For the second time in as many months last week, we witnessed entertaining racing on a road course as the circuit took to the Charlotte ROVAL. After making history and hitting the Daytona Road Course in mid-August, road course racing once again rose to the forefront. It provided many intense moments for a majority of the races in Charlotte – both Cup and Xfinity.
The Daytona race was born out of the fact that the race at Watkins Glen this year was canceled due to the pandemic. Still, it required a great deal of ingenuity and efforts to get track “road course ready” for NASCAR. The Charlotte ROVAL was instituted in 2018 to mix things up and create some new interest. It drew high praise from the very first race, when Ryan Blaney crossed the finish line first after leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson spun each other out before hitting that mark. There’s been a lot of excitement in just two road course races this year, both of which were won by Chase Elliott. And there’s more to come in 2021!
A couple of week ago in this space I touched on our new date for 2021 and how I really liked that placement for next year. What I didn’t reference was how drastically next year’s schedule has changed, more than any previous year in a long time. Probably the biggest difference in the schedule is the addition of two road course tracks – Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas and Road America in Wisconsin. Along with Watkins Glen, Sonoma and the Charlotte ROVAL, it should give fans plenty of opportunities to get their fill of road course racing next year.
The changes to the 2021 schedule are quite extensive and were done with the idea of developing a dynamic schedule to maximize competition. With such a variety on the schedule for next year – which also consists of a dirt race at Bristol in March – it will undoubtedly make things harder to predict than ever. And that’s what really piques interest on the part of fans – and mine for that matter. And I’m sure many of our fans will be looking forward to the schedule with such a strong scent of road course racing.
The one who has got to be the most excited about this, though, is Chase Elliott. As I alluded to earlier, he won both road course races in 2020, including the ROVAL last week in dominating fashion. In fact, he has won four in-a-row dating back to last year and five overall in his career. Having recorded victories in nearly half of his road course starts as a Cup Series driver, it’s safe to say that he has developed a dominance on these courses which has not been seen in quite some time. A former Hendrick driver, Jeff Gordon, also thrived on these courses,
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as he won nine such races in his career, a total which included a streak of six straight wins in the late ‘90s. With four road course races now on the schedule, Elliott has a real chance to eclipse Gordon’s total in the not-so-distant future.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed road course racing, as it’s where I got my start in this profession, as many of you know with track founder Ralph Sanchez and the Grand Prix of Miami. I also traveled quite extensively early in my career, helping to set up courses for street races all around the United States. Typically road course racing requires much more out of a driver than other tracks. It takes more of a toll on the body, which really brings the physical fitness of a driver to the forefront.
Driving a car for 400 or 500 miles at a time is something that is not as easy as it would appear. Then you add in all the twist and turns that a road course consists of, and it becomes that much more difficult. I recall Tony Stewart winning the race at Sonoma in his final year of 2016 to clinch a spot in the playoffs. I remember him just sitting on the ground right next to his car for an extended period of time after the race. He had just expended everything he had in order to make that one final run.
It's that kind of drama that I know we are looking for as the road course element is increased for next year. If the past is any predictor, it will definitely be something that we all can look forward to.
While we have never hosted NASCAR on our 2.21-mile road course, I feel we have a terrific one in our infield, which has drawn rave reviews from the drivers of the many disciplines that have performed on it, including Indy Lights, sports cars and motorcycles, among many others. It’s another unique feature which makes Homestead-Miami Speedway as special as it is.
Playoffs Round of 8: With another elimination race now in the books, this week we commence the Round of 8 in all three of our national series at Kansas Speedway, meaning it’s the first opportunity for a driver to earn their way into the coveted Championship 4, which will be held this year at Phoenix Raceway the weekend of November 6-8. The excitement and intensity will once again ramp up as names will start to be filled in on all of those playoff brackets.
This Week’s Racing Schedule –
Friday, Oct. 16 -
ARCA Menards Series Speedatrics 150 presented by 8:30 pm (FS1 or FS2)*
Saturday, Oct. 17 - NASCAR Gander RV
& Outdoors Truck Series Clean Harbors 200 4:00 pm (FOX)*
Saturday, Oct. 17 - NASCAR Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 7:00 pm (NBCSN)*
Sunday, Oct. 18 -
NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 2:30 pm (NBC)*
*Denotes Playoff race
All races will air on Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90