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Long: Will Roval open door to Cup race on street course?

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With NASCAR President Steve Phelps saying that “everything is in play” in regards to the sport’s future combined with the successful debut of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval this past weekend, now is the time to think bigger.

Along with the notion of midweek races, doubleheaders and a race on a dirt track for Cup, the thought of a street course race shouldn’t be too far-fetched.

The Roval, as close to a street course as any road course with its walls and minimal run-off space, showed that NASCAR drivers and cars could handle running on a tight circuit. And do it two-wide and even three-wide in at times.

Now, the sport should look to take that racing to the people and compete on the streets of a city.

“I think if somebody wanted to do that and put that on, it would be very interesting,” said car owner Roger Penske, who brought the Detroit Grand Prix to the streets of Belle Isle.

Justin Marks, a road racer who competed in this weekend’s Xfinity and Cup races at the Roval, is all for a NASCAR street course event because of what it could mean to the sport.

“I’m a huge believer you have to take your product to the people,” Marks said. “In 2012, I went to the Long Beach Grand Prix as a competitor in the Pirelli World Challenge Series and I remember spending the weekend at that race there looking around at 100,000 people and thinking that 90,000 of these people aren’t racing fans. They’re here because it’s a great cultural event.

“I think that the days of people driving 500 miles from their home to spend four days at a race track camping are numbered.”

Marks admitted there would be challenges to do a Cup street race but “I think it could be a hell of a show if they did it, especially if they went to a market like Detroit or LA or South Florida or if they managed to pull something off in Nashville or Austin or something like that, great cultural hubs and great markets.

Former IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani, who has run select Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series along with competing full-time in the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, said Toronto could be a good place for NASCAR to run. IndyCar runs on a street circuit there.

“I would not give up (on) a track like this because it would be tough to reproduce the atmosphere, the event downtown, the feeling,” Tagliani said. “I think it’s worth to have an event like this in our country.”

The challenges or racing on a street course, though, wouldn’t be only for teams and competitors.

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports Inc., and the creator of the Roval for Charlotte, raises questions about a street race.

“For a driver, it’s not really a problem, but hosting the race is a big problem with street courses, they’re incredibly expensive to put on,” Smith said on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “They’re temporary so you have no benefit to amortize expense over the years.

“Street courses just tend to fail. I’m not a fan of street courses for that purpose. It’s interesting, but they’re just incredibly expensive and bad business models. Things that are good for NASCAR overall need to also be good for the business of the sport.”

The Detroit Grand Prix and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which oversees Belle Isle, reached an agreement in August to continue the event there for three more years. The deal includes an option to extend the length two more years.

As part of the agreement, the Grand Prix will increase its annual total contribution to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for hosting the event on Belle Isle from $200,000 to $450,000 each year.

Among the series, the Grand Prix hosts are the IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series.

Now could be a good time to consider at a street course option. NASCAR is looking to revamp its schedule beginning with the 2021 season. NASCAR’s five-year contracts with tracks expire after the 2020 season.

“There are a lot of things in play,” Phelps said. “We would rule out nothing at this particular point. We need to make sure that we have all the input, all the information necessary to make an informed decision that will allow us to get to what that 2020 schedule will look like.”


Jimmie Johnson was two turns from advancing to the second round of the playoffs. He was safe, running second and needed only to finish to keep his hopes alive for a record eighth Cup championship.

Instead, Johnson went for the win, locked his brakes, spun and took out leader Martin Truex Jr., allowing Ryan Blaney to win.

Johnson crossed the line eighth to finish in a three-way tie for the final two transfer positions. Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola grabbed those spots over Johnson because they each had a better finish than him in the first round.

Johnson’s title hopes are over.

But he made the right decision to go for the win.

A seven-time champion who was on a 51-race winless drought showed how much winning means to him when he risked it all to be victorious. This isn’t an aging athlete mailing it in.

Frankly, Johnson would have made the playoffs had Jeffrey Earnhardt not spun after contact from Daniel Hemric and stalled less than 100 yards from the finish. With Earnhardt unable to cross the line, Larson chugged by after blowing a tire and hitting the wall twice in the final third of a mile to gain the spot — and the extra point that forged the three-way tie with Johnson and Almirola.

Yes, Johnson was greedy. Yes, it would have been easier to back off but what if he had finished second? 

Just as no one could have imagined Larson, driving a battered and broken vehicle, would pass a car stopped so close to the finish line to knock Johnson out of the playoff, who is to say Johnson might not have needed those playoff points with a win to get to the third round?


While it’s easy to say Jimmie Johnson’s move at the end of the Roval cost him a chance to advance in the playoffs but he had opportunities to get that one extra point throughout the playoffs and couldn’t.

Looking back at the end of the first two stages at Las Vegas and Richmond, one can see the opportunities lost earlier in the first round.

At Las Vegas, Johnson scored no points in the first stage. In the second stage, he was sixth with five laps to go. He gained two spots, collecting two additional points.

But at Richmond, he was 11th with eight laps left in the first stage and could not get into the top 10 to score any points. In the second stage, he was eighth with eight laps to go and couldn’t gain another spot.

Meanwhile, Larson found himself in a desperate situation at the end of the Roval race because of what happened in the first two stages at Las Vegas and Richmond.

The biggest blow to Larson was that 10 laps from the end of stage 1 at Las Vegas, he had to give up third place and pit for a right front tire issue. Had he finished third in that segment, he would have had eight more points and would not have been in a three-way tie for the final two transfer spots.

Aric Almirola can look back at a move at Las Vegas with helping create that tie after the Roval race. Almirola was 10th with five laps to go in the first stage. He passed Clint Bowyer before the end to finish the stage ninth and gain an extra point. If Almirola doesn’t get that spot, he’s not tied with Johnson and is eliminated.

Every point matters.


Saturday’s Xfinity race lasted 1 hour, 32 minutes, 35 seconds. It was the shortest Xfinity race on a road course since June 1991 at Watkins Glen. That race lasted 1 hour, 36 minutes, 5 seconds.

Excluding the Dash4Cash races that had been shortened when those were paired with heat races, last weekend’s event was the shortest Xfinity race since Darlington in September 2015. That race lasted 1 hour, 25 minutes, 14 seconds.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, said that the sanctioning body would increase the number of laps for the race next year. It was 55 laps this year.

The question is what should be the proper length of a race? The Xfinity Series has had one race last three hours (season opener at Daytona) and seven races last more than 2 hours, 20 minutes. The series has had five races (other than the Roval) last less than two hours. The shortest race had been Michigan (1 hour, 45 minutes) before the Roval.

So what should be the proper length of a race? Does it matter if a race lasts barely 90 minutes?

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Ryan Blaney wins on Roval after Truex, Johnson wreck in final turn

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CONCORD, N.C. —  Ryan Blaney won the inaugural Cup race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval on Sunday, overtaking Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson in the final turn as they wrecked battling for the win.

It is Blaney’s first win of the year.

Truex led on a restart with three laps to go with Johnson second. Johnson took his shot at the win trying to pass Truex on the outside entering the frontstretch chicane. Johnson lost control and went into a spin. He then caught Truex’s right rear, sending him around.

Blaney, who restarted fifth, navigated between their cars and across the line.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Blaney told NBC. “You hate to see two guys get into it there and take each other out, two of the best cars all day. But that’s racing sometimes.”

It is Blaney’s first win since the June 2017 race at Pocono, snapping a 50 race winless streak.

Truex finished 14th and Johnson placed eighth.

Johnson was eliminated from playoff contention. Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin were also eliminated.

The top five was completed by Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch.

The final three laps were set up by a massive wreck in Turn 1 on a restart with six laps to go. The wreck included race leader Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, William Byron, Trevor Bayne, Daniel Hemric and Aric Almirola.

The wreck began when Keselowski locked up his brakes approaching the turn.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Larson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ryan Blaney

MORE: Race results

MORE: Point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Alex Bowman earned his third top five this season and secured a spot in the playoffs … Chase Elliott placed sixth, giving him a top 10 in all three road course races this season … Matt DiBenedetto placed 13th for his best finish on a non-restrictor plate track this season … Aric Almirola finished 19th after multiple incidents and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Kyle Busch placed 32nd for his third finish outside the top 10 since the July Daytona race …  Austin Dillon placed 39th after hitting the wall twice in the second stage … Daniel Suarez placed 19th after three speeding penalties.

NOTABLE: Justin Marks placed 27th in what is expected to be his final NASCAR start.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We finished 14th and he’s knocked out of the playoffs. I guess that’s what he gets.” – Martin Truex Jr. on Jimmie Johnson.

WHAT’S NEXT: Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway at 2 p.m. ET on Oct. 7 on NBCSN

Xfinity Roval race results, points standings

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CONCORD, N.C. – Chase Briscoe‘s win Saturday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval meant no one automatically advanced to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs since Briscoe is not racing for a title.

He didn’t mind. He was too busy celebrating his first career series win. Justin Marks placed second. The rest of the top five had Austin Cindric, Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell.

Click here for race results

The points were jumbled by Saturday’s results. Tyler Reddick climbed from seventh to third in the points (behind Christopher Bell and Daniel Hemric) after placing ninth in Saturday’s race. Cole Custer went from ninth to fourth in the points after finishing seventh in the race. Justin Allgaier, who spun after contact from Cindric and placed 15th, fell from third to seventh in the points.

Ross Chastain holds the last cutoff spot by nine points on Cindric. Next weekend’s race at Dover will trim the playoff field from 12 to eight.

Click for points report

Chase Briscoe wins inaugural Xfinity race on Charlotte Roval

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CONCORD, N.C. — Chase Briscoe won the inaugural Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, earning his first career series win in the process.

Briscoe, 23, led the final 24 laps to earn the win in his 14th series start.

Driving the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBest, Briscoe defeated Justin Marks, Austin Cindric, Ryan Preece and Christopher Bell.

Briscoe has split time this season between the No. 98 and Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Ford. Entering Saturday’s race he had led only 12 laps. He led 33 of the race’s 55 laps.

He took the lead for the first time on the Stage 2 restart, passing Daniel Hemric.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

More: Roval win boosts Chase Briscoe’s “disaster” of a season

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Justin Marks earned his third career top five in his next-to-last NASCAR start. Sunday’s Cup race will be his last … Austin Cindric finished third after spinning from the lead with three laps left in Stage 1 and falling back to fourth … Kaz Grala placed eighth, earning his best finish on a non-restrictor plate track … Alex Labbe bounced back from a mechanical issue on Lap 1 to place 13th for his second-best finish this year.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: After running in the top five most of the day, Daniel Hemric overshot the frontstretch chicane in the closing laps while running second. After serving his on-track penalty, Hemric fell back to ninth and finished 10th … Justin Allgaier finished 15th after he pit during the final caution to repair damage from the end of Stage 2 when he was spun by Austin Cindric and hit by Ryan Sieg as he exited pit road.

NOTABLE: Chase Briscoe is the third driver to earn their first Xfinity win this season (Ross Chastain, Spencer Gallagher).

WHAT’S NEXT: Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway at 3 p.m. ET on Oct. 6 on NBCSN

Check back for more

Austin Cindric wins pole for Xfinity Roval race

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CONCORD, N.C. — Austin Cindric won the pole for the inaugural Xfinity Series race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Cindric qualified first for the Drive for the Cure 200 with a top speed of 105.527 mph.

Cindric will be followed by Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick, Justin Marks and Alex Labbe.

Labbe, the defending NASCAR Pinty’s Series champion, competes full time for DGM Racing. He finished the first round in second.

The first round was red-flagged twice in the first seven minutes for incidents in the first turn.

Spencer Gallagher plowed into the Turn 1 tire barrier. He was unharmed and will go to a backup car.

Soon after, Tanner Berryhill spun entering the turn and his driver-side door hit the barrier

In the final round, Ty Majeski spun in Turn 5 and backed into a wall.  He qualified eighth.

Click here for results.