By admin | March 4, 2009
By Richard Allen
After reading the headline of this column you may have thought you had mistakenly logged onto a financial site. Thatâ€™s not quite the case. This column will have nothing to do with interest rates or bailouts.
The banking I am talking about is the banking on race tracks. The best racing in NASCAR takes place on either short tracks or on tracks with steep banking.
The first three races of this 2009 season illustrate this point vividly.
The Daytona International Speedway combines high banks with a length of 2.5 miles which could combine to create excessive speeds. Thus, restrictor plates are required to reduce speeds. Those plates create the closest and most intense racing on the Sprint Cup Series. Daytona and its sister track, Talladega Super Speedway, are the only two tracks where restrictor plates are used on a permanent basis.
This yearâ€™s Daytona 500 featured its usual intense racing despite the fact the race was cut short by over 100 miles due to rain this year.
The Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California was a different story. The 2 mile track with relatively flat banking offered little in the way of close quarter racing. There were very few passes for the lead anywhere other than on pit road.
The Los Angeles area track was originally designed for racing among open wheel Indy cars. High banks would cause those machines to travel far too fast around a track of such length. NASCAR type cars were only an afterthought for original track owner Roger Penske.
Racing on that track shows all to well that the facility was not designed with big, heavy stock cars in mind. Cars get strung out over the entire length of the speedway and log mile after mile of follow the leader racing.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the most recent Sprint Cup race, used to suffer from the same dilemma as the track in Fontana. However, two years ago the owners of the facility took on the bold gamble of rebuilding their 1.5 mile track.
The flat turns were replaced by high banks similar to those of tracks in Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas. This past weekâ€™s race provided fans with a much more exciting event than the one in California. There was passing and a good bit of it. Three and even four wide racing took place throughout the day.
Importantly, there was passing for the lead. Granted, there were times in which the lead car was able to pull out to large leads but in the end the racing at the front of the pack was worthy of some nail biting.
The banking of the turns seems to be the difference maker, or perhaps the equalizer.
With that said, the next several races should offer good competition. Tracks such as Atlanta, Bristol, Texas and Talladega will be among the venues to be run over the next couple of months. Each of those tracks have plenty of banking.
Among the facilities that do not have steep turns over the coming weeks are mostly tracks of one mile or less. The shorter tracks do not necessarily fit into the same category as the 1.5- 2 mile â€˜cookie cuttersâ€™.
Hopefully, these next several races will provide good, close racing. NASCAR needs that to happen, but more importantly, the fans who pay hard earned money to go to these tracks deserve it.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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