charlotte motor speedway

Mario Andretti tries out, approves of Charlotte Motor Speedway road course

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We now have two positive reviews of the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Following AJ Allmendinger‘s comments back in January, IndyCar legend Mario Andretti has shared his thoughts on the 2.4-mile circuit that will likely host a NASCAR Cup race in fall 2018.

As a guest of the track and the NASCAR Racing Experience, the 77-year-old driver piloted two cars – a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid and a 2017 Cadillac CTS-V. Andretti maxed out at 177 mph in the Porsche.

“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” Andretti said in a press release. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”

The “roval” circuit would use most of the 1.5-mile oval NASCAR already competes on.

Allmendinger took part in a data test on the road course in mid-January and later said it “was a lot of fun.”

Earlier this month, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said the track “learned a lot” from the test.

“We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the ‘roval,'” Smith told NBC Sports, adding that “several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence” were being transported in for installation.

The Cup Series has two road courses on it schedule, at Sonoma Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York.

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Reports: Las Vegas, Charlotte speedways may cut seating capacity

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway and sister Speedway Motorsports Inc. track Charlotte Motor Speedway may both be in line for facelifts, according to media reports.

A story in Sunday’s Las Vegas Review Journal speculated that a number of seats could be removed after this season.

According to the newspaper, “Seats at LVMS were widened on the front straightaway before the sweeping grandstand between Turns 3 and 4 (were) shoveled under in 2015, reducing capacity to around 108,000. Attendance for last Sunday’s Kobalt 400 was estimated at 70,000. (NASCAR stopped releasing attendance figures in 2013.)

“If the sections in front of the terraces are eliminated, it would trim LVMS capacity to around 80,000.”

NBCSports.com reached out to Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials for comment. In an email reply, Jeff Motley, the speedway’s vice president of communications, stated:

“At this time, we haven’t made any final decisions on what changes, if any, we are going to make,” Motley said. “We are considering making some changes. That’s really all I can tell you at this point.”

Las Vegas Motor Speedway officials announced less than two weeks ago that it would host two NASCAR race weekends in 2018 for the first time in its history, taking away one of two annual race weekends from sister track New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Turn 4 of Charlotte Motor Speedway may lose some seating capacity, according to a media report.

And then there’s Charlotte Motor Speedway.

According to Monday’s edition of The Charlotte Observer, SMI – which owns nine racetracks including CMS and Las Vegas Motor Speedway – is expected to remove an unspecified number of seats primarily in the area of Turn 4, as well as suites that have lower demand.

The newspaper cited a recent Speedway Motorsports Inc., securities filing that stated that it had repurposed or are repurposing “certain low demand seating areas and suits” at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“We often use these areas for premium hospitality, advertising and other facility revenue generating uses, and removal also reduces depreciation and certain other operating costs,” the filing stated. “For example, (Charlotte) plans to offer new premium hospitality and entertainment activities, and possibly install solar panels as part of our ‘green initiatives,’ after removal of certain fourth-turn seating in 2017.

“We believe seat removal and alternative use of desirable advertising space help improve pricing power, and provide increased marketing appeal from fuller grandstands because those areas are frequently displayed during television broadcasts, in photos, and are viewable by large numbers of fans attending our speedways.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway vice president of communications Scott Cooper told The Observer, “Every year, we look at ways to modernize the facilities, enhance the fan experience and increase revenues.”

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NASCAR America: Debating using the Charlotte road course in the playoffs

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There’s a good chance the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be held on the track’s road course as soon as next year.

On NASCAR America, reporter Nate Ryan talked with analysts Dale Jarrett and Kyle Petty about whether the playoffs need a road course and if that road course should be Charlotte.

Dale Jarrett: “I’m not against Charlotte here … Charlotte is an oval. That is what they do best. Sonoma and Watkins Glen, those are road courses and that’s what they’re built for. Were they built for stock cars? No, they weren’t. But the road course that you have at Charlotte … I’m just not fan of that idea.”

Kyle Petty: I do like that. I’ve said that from the very beginning, I want a road course in the (playoffs). … This I’m not so sure about, I understand the process, I understand what they’re trying to do. But what’s next? We’re going to run a dirt race on Bristol?”

Watch the video for the full segment.

NASCAR America: Las Vegas’ second race, Charlotte upgrades

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NBC Sports reports Nate Ryan joins Rick Allen to discuss New Hampshire Motor Speedway losing its September race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway beginning in 2018.

Ryan also reports on what Charlotte Motor Speedway is doing to prepare its road course for likely use by the NASCAR Cup Series as soon as fall 2018 in the playoffs.

“(SMI CEO Marcus Smith) did tell me today catch fences are on their way in, crash walls are on their way in for this road course,” Ryan said. “He said this is going to be a world-class facility they are spending a lot of money on upgrades. That tells you where they’re going with this.”

Watch the video for the rest of the segment.

Marcus Smith says Charlotte Motor Speedway making upgrades to road course

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With Charlotte Motor Speedway using its 1.5-mile oval in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this October, the track is in the process of considering the road course for 2018.

In a phone call Thursday morning to NBC Sports, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith addressed the prospect and said the track is making upgrades to its infield layout.

Smith said the track was extremely pleased by a test on its road course in January with A.J. Allmendinger.

“We learned a lot in that test,” Smith told NBC Sports. “We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the ‘roval.’

“There are several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence on the way in, and I think it’s something that could definitely have a place on the (Cup) schedule in the future.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway has hosted Sports Car Club of America races on its road course, which is roughly more than 2 miles in length. The layout being considered for the Cup race would use most of the oval (all but a section of a few hundred feet between Turns 1 and 2).

Smith also said on a March 1 call for SMI investors that the company was working to “finish the enhancement of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s infield road course.”

The Cup schedule has two road-course events in the regular season: Sonoma and Watkins Glen International.

SMI announced Wednesday that Las Vegas Motor Speedway would receive a September race in next year’s Cup playoffs. If Charlotte were to run its October 2018 race on the road course, that would keep the number of 1.5-mile ovals at five in the 10-race title run.