Under clear skies and warm temperatures similar to what they’ll expect in September, four of NASCAR’s top drivers shook down the ROVAL™, Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course oval, in a Goodyear tire test on Tuesday. The high-speed trial runs around Charlotte’s 2.28-mile road course oval served as valuable experience for drivers making preparations for the Sept. 28-30 Bank of America 500, the first playoff road course race in NASCAR history.
Menard, the driver of the No. 21 Menards Ford, considers the ROVAL™ to be a challenge unlike anything else on the NASCAR circuit – and said the Bank of America 500 will get “hairy” when the whole field is on track.
“You’ll see some passing for sure,” Menard said. “Probably the best spots will be the frontstretch chicane and Turn 1, even though it’s not a really big delta from high speed to low speed. What you look for in a passing zone is going from 170 miles per hour to 100 and you have a big range to make a move. There’s not a lot of that here, but you can see somebody position it at the bus stop on the backstretch and a guy is just going to have to give it up. … There’s definitely some opportunities.
“It’s different for sure,” Menard added. “It’s definitely a unique race track for a road course. We run Sonoma, which is very slow and slippery. We run Watkins Glen, which is fast. This is somewhere in between. The infield is slow and slippery and the banking still has the speed. We’re trying to find the right camber settings so we don’t wear out the tires. It’s been a challenge thinking, ‘Are we going to be more like Sonoma or Watkins Glen?’
“It’s unique. We got some testing in (in March) and it was much cooler. Today was a lot like what we’ll have when we come back for the race, so this was a truer test. Goodyear’s doing their best to give us a tire that has good grip but also lasts for a fuel run. … The infield section of the track feels like a true road course. It’s pretty wide and has some nice flow to it. There are some nice flowing sections and there are some real point-and-shoot sections. It should be fun.”
Trevor Bayne shook down his No. 6 AdvoCare Ford throughout the morning and afternoon sessions. Bayne said that Goodyear asked drivers to make 20-lap runs on each set of tires.
“You’ve just got to get comfortable,” Bayne said. “Your first few times out on a new road course, everything feels like it’s happening so fast. You just try to calm everything down and get everything settled. You’re going through the bus stop at 130 miles per hour and it doesn’t feel that comfortable, but every lap you start to feel better.
“We’ll work on the balance of the car and see where we fall off on a long run. … It’s definitely different than it was when we were here and it was about 30 degrees and raining. The track has a lot less grip today, so you’re learning where the car gives up first. When it’s cold, it’s kind of a false hope that your car is really has a ton of grip and isn’t going to fall off, but now, you can see your weaknesses.”
To purchase tickets to the Sept. 28-30 Bank of America 500 as well as any of the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder events in May, fans can call the speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or shop online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
CMS PR (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)