Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Will the ROVAL Be Full of Crashes?

After two exciting finishes at Chicagoland Speedway and Daytona International Speedway, there wasn’t much drama at the end of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this week at Kentucky Speedway. What is the least exciting Cup race you remember watching?

Vito Pugliese: That’s easy: 1999 August race at Michigan. My buddy and I brought a couple of friends who had never been to a race before. We made the well-reasoned decision to stay out until 3 a.m. the night before and were in rough shape, feeling the effects when it came time to hit the road at 6 a.m. to sit in traffic for a few hours. Situated high up in the stands in Turn 3, we were baking in 90-degree heat and humidity, and mercifully it was over in less than three hours with a green-white-checkered finish. Dale Jarrett made a mockery of the event, with Jeff Gordon closing but to no avail. I can still feel the dull nausea of that day, with the guy in front of me repeatedly saying in his thick, Michigan accent, “Rainboow Warriuhhr, baby, Rainboow Warriuhhr!!!” Terrible. The only really interesting part was afterward, seeing a couple of drunk fans belly flop into some questionable standing water in a ditch. I looked up and Steve Hmiel, still in his Pennzoil shirt, was standing there looking on, shaking his head in disbelief.

Wesley Coburn: The 2016 Coca-Cola 600. Charlotte Motor Speedway doesn’t put on great racing in the first place (which is why the ROVAL experiment is happening), and Martin Truex Jr. led 392 of the 400 laps. And there weren’t stages yet, either. It was embarrassing.

Matt McLaughlin: The September race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000 was the worst NASCAR race I’ve ever endured. Both Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin had been killed in crashes at NHIS that summer in an era before SAFER barriers and HANS devices, and drivers were demanding (with varying degrees of passion) something be done. In a cynical move, NASCAR decided to make the teams and drivers run restrictor plates at the track that autumn. The race was unbelievably bad. Jeff Burton started second and passed Bobby Labonte on the first lap. That was the only pass for the lead all day; Burton is credited with leading all 300 laps. Back in those days NHIS used to sell out, but by the halfway point of that race fans were heading for the parking lot en masse. It’s ironic that NASCAR seems to want to run plates at more tracks next year in an attempt to make the racing more exciting. Never again for this cowpoke.

Michael Finley: We’re all forgetting about quite possibly the worst race ever staged in the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that’s saying something considering this is a track that once held a Formula 1 GP where 70 percent of the field refused to start the race. The 2008 Brickyard 400 was plagued by tire problems. It got bad enough that NASCAR ruled midway through that there would be competition cautions about every 10 laps because that’s how long tires were lasting. After 15 years of large crowds, this was the race that killed the NASCAR race at Indianapolis attendance-wise. In one of the best TV markets in the sport, it can’t even get 40,000 to come out to a Cup race there.

Mark Howell: Sadly, I can recall more dull races than thrilling ones. Having spent nearly the past 50 years following or working around NASCAR, the boring events I’ve seen blur together into one large lump of blandness; it’s much easier to remember the exciting events I’ve seen. That said, last week’s Cup race at Kentucky will eventually become part of the aforementioned lump. Nothing against Truex and company, but their domination in the Bluegrass State wasn’t nearly as memorable as what we saw at Chicagoland and Daytona.

This week’s test session at the Charlotte ROVAL resulted in a good bit of attrition as cars spun or made contact. Do you think that it’s an indication of the kind of race we will see there?

Coburn: Maybe; nobody knows yet, that’s part of what makes this experiment exciting. If anyone doesn’t wreck, it’ll be Brad Keselowski and AJ Allmendinger, but it might turn into a 2017 fall Talladega Superspeedway race where about a half-dozen cars are running at the end. Fans say they want old-school racing like the 1970s, and that would certainly qualify.

Amy Henderson: It’s hard to tell how they’ll race because you didn’t see 40 cars out there all at once in testing. You’ll see drivers approach it differently on raceday with traffic. Might it be a race of attrition? Sure. Will it look like Daytona or Talladega? Probably not as cars will get spread out more. While it’s not the road course I’d have chosen to add to the schedule, I applaud NASCAR and Charlotte for doing it. Maybe when current track contracts are up, they will rethink it if another true road course is added, but let’s see how it races first. As an aside… it’s an infield road course. ROVAL isn’t a real word, and it’s kind of ridiculous.

Mclaughlin: The goings-on at the ROVAL have a contrived feel of something thrown together too quickly without really understanding the underlying challenges. Yep, this isn’t so good. We’ll just rearrange things a little here and move this tire barrier over here a foot… a nip… a tuck… a stitch in time… voila, we have created a silk purse from a sow’s ear. This one has the makings of a Dis-faster ™.

Finley: Wood Brothers Racing and Paul Menard have tested the ROVAL three times, and only once was he able to bring the car home clean. Now, Menard might not be the greatest driver in the world, but he is pretty great at staying out of trouble and not destroying the car. And this is a guy who thinks we should have more ROVALs on the schedule! So if he’s having trouble, it’s fair to say a majority of the field will run into some.

John Haverlin: The race will be similar to Daytona or Talladega because it will be a survival competition. That’s what will make it exciting. Oh, and it’s an elimination race during the playoffs. I see why some might be skeptical of this temporary road course, but I can’t wait to see what kind of race transpires on the new Charlotte configuration.

It was revealed this week that several teams have discovered a way to trick the OSS with black areas on the right rear of the car. Since many teams have their own Hawkeye systems in-house, how do you think NASCAR should curb this sort of thing going forward?

Henderson: NASCAR should have humans measure anything that the Hawkeye can’t accurately ascertain. NASCAR shouldn’t be in the business of controlling how teams paint their cars, but it does need to make sure those cars are legal. My guess is most of them are and there are a lot of head games being played. But part of the problem with NASCAR today is that it has removed the human element too much. The solution is pretty easy: measure any area in doubt by hand. I’d bet if they did that, you’d see a lot less of those endless inspection failures, too.

Howell: Whatever NASCAR does to curb the current OSS resolution revolution, it’ll be short-lived. Teams will simply find another way to cheat the technology, and maybe just as quickly as they did finding a loophole in the new-and-improved inspection method. You had to get suspicious when teams talked openly about buying their own OSS systems. The best way to control the technology is to make sure no one has complete private access to it in the first place. If I were at the R&D center, I’d expect any of my corrected zigs to be met by team-fabricated, corrupted zags.

Coburn: I’m not sure what NASCAR should or can do about it, but I applaud the teams’ thorough search for any on-track advantages going all the way to including the graphic designers. That’s an element and angle of the sport that gets overlooked often. That puts determination and dedication to win on a whole new level.

McLaughlin: The key point here is that many teams have their own OSS scanning systems. The smaller teams do not so they are missing out on a potential chance to gig the system. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. All teams have access to the OSS system at NASCAR’s R&D, but it would seem extremely unwise to use the NASCAR rig looking for some unfair advantage with them looking over your shoulder.

Haverlin: NASCAR shouldn’t do anything. Unless there are only black- and dark-colored cars running in the top five every week, the problem is pretty negligible at the moment.

Pugliese: Easy. Weird black paint or confusing color camo that wasn’t there a few months ago? Rattle the rear of the car white while they’re in line for inspection. Don’t pass inspection, start the race from their pit stall. It’s one thing to try and push the boundaries on templates, but to blatantly (and none-too-subtly) try to trick the inspection equipment is getting a bit ridiculous. We’re not to a point we can start disqualifying cars (that large sucking sound you just heard was a vacuum caused by two major sponsors leaving at year’s end — and the series’ sponsor next year), but come on, at least try to create the illusion that you’re attempting to play within the rules.

Tony Stewart said Eldora Speedway is ready to host an XFINITY Series race. Are you in favor of adding a dirt race to that tour?

Howell: I have no problem with NASCAR putting an XFINITY race on dirt. The ARCA Supercar Series ran a dirt event every season for many years and it was always a highlight of the schedule. As long as it stays at one NXS dirt race, fine. It’s easy for fans to demand too much of a good thing, as we’ve seen in calls for adding more dirt tracks to the Truck calendar. One is original; two is that other dirt event.

Henderson: Yes, absolutely. Eldora has been on the Truck circuit now long enough for the novelty to have worn off, but the crowd is still excellent, better than other CWTS races, for sure, and probably a lot of NXS races, too. NASCAR needs to connect with its roots as much as possible because as the people who were their age and are no longer here to tell the stories, fans need to see some things the way they once were.

Pugliese: Yes; why not make a Friday night show of it with the XFINITY cars as well? While I like the notion of the Truck Series having its own marquee event that is its race alone, the next-tier series could benefit from this as well, in addition to returning to Lucas Oil Raceway the weekend of the Brickyard 400. As concerning as the attendance and ratings are for Cup races (as well as the other two series) each weekend, seeing as many fans that are here encircling the track reminds me of NASCAR’s heyday of the 1990s. No, there aren’t 120,000 people here, but the place if full, stands packed, with lawn chairs on the grass. We’ve spent the last decade wallowing in the same sea of existing tracks and predictable outcomes. Maybe it’s time to heed the advice from guys like Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to help direct the sport where it needs to go.

Haverlin: Not a fan of dirt racing. I definitely don’t want to see the XFINITY or Cup series run on dirt. It’s cool for the trucks to do once a year, but let the World of Outlaws have their dirt and let NASCAR have its pavement.

About the author

Frank Velat has been an avid follower of NASCAR and other motorsports for over 20 years. He brings a blend of passionate fan and objective author to his work. Frank offers unique perspectives that everyone can relate to, remembering the sport's past all the while embracing its future. Follow along with @FrankVelat on Twitter.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share this article

4 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
rg72

I’ll throw another snooze-fest into the hopper. It was one of the Texas races, back when running 500 mile races on 1.5 mile tracks on Saturday nights was a thing. I think it was the spring 2012 race that ran caution-free for the final 200+ laps. Caution-free isn’t a terrible thing provided it’s accompanied by some decent action. That wasn’t the case on this April night. In my books, the worst race not impacted by a tire/track issue or slapping restrictor plates on the cars on a flat track.

DoninAjax

As to the roval, who knows. It’s a Mickey Mouse layout by a current Mickey Mouse organization run by full-sized Dopey.

Don in Connecticut

Wow!!!! Roval !!!! Be still my heart! Another example of creativity from the good folks running Nascarland! Right up there with segments, playoffs, spec cars and so much of the forward thinking that has made NASCAR what it is today! LOL!

SmarterThanYo

Would the NFL have a playoff game on a field that had never been used for one moment of competition? The ROVAL will be a disaster and anyone who still thinks AJ Allmendinger is a road course ace has head up his arse. As for the dirt race, everyone is conveniently forgetting that except for cautions at the end, we would have seen a first-time NASCAR driver win the race by over 5 seconds. Eldora is overrated and over-hyped.

And get rid of the OSS system completely and the templates and all the rest of the attempts to turn NASCAR into IROC. Parity doesn’t work. Isn’t that crystal clear by now? The more NASCAR attempts to achieve parity, the more races we see dominated by the same teams. Worse yet, the Big Three rarely compete among themselves in a given race – only one car takes off and runs away with it. We just alternate among the 78, 4 and 18. Give teams a big gray area in which to experiment and put the engineers back in the game.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com