The Charlotte Motor Speedway road course will be new to everyone this weekend as the first races will be held on it. Both the Xfinity and Cup series will race on Charlotte's road course; the Xfinity race is Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN) and the Cup race starts at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBC.
We figured you might have questions. So here are some answers:
How long is it? 2.28 miles
How many turns? 17
Is there elevation change? A little. Thirty-five feet. For comparison, Sonoma has 160 feet; Watkins Glen has 124 feet.
What are the lengths of the races? The Cup race will be 109 laps, 400 kilometers, 248.52 miles (the longest of the three road-course races this year). The stages will be 25 laps, 25 laps and 59 laps. The Xfinity race will be 55 laps, 125.4 miles (201.8 kilometers) with stages of 15 laps, 15 laps and 25 laps. The fuel window should be approximately 33-37 laps, meaning the potential for any green-flag stops for fuel would come only in the final stage of the Cup race.
What is this word "roval"? The term "roval" has been used for several years to describe a road course that includes a portion of an existing oval. Charlotte Motor Speedway went so far as to trademark the term, although it has existed well before this weekend.
Where is it? The infield portion extends from the end of pit road, takes a hard left and weaves through the infield between Turns 1 and 2 before cars return to the oval portion just before Turn 1. There will then be a quick chicane made of curbing where cars will run to the apron and back up on the track (it helps with tire wear by scrubbing speed). There is another chicane just before the start-finish line. The "grass" in that area (and all the "grass" in the trioval area) is now synthetic turf.
Are there any special rules? NASCAR doesn't plan on using the frontstretch chicane on the start and restarts. Several drivers have said NASCAR will need to enforce some type of significant penalty for anyone who tries to cut the frontstretch chicane as there will be temptation to cut it for positions late in the race. If a driver misses or attempts to short-cut the chicane, it will be a pass-through penalty or a 30-second penalty if the pass-through can't be served. The question of what defines a "short-cutting" the chicane is not totally clear, and is expected to be one of those NASCAR "we'll know it when we see it" discretion.
Did teams get to test? Each Cup team had the opportunity to test during one of two sessions in July. Xfinity teams did not test but will get a practice day Thursday. There is one big change from the test -- Goodyear saw some heat in the tires that it didn't expect in the first July test. During the second test, some teams tried the "control" tire Goodyear had used as its base tire in the March tire test, and Goodyear opted to use that tire for the race. It might have a little less grip but Joey Logano told Goodyear there didn't seem to be much difference, possibly a little more additional grip and then a little more falloff. It is similar to the Watkins Glen tire.
"It's such a slow section of the race track through the infield portion that you're not making a lot of miles-an-hour so you're not making a lot of downforce, so you're relying solely on that tire," Kyle Busch said. "It's just going to make for some tense moments."
So why are all the drivers worried about this track? There is little runoff area if a driver makes a mistake, compared to Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The near 90-degree first turn on a restart is going to be dicey if anyone tries it double file and it requires a ton of brakes the rest of the time. Going from that slow speed to the high speed of the rest of the infield frustrated many drivers in the test. The backstretch chicane has curbing designed for drivers to respect the turn and not just try to jump the curbs, but that could present two issues -- the curbing could serve as a launching pad if a driver misses the turn or has a mechanical issue. And if a driver gets in trouble facing the inside wall there, it is a quick, hard slam into a tire barrier with a concrete wall behind it. Then there is the element of whether a driver wants to maximize speed on the oval portion or the road-course portion -- maximizing speed on the oval means likely an evil-handling car on the infield portion.
Do they have rain tires? Yes, but expect NASCAR not wanting to use them unless absolutely necessary considering the high speeds and loads on the oval. They will be watching for any standing water/puddling on the track and likely wouldn't race in a major downpour.
Can they race at night? No. The infield portion is not lit well enough.
Did pit road change? The only change to pit road is the exit as the drivers will make a hard left into the infield portion of the course.
What else would be different than a regular road course? The biggest difference is because the road course is contained within the oval, those fans with seats in the trioval and especially toward Turn 1 can see pretty much the entire track -- rare for a road course.
8: Caution lights installed in the infield.
85: Length of the pedestrian bridge from the infield to near the garage area that goes above the track. It is 13 feet, 6 inches high.
1,500: Linear feet of catch fencing
4,000: Feet of canopies for tire barriers
5,400: Gallons of paint for the wall and other areas of the track
112,000: Square feet of synthetic turf installed