In the 2021 season, NASCAR Cup Series featured a total of 7 road courses, the most it has ever had, and a significant increase from just 2 or 3 in the most recent seasons. This has caused a lot of discussion and debate among NASCAR fans, as well as the drivers and NASCAR team members themselves. Opinion is split quite heavily on this issue.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup series held races on 7 different road tracks. This dropped to 6 in 2022 with the Daytona Road Track being dropped. This is a substantial increase from previous years which held 2-4 races on road tracks, the remaining on ovals. In the future it is expected to see 6-7 road races in a NASCAR season.
One contention is that this will be a growing trend and that the NASCAR Cup Series will feature more and more road courses in the future. Some say that it’s inevitable and a good thing, others are less than happy. In today’s blog, we’re going to explore this issue in some detail. Is NASCAR moving to more road racing? Why are some people so against it?
For many seasons, the only road courses that drivers and teams had to prepare for were at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. In 2018, the “Charlotte Roval” was added to the list, and as we mentioned in the introduction, the 2021 season brought 4 more road courses to the series: Daytona, Circuit of the Americas, Road America, and Indianapolis.
NASCAR Road Races: Dividing Opinion
Why has there been so much fuss in the media about these additional road courses, anyway? Opponents to increasing the number of road courses point to the number of additional headaches and risks that come with running their cars on the more complex road courses when the majority of NASCAR races are on some form of oval course. Supporters point to the fact that road course racing is invariably much more interesting and exciting to watch than oval racing.
Responding to a fellow NASCAR writer on Twitter who had asked if 7 courses in 2021 was going to be too many, Lead Reporter at frontstretch.com, Daniel McFadin tweeted:
“I’ll take 7 very different road courses over 7 very similar 1.5 mile ovals. #NASCAR”
In an article published on frontstretch.com, McFadin elaborates that he finds far more memorable and exciting moments on the handful of road courses than on all of the remaining oval tracks combined. He points out that road courses “have been a more consistent producer of thrilling, white knuckle ‘did you see that!?’ moments” while at the same time how he’d “struggle to come up with a top-10 list of highlights from 1.5-mile tracks in the last 10 years.”
While that may be a bit of hyperbole there, it summarizes well the opposing view. But which will NASCAR pay more attention to? Will they listen to their drivers and teams who most likely prefer the comparatively simple logistics of an oval course, or will they listen to their fanbase, which seems to find the road courses much more compelling?
The 2021 season seems to indicate that NASCAR is listening to the fan feedback and are trying to add more variety into the Cup Series by introducing more road races. Jeff Gluck, racing writer for The Athletic Motorsports, conducted a poll among his more than 240,000 Twitter followers after the Daytona road course in February 2021, with a massive 80.9% declaring that the Daytona road course was a good race.
Brad Keselowski didn’t do his best at Daytona’s road course in 2021, but he still managed to finish fifth despite missing the infamous chicanes and even getting spun at the first turn by Kurt Busch. When asked about how NASCAR officiates the Cup Series races on road courses, he pointed out that the NASCAR stock cars in their current state are really not equipped to handle road courses with real finesse.
Keselowski went on to acknowledge that a big reason the fans like the road courses is because there was a much greater chance of things going wrong. He said: “I think part of what people love about watching us race on road courses is the fact that the cars drive so incredibly awful bad that it can sometimes make for a very compelling race because there are a ton of mistakes.”
Keselowski isn’t being hyperbolic when he uses phrases like “incredibly awful bad,” because in that same race, fellow racers Corey Lajoir, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson all had big problems on the course.Christopher Bell won out in the end after a heroic pass of Joey Logano with just 2 laps to go. In the end, however, Keselowski concedes that despite these headaches and a desire to return to more short tracks, “that’s not the way the pendulum has swung and we’ll have to reap what we sow.”
While it was confirmed already for the 2022 season that the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) would be on the road course again, it was also added that there are plans in the works to return the IMS to the oval course in the near future. Exactly when that might happen hasn’t been confirmed, but it seems at least one of the road courses will return to an oval.
Does this mean that more right turns in NASCAR races is definitely off the cards for the future, though? There is one more key factor to consider here, and that’s the cars themselves.
The 2022 race season is welcoming an all-new and updated generation of NASCAR vehicles. Brad Keselowski wasn’t wrong when he pointed out that NASCAR stock cars weren’t kitted for the road courses…then. But now, things are different. The new generation of cars feature additions that make them much more suited to road courses, including things like their 6-speed transmission and independent rear suspension.
Would NASCAR have made these changes if it was bound to return to all oval tracks bar the couple of token road courses? The large jump in course numbers in 2021, the changes to the cars, and the fans’ continued calls for more road courses all point to the probable outcome that road courses are indeed a part of NASCAR’s future. Hopefully the teams will rise to the occasion while still keeping those road courses more entertaining!
Was It a Good Decision to Run NASCAR Road Races?
Although results, viewing figures and fan engagement have shown that it was indeed a good idea to run more road races in the NASCAR season it has to be remembered that NASCAR is not Formula 1, and it shouldnt try to be. Ovals are where NASCAR was born ( well kind of) and where it fits its niche.
However, bringing in new viewers and new fans by mixing it up should always be encouraged and despite grumbling among die hard fans, ther ealways needs to be a new influx of fans or there wouldn’t be a sport to watch in the first place. Road races, and probably street races at some point are a way of doing this without straying too far from NASCARs roots and they are great to watch as you see drivers use their skills in an entirely different environment.
Also if these are Stock cars, then don’t stock cars run on roads!
How Many NASCAR Races are on Road tracks in the 2022 Season.
After the seven tracks in the 2021 season one has been dropped from the 2022 NASCAR season. Daytona road Course no longer has a place in the scheulde.
The remaining Road Track Races in the 2022 NASCAR Schedule are:
Table 1: Road Track Races in NASCAR 2022 Season:
|NASCAR Road Track
|Circuit of the Americas
Although the number of NASCAR road races has dropped from 7 to 6 in 2021 to 2022 it can be expected that this number will be steady moving forwards. Not only does it test drivers more, and appeal to fans bith old and new it takes NASCAR racing to places that have not held races before.
It also put the cars on race tracks that other popular motor sports run and allows a closer comparison with racing like touring cars, sports cars and of course Formula 1.
The bottom line of all this is as much as NASCAR has its roots it also has its future, and as a wise man once said to me its ok to look back just don’t stare ( at the past) NASCAR has to keep one eye on its future, even if it has one foot firming rooted in its past.
As another wise man said you have to keep moving forward. ( that was rocky Balboa btw)