In an announcement that no one saw coming, NASCAR has proposed making Auto Club Speedway a half-mile short track from a two-mile D-shaped oval.
The announcement was first reported by The Athletic and later confirmed by NASCAR.
The lay of the land at the new Auto Club Speedway is slated to work this way: the frontstretch will remain where it is at the start/finish line, but it will be dramatically cut down. Today’s pit road will become the back straightaway.
Pit road will be set where the infield grass is located. To paint a better picture in your minds, think of the ovals on the frontstretches of Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but just a lot longer in terms of the straightaways.
The turns will be banked at around 25 to 30 degrees. Because the track will not have room for haulers or garage stalls, the garages will be located outside of turns three and four.
Imagine Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway having a child with long straightaways and high-banked turns. That is what the new Auto Club Speedway will look like when the calendar turns to 2022. The race fan inside of me believes that out of all the intermediate 1.5-mile and 2.0-mile tracks on the Cup Series schedule, which usually produce lackluster races, this is one of the best tracks. However, I am completely for adding more short tracks.
Kyle Busch spoke with the media on Thursday, and he actually believes that the Fontana, California track should remain a two-mile D-shaped oval.
“I like the way it is. It’s a really fun race track, I kind of understand the fan point where it gets strung out, cars aren’t on top of each other, but there’s a good point to argue where there have been some really fantastic finishes over the years, and being an old worn out surface it gives and opportunity to put on a good race with us drivers.
“Even as much as we want to applaud on these race tracks that we feel like put on good races from the driver’s seat, sometimes they don’t always do that from the TV standpoint.”
Chase Elliott also spoke Thursday and had a completely different viewpoint and is all in favor and applauded NASCAR for this idea.
“It’s super interesting. I enjoy short track racing, and I think it’s a good thing. Certainly that racetrack was old and abrasive. I think we need more of it. Fontana is a good track, one of the bigger 1.5-2 mile tracks that we go to, but we do enough complaining as is.
“I think the bigger picture we should be excited about is leadership at NASCAR is doing something different nowadays and is becoming a trend. Instead of finding the negatives, we should all be excited that they are doing some things different and putting them to work. That’s something I don’t think has happened in ever until right now. I think it will be a great addition to our schedule.”
A lot of sides win here, including the drivers and teams.
We know this short track is set to debut is in 2022, the same year NASCAR debuts their Next Gen car, hence why this project is called “Next Gen California”.
Obviously, we do not know the rules package yet for the Gen 7 car, but if it is similar to the current rules package, it will mean a “small blade, big motor”, or in formal terms, low downforce and 750 horsepower.
I have spoken with many drivers and crew chiefs at the Cup level such as Rodney Childers, Aric Almirola and Kyle Busch, and they have said that the low downforce package provides much better racing.
As I did in a previous article before the season started, take a look at the loop data for the low downforce package at short tracks. With this package on a hybrid of Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, we should expect a great race.
Additionally, NASCAR fans win, especially the grassroots fans. A lot of the fanbase have asked for more short tracks in recent years. North Wilkesboro Speedway, Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Irwindale Speedway are among some of the notables. But no one expected NASCAR to go to Auto Club Speedway for a short track.
When you think about it, this is a win for the business itself. If NASCAR wanted to go to Irwindale Speedway, they would have had to purchase the race track to make it suitable for all parties. Since they already own Auto Club Speedway, it will be a great way to make money. For the racing alone, trying new things we haven’t really seen before, like Elliott said, is amazing.
I could also envision a garage experience similar to what Talladega Superspeedway, Phoenix Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway do in terms of the fan views. Perhaps that could be an additional idea to make some extra cash.
Unfortunately, there is one group that is negatively affected, and those are the fans who camp in the infield and invest a lot of money in a campsite for the weekend and maybe even an entire week to get a breathtaking view of cars going by them at speeds of around 200 miles per hour.
It’s unfortunate, but I hope they can understand why this change was made and they can find new campsites.
This is going to be a race you will want circled on your calendar come 2022. Get ready for a short track showdown that we have never seen before. How will this race play out? What will the rules package look like? Only time will tell.