22 June 2014

It's time for the Sprint Cup Series to race at Road America

(Road America)
Ever since the then-Winston Cup Series returned to Watkins Glen in 1986, NASCAR's top series has run a pair of road course races every season with Sonoma replacing Riverside in 1989. At the very least, it shuts up the clowns who deride NASCAR as "only left turns" but it's also a great change of pace from the usual oval action that dominates the circuit and are what the drivers are generally used to.

It is time for the Sprint Cup Series to add a third road course to the schedule and in my mind, there is only choice for that addition: Road America.

While the Cup drivers are at Sonoma today for the Toyota/Save Mart 355, the Nationwide Series ran at the 4.048 mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the fifth time. And at the track that has become one of the most exciting and certainly unpredictable races of the Nationwide season, it certainly did not disappoint yesterday despite the race being delayed by rain and battling the elements all day. Brendan Gaughan, who had yet to win in the Nationwide Series to this point and had not won a NASCAR race since October 2003, won despite running off course a few times during the course of the race after Alex Tagliani, who had the best car all day, saw his car stall during the final caution, and with his last lap pass of leader Chase Elliott. The story of the race may have been Tagliani driving from 23rd to 2nd in two laps during the green-white-checker in an incredible feat of driving.

As I said, the Nationwide trip to Road America has developed into one of the top races of the year. Seemingly every race there is dominated by some wild racing, particularly in the troublesome turn 5, and many a driver's feelings have been hurt by a move made by the competition. Three of the five races have had at least one green-white-checker, which has always resulted in some wild racing and always an exciting finish.

And Road America brings a different style of racing that the other two road courses on the Cup circuit, and perhaps more exciting. Sonoma is more of a technical race track with many a race coming down to fuel strategy with not as much passing. The Glen is a faster road course but does not bring the unpredictability that we see at Road America.

It is time for there to be a third road course for the Cup drivers to navigate. Adding another track of that type forces a driver to dedicate more time to mastering this kind of racing and it also helps breaks away some from the monotony of the mile and a half tracks that dominate the schedule. And with the new points format that stresses winning, it forces a potential champion to excel on all types of tracks. Plus, I think adding a road course to the Chase will make the NASCAR's postseason, if you will, even more exciting as those races are dominated by the mile and a halves.

Yes, Road America is not in a big media market (it's situated between the Milwaukee and Green Bay markets) and the course could use some upgrades, the likes of which the track is committed to doing, but the racing is too good for the Sprint Cup Series to ignore.

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