Road Courses: Please Sir can we have some more?

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Language is a strange beast what with various words having different meanings depending on how they are used and even more so when a word doesn’t just have a different meaning depending on circumstance but another part of the world uses a word you’re familiar with that conjures up entirely different thoughts to what you are used too.

A simple example is the word ‘chips’. For Americans it means a potato snack based food but for us Brits it is what we get in McDonalds alongside our Big Mac! In a sporting context there is the word ‘football’. On this side of the pond it refers to a game played with a round ball and 11 players trying to kick it between a goal, yet in America ‘football’ can be summed up by three letters, NFL. It’s all a case of what you grow up with and what images spring to mind when you hear a certain word.

Take ‘motor racing’ for example, as a Brit growing up in the 80/90s my experience of motor sport came from many different areas F1, Touring cars, Superbikes, the various amounts of racing video games that I’ve played and even taking my own car around these tracks. One thing that they all have in common is the type of track that they all race on, they all have left and right turns. ‘Motor racing’ to me means cars going round a track like Silverstone, Monaco, Nurbergring and Donington Park. Yet in America this isn’t the normal type of track thought about when the words ‘motor racing’ are heard, these types of tracks have a special name they are known as Road courses.

This weekend NASCAR makes it first visit to a road course (it still seems strange for me to refer to these tracks in this way) for the Toyota-Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. An always popular event that does well not only in TV viewing figures but is attended well and is much-loved by the drivers and who can blame them. For me this is the ultimate form of racing, it requires drivers to be at the pinnacle of their car control, be able to hit multiple apexes and stick to the racing line, all while constantly watching their mirrors. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying it doesn’t take skill to drive an oval circuit. Drivers still have to have car control and find where the grip is but with the cars always going left the cars are more balanced and set up specifically for those turns.

If a driver wants to be called the best NASCAR driver in a given year than it is only right that they demonstrate their driving skills on a road course; that they truly can master all types of circuits and are race car drivers in their purest form. I just wish that there was more of them. As it stands there are only two of these circuits on the Sprint Cup calendar Sonoma and Watkins Glen and I think NASCAR are missing a trick by not having at least one more round held at a road course. Even if they don’t put one in the first 26 rounds I think that there is a very strong argument to include one in the Chase. When the pressure is on and the title is potentially on the line what better place to once again test a drivers skill than with a road course.

June 24, 2012; Sonoma, CA, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Marcos Ambrose (9) and Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon (24) lead the pack through turn 2 during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There is even the perfect opportunity for NASCAR to do this. I make no attempt to hide my dislike of the Texas races and it annoys me even more that we have two of them in the schedule. Now there is a brand new road course at Austin that has provided exciting racing not just in F1 but also in the Australian V8 series that recently raced there and provided very entertaining racing. By keeping it in Texas it also takes away the argument that Texas would be losing a race. Alternatively NASCAR could expand their reach and have a race in Canada at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve home of F1 racing, or just go to Mid Ohio or Road America, either way there are plenty of places NASCAR could go too.

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