Why NASCAR Road Races Matter

Could this be Danica Patrick's best chance of 2015 to take a win?
Could this be Danica Patrick’s best chance of 2015 to take a win?

Since NASCAR’s inception road racing has been an integral part of the stock car sanctioning body’s DNA.

Big Bill France had always intended for the series to a mix of ovals and road racing, although through the years the ovals took the lion’s share of the schedule. Why? Americans could sit in one spot and watch the war from one place without having to move around.

In an effort to further separate it’s brand from that of the European style road racing, NASCAR embraced the ovals as a way of imitating the games of football and baseball. All the action, concessions and seating in one place. But was that the right course of action for the modern era?

In my opinion, no. Road racing shows who really are the best overall racing drivers no matter the weight or style of car used. Everything a racer learns is employed in a road race.

Decades ago it was no rare thing to see the Unser’s, the Andretti’s, A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney take a crack at the road races on a regular basis, however we now live in the age of specialization. It’s almost impossible for a NASCAR driver to be competitive in a professional level road race that’s open wheel or of the sprint variety.

Last year it was Carl Edwards riding over the curbs to take a Sonoma win.
Last year it was Carl Edwards riding over the curbs to take a Sonoma win.

Endurance racing isn’t as demanding on the driver as an hour and a half road race, which is why you see many NASCAR drivers run the 24 Hours of Daytona.

However, turnabout is fair play . It’s almost impossible for a Formula Car racer to come in and win a NASCAR oval race. They are unbelievably hard and ultra-competitive.

No matter, the regular Cup series drivers should be capable of driving these very heavy cars on road courses if they are to claim they are among the best drivers in the world.

After all, you don’t drive to work in a circle, do you?

Now we have Sonoma coming up this weekend where we find out who can handle these cars that don’t stop like they should, have very little traction and can easily spin the tires under acceleration. Good. That’s how it should be.

In fact, there should be at least 4 road races on the already absurd schedule and no fewer than two road races in the final rounds of the Chase. Heresy!

No matter whether you love ovals and hate road courses, there are plenty of fans who happen to enjoy both. On a road course you have an entire infield to navigate from one side of the course to the other taking in each corner as you go, it’s a complete experience.

Sonoma, being wine country, has to be one of the tougher road courses on these cars as they have to brake so heavily and then accelerate for long straights. It’s how auto racing was designed, to turn left and right and still be able to out-think the rival who is just in front of you.

It’s very much like a chess match that has a violent streak. On one level of the drivers thinking he or she must be capable of hitting the same marks on different turns every lap all the while having to think strategically about how they can set someone up for a pass while defending your position, all at once.

Let’s stop being dogmatic about ovals when road races bring out full fan attendance and some of the best action this side of Bristol.

I’ll have an old vine Zinfandel thank you.

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