Known across the world as a trailblazing innovator, Charlotte Motor Speedway ushered in a thrilling new era of excitement with NASCAR's historic Tuesday scheduling announcement that next year's Bank of America 500 will be contested on Charlotte's ROVAL on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. The road course oval announcement carries with it several groundbreaking connotations, including:
The first road course NASCAR race in Charlotte Motor Speedway's 58-year existence;
The final event in Round 1 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs;
The first road course race in the 14-year history of the Playoffs;
The first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in September at Charlotte Motor Speedway;
The first new track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule since Kentucky Speedway joined the circuit in 2011.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL is a daunting, new 13-turn, 2.4-mile road course incorporating part of the infield and all but 400 feet of Charlotte's iconic 1.5-mile oval on which drivers will race 500 kilometers over 130 laps.
"Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been about innovation," said Marcus Smith, president and chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc. "Hosting the first road course race in NASCAR's Playoffs, as well as the drama of closing out the Playoffs' first round, means that tension will be high and competition will be fierce as soon as the green flag drops.
"Fans are going to be in for a thrill, and drivers had better be ready for the most physically and mentally challenging race in the Playoffs. With a 35-foot elevation change between ROVAL Turn 4 and ROVAL Turn 10, drivers in next year's Bank of America 500 will truly experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows."
Accomplished drivers including Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon, A.J. Allmendinger, Jeff Burton and Max Papis have driven the course and witnessed its considerable potential to entertain fans and challenge drivers and crews.
"Road courses are something I look forward to during the season," said Kyle Busch, last week's Monster Energy All-Star Race winner. "Road racing is like a vacation for me, because it's not something we do week-in and week-out so I just try to go out there and have fun with it.
"Now that we have the Charlotte ROVAL on the schedule, we have every type of track in our postseason. It will be interesting to see how it plays out with a completely new challenge for the drivers and teams during the Playoffs."
The ROVAL also drew praise from one of the world's most acclaimed road racers.
"It's very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can 'stretch your legs' inside an oval," said Andretti, who competed in the 1967 Bank of America 500 and is known as one of the most successful American drivers of all time.
"From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners - which obviously invites some overtaking. It's wide enough that you can choose a line. You're not really trapped. ... It's got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car."
In January, Allmendinger became the first active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver to drive a stock car on the ROVAL.
"The track has definitely got potential," Allmendinger said. "I had a lot of fun driving it. It's a perfect mix for a race team to set up, whether you go for a full oval setup or somewhat of a road course setup. It'll definitely be a big challenge for the teams."
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR XFINITY Series will compete on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL Friday through Sunday, Sept. 28-30, 2018.
--- Charlotte Motor Speedway ---
With Charlotte Motor Speedway using its 1.5-mile oval in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this October, the track is in the process of considering the road course for 2018.
In a phone call Thursday morning to NBC Sports, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith addressed the prospect and said the track is making upgrades to its infield layout.
Smith said the track was extremely pleased by a test on its road course in January with A.J. Allmendinger.
"We learned a lot in that test," Smith told NBC Sports. "We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the 'roval.'
"There are several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence on the way in, and I think it's something that could definitely have a place on the (Cup) schedule in the future."
-- NBC Sports --
Original post 3-7-2017: Right turns in the Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway are on hold for 2017.
Multiple sources within the NASCAR industry told NBC Sports that the 1.5-mile track will hold its Oct. 7 race on its oval after exploring the concept of using the road course.
It's likely the track's road course will be used in the 2018 playoffs. The track will be making upgrades to the infield circuit, which uses all but a few hundred feet of the oval.
--- NBC Sports ---