kink or right hand turn that the road happened to throw their way. So to say the road courses don’t have place in NASCAR is just ignoring a large part of the origins of NASCAR.
Another argument you hear against road courses is the presence of road course ringers. Drivers like Boris Said, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose all made names for themselves in series that have only road courses. I will admit these drivers are all threats at each race, but it’s not like the good ole boys of NASCAR aren’t good road coursers either. If you look at the top five all-time winners at road courses, it happens to be a pretty elite club.
Jeff Gordan: nine wins
Tony Stewart: seven wins
Rusty Wallace: six wins
Bobby Allison: six wins
Richard Petty: six wins
This list of drivers have a combined 15 Sprint Cup Championships and a staggering 463 career wins. So saying that these road course ringers come out and steal wins from other drivers in the series is an argument that just doesn’t hold water anymore. Over the history of NASCAR, being good at a road course has been a mark of a great driver and continue to show who the great drivers are today.
The NASCAR Championship is one of the toughest tests for drivers in the all of motorsport. A driver must tackle all types of tracks, including 2.5 mile to half mile tracks, high banks and flat tracks and of course, road and oval tracks. Road Courses offer a challenge that other tracks just don’t offer and require a certain skill set to master them. Drivers must handle a high amounts of shifting, hard braking corners, high speed corners and tricky hair pins.
The team also has a tough task ahead of them on these race weekends. The cars need to have special set ups to handle all the special features that a road course brings. These challenges are an important part of determining the champion. I believe that a third race should be added to the schedule which would then make road courses about 10 percent of the season and help determine the best drivers.
Infineon Raceway and Watkins Glen International are the two road courses that NASCAR visits each season, and both are really good races. Infineon offers a lot of high speed bends and a hair pin turn, and Watkins Glen offers a variety of different types of corners. Both of these tracks are great, but there are many others that NASCAR should consider adding to the schedule.
One of the tracks that would be an ideal candidate for a race is the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The Montreal race track has hosted some of the most exciting races in Nationwide series history. Another track that could host a road race would be the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track has a road course in the infield and the front straight and one of the side straights, and would be a good choice for a road race. The last track I would like to see possibly added would be Laguna Seca because of two words: CORK and SCREW. How cool would it be to see these guys diving in through the corkscrew corner? These tracks are some of the best in the world and could easy host a great NASCAR race.
The main reason that NASCAR should add another road course is the fact that these races are super exciting. The first road race this season at Infineon was one of the better races of the season so far. There was a lot of flat out, side-by-side racing that led to a lot of great on track battles and a few hot heads. These road course always seem to lend themselves to exciting racing in stock cars, and NASCAR should seriously consider adding a third race to the schedule.
Let's look at adding a second race in Indianapolis and imagine a lap here for a second. Just think of two drivers going down the infield straight and diving into the esses followed by a drag race down the front stretch and trying to outbreak each other into the first corner. The road course in Indianapolis would lend itself very well to stock car racing and have a great race. With this great track, the spectacle that is Indianapolis, and 100,000-plus attendance NASCAR would only benefit from adding a third race to the schedule.