‘Survival’ continues to be the word brought up by drivers trying to forecast how racing on Charlotte road course will play out in the fall.
Paul Menard was the latest driver to use the word during a Goodyear tire test at the speedway Tuesday afternoon. Menard described how hairy the course is for just one driver trying to make laps, noting how he, along with Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch, found trouble in a previous test.
“There’s no room for error,” said Menard. “Try to push a little bit harder you’re going put yourself in trouble. You put 39 other guys out there it’s going to escalate it. So, it’s going to be survival for sure, and I think that’s the mentality I have.”
The Sept. 30 Bank of America 500 will be the first time a road course is featured in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Adding to the excitement is that Charlotte plays host to the first elimination race of the postseason.
Breaking down the layout, which combines the 1.5-mile oval with the infield road course, Menard said drivers are likely to be in second gear all through the infield. The best passing zones will be the frontstretch chicane, going into Turn 1, and then a couple of opportunities through the infield.
After coming back on the track in what is Turn 1 on the oval and then flying down the backstretch, Menard said the chicane near Turn 3 of the oval is just to scrub speed.
“The bus stop is extremely fast, it’s not like Watkins Glen,” he said. “You will not be able to run side-by-side through there.”
Sonoma and Watkins Glen are the only other two road courses on the Cup Series schedule. And it was Watkins Glen that Menard compared the Charlotte road course.
“It probably feels more like Watkins Glen but much slower on the infield, and the infield section of the track feels like a true road course. It’s pretty wide; it has some nice flow to it and things,” Menard said.
“It’s just different, you have some nice flowing sections and some real point and shoot sections, I guess. It looks like Watkins Glen, it feels like Watkins Glen, but it has the grip of Sonoma.”
In addition to Menard, Trevor Bayne, Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch also participated in Tuesday’s session, which was a conclusion to the two-day test scheduled for March 20-21. Inclement weather forced the cancellation of the second day.
However, Menard called Tuesday a “truer test” as he felt the conditions were more reminiscent of what will be experienced during the race.
Charlotte Motor Speedway said the next time Cup Series drivers would have an opportunity to get on the road course will be during an open test in July. Xfinity Series drivers will not experience it until an extended practice/test session on the Thursday of race weekend.