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Martin Truex Jr. compares Charlotte road course to Talladega

When NASCAR runs its first playoff road course race next year, drivers think the Charlotte track will produce a race similar to what happens at Talladega Superspeedway.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Course Test
Kurt Busch drives during testing on the road course portion at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Photo by Bob Leverone/Getty Images for NASCAR

A mini Talladega Superspeedway is how Martin Truex Jr. essentially described the road course layout at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which next year will host the first road course race in the Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs.

Charlotte’s 2.42-mile, 18-turn layout is obviously much different than Talladega’s 2.6-mile oval, where restrictor plates are used to slow speeds and drivers run in large packs. But despite the fundamental differences, Truex believes the Bank of America 500 next year will unfold similar to races at Talladega, which often features high attrition due to the propensity of multi-car accidents.

“I’m going to put this right there with Talladega,” Truex Jr. told reporters Wednesday. “I’m going to be hoping I win one of the first two (races) of that round.

“It’s very narrow; it’s very rough; there are a lot of swells and whoop-de-dos, all kinds of craziness going on. Turn 1, Turn 2 (are) pretty wild. Narrow. Concrete walls on both sides. It’s a little intimidating.”

Along with Kurt Busch, Daniel Hemric, and Jamie McMurray, Truex was one of four drivers who took part in a two-day tire test at Charlotte in preparation for the 2018 playoff race. Traditionally, Charlotte’s fall race is run on its 1.5-mile oval, but next year officials elected to instead utilize the road course portion of the speedway.

Charlotte will be just the third road course on the Cup Series schedule, joining Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International, and the first such track to be included in the 10-race Cup Series postseason. Since the playoff format was introduced in 2004, all championship-deciding races have been conducted on ovals.

The Charlotte layout is a hybrid with the road course incorporating large sections of the oval along with right- and left-handed turns, tight-braking areas, two chicanes, a 35-foot elevation change, and all on a condensed footprint.

“There’s no room for taking a break or having a quick, deep breath down the straightaway,” Busch said. “As soon as you’re in high gear off Turn 2, you’re in a chicane. Back through the gears, you’re downshifting on the brakes to go to the frontstretch chicane. It’s a very busy track.

“It’s going to be more about survival and being smart.

Speeds will eclipse about 175 mph, Truex said, while Busch said there is a section where drivers will slow down to about 35 mph. Busch says the track needs to be tweaked if officials want to produce exciting racing, and he recommends combining some corners together to eliminate the slow speeds to create better rhythm.

“Skip [Turns] 8 and go to 9,” Busch said. “That way we will have one less slow section … would help the flow of the track as well as the exit of the infield section out onto the big oval. It would create more of a speed feel as well as eliminate one of the super slow corners.

“Frankly, a 3,500-pound car going 35 mph too many times isn’t all that exciting so we need to maybe need to speed up the track a little bit.”

As for where the best places to pass are on the tricky circuit, that is still being determined.

“I can’t tell you that,” Truex said. “Single-car runs so far, so it’s hard to say. There’s a lot of places you can crash. I’m not sure about the passing yet.”