NASCAR is a constant game of officials making rules, competitors cheating the rules, and officials making more rules to curb the cheating. When NASCAR put a chicane in its new road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway to slow cars down on the oval portion, drivers testing on the track just started cutting through it.
It’s like someone forgot to tell them this is a NASCAR test instead of a school test. This isn’t for credit, folks. You don’t have to cheat.
But because NASCAR drivers aren’t just going to pinky promise on scout’s honor not to keep cheating the new chicane before entering the third turn of the oval, Autosport reports that NASCAR used a break in testing to roll out big tire barriers and extra rumble strips around the chicane’s sharp corners before the series gets there for its first official race on the roval in September.
The barriers block drivers from blasting right over the lines and, in Autosport’s words, running “virtually straight through the chicane” and losing little speed. In terms of making things easier on their future selves, the barriers are probably a great idea for NASCAR officials—it’s simpler and less controversial to block drivers from going off track than it is to enforce track limits, in any series.
The Charlotte roval will be the first road course ever in the top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff races that decide the eventual champion this year, and about half of the Cup Series teams were out at the track for testing on Tuesday. A road course in the playoff stretch has been a huge void since NASCAR began having a postseason format in 2004, since the championship-deciding races left out an entire discipline of racing—tracks with left and right turns.
So, NASCAR added a road course this year without actually altering its schedule, swapping Charlotte’s 500-mile race on the 1.5-mile oval for a nearly 250-mile race on its roval. The roval runs partly on the oval before dipping into the infield road course, and has 17 turns across the nearly 2.3 miles that make up a lap. The roval has been a work in progress since NASCAR announced it, and officials have altered the course several times due to testing feedback and behavior.
Two extra chicanes got put onto the oval portion of the course to change it up, add extra turns and slow drivers down on the oval, but Autosport reported that the drivers who cheated the chicane on the backstretch ran speeds “markedly higher than those who ran the intended racing line through the chicane.”
After a crash by Darrell Wallace Jr, NASCAR gathered the drivers and crew chiefs to forge a solution, then added two additional rumble strips and a tyre barrier to encourage drivers to use the course as it was planned.
“The changes on the backstretch are just to keep everybody honest, keep everybody on the line that was defined,” said Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman.
“I don’t know if it’s on its final iteration but we’re making an attempt.
“I hope it doesn’t change [again] for the sake of us having the same opportunity as the guys who [test] next week.
“It’s been a learning experience for me all day. I’m still behind the learning curve.” [...]
The change appeared successful. When Penske Ford driver Brad Keselowski ran over the rumble strips with his left-side wheels later on, his car was sent bouncing into the air.
There’s now no foreseeable way for drivers to blatantly cheat the chicane, or for NASCAR to make controversially close calls about the track limits around it. Everybody wins.