CONCORD, N.C. — The fall race next year at Charlotte Motor Speedway is going to look much different with the introduction of the Roval course and some of NASCAR’s best are already talking about it.
Ryan Blaney, who next year will wheel a third Team Penske Ford, said he isn’t sure what to expect in advance of the inaugural race on the Roval. The race, scheduled for Sept. 30 next season, will also become the first road course race in the history of NASCAR’s playoffs.
“I’m kind of up in the air in my thoughts about it and what to expect,” said Blaney. “I’m not sure what to expect. I’m don’t think anybody is, really. It will be different.
“Right now it’s kind of hard to even walk that Roval because the campers are here. It will be something different. I know NASCAR is always wanting to change things and the track here at Charlotte was wanting to do something as well. My thoughts about it is that we’ll adapt to it, whatever it is. It being a playoff race, it’s a little bit whacky. It will be an interesting second round for sure if it stays in this order with the road course, speedway and mile-and-a-half. That will be a pretty unique round for sure.”
Kyle Larson offered a similar opinion.
“I don’t know, I really don’t know what to expect,” Larson said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be a good race or a bad race or an embarrassing race or what, but it’s going to be exciting none the less. I think the fans will enjoy it. I don’t know how the drivers will feel about it until we actually get some laps in.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was a bit more straight-forward with his opinion.
“This weekend I’m glad we’re on the oval. I’m not looking forward to racing on the road course here,” Stenhouse said.
Several teams will get a shot to test out the Roval course during an upcoming two-day test session on Oct. 17-18.
• Friday’s opening practice was a rough one for several drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as no less than three drivers made contact with the turn-four wall.
The first to do so was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who pancaked the right side of his No. 88 Chevrolet so badly that his team was forced to pull out the backup car just a few minutes into practice. David Ragan also scrapped the wall at roughly the same time as Earnhardt’s incident.
Earnhardt blamed the PJ1 Track Bite traction compound, which had been put around the track in an effort to create an additional groove, for causing the crash.
“The stuff that they sprayed down, it has had a bad reaction to the sun or something,” Earnhardt said. “It has made it really slick. We saw at Bristol it takes some heat and activity to work it in and get it to activate it and create grip, but we’ve never seen it like this.”
The next driver to find trouble in turn four was Brad Keselowski, who lost control of his Ford and spun out at the exit of the corner after making slight contact with the wall. He actually utilized the recently revealed Roval chicane on the frontstretch avoid going into the grass after the spin.
The fourth driver to hit the wall was Kyle Busch, who smacked the wall with his No. 18 Toyota in a similar incident to that of Earnhardt earlier in practice. Busch’s team opted to repair his primary car after briefly pulling the backup car out of the hauler.
• Stenhouse took a few minutes during his afternoon media availability to talk about his plans for the 2018 Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals. Stenhouse drove for the powerhouse Clauson-Marshall Racing team in 2017 and said he’ll be back with the team again in January at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway.
“We had a strong lineup at the Chili Bowl last year. We through a lot of stuff together and had a lot of cars and I felt we were pretty successful,” Stenhouse said. “We almost had all of our cars in the A Main on Saturday night.
“We definitely want to win some prelims and obviously win on Saturday night the biggest goal we have for that week.”