Charlotte Roval

Martin Truex Jr. explains frustration with Jimmie Johnson about Roval finish

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DOVER, Del. – Martin Truex Jr. explained his anger Saturday with Jimmie Johnson over Johnson’s actions on the final lap of last weekend’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

“I was mad, of course,” Truex told NBCSN during a morning practice session that was canceled by rain. “It’s natural. It’s human to get mad in situations like that. That was a big race. That was a big day. We put so much effort into that and there were so many things surrounding that race that made it special to me and reasons that I wanted to win, mostly for my guys and the effort they put in, so yea, I was mad about the outcome and the way it went down.

“I was not mad at all, and I think people got the wrong impression, I was not mad at all about Jimmie trying to win. That’s his job. That’s what we all try to do every single weekend. He was trying to win the race. I get that.

“I was mad that he screwed up. I told him. I said, ‘I give you a lane,’ I got tight in Turn 4, NASCAR Turn 4 (on the oval). I was like, well I’m not going to slow down and block him, brake check him, whatever. I’m going to give him the inside lane because I don’t want him on my right side because if I give him the right side, he’s probably going to clean me out. I gave myself the best opportunity to win.”

Instead, Johnson locked his brakes entering the final chicane, spun and then made contact with Truex. Instead of winning – and scoring five playoff points – Truex finished 14th. Johnson fell from second to eighth and then was eliminated from title contention when Kyle Larson passed the stalled car of Jeffrey Earnhardt‘s less than 100 yards from the finish line. That put Larson, Aric Almirola and Johnson into a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots. Larson and Almirola advanced via the tiebreaker (best result in that round).

Johnson said he made a mistake in that chicane.

Friday, Johnson said that he would have done the same thing but made a couple of changes.

Jimmie Johnson: ‘My desire to win has never been stronger’

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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DOVER, Del. — Jimmie Johnson would go for the win entering the final chicane at the Charlotte Roval if he had to do it again.

“I still have got to make that move,” Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway. “I still got to try for it.

“I would have made a small brake bias adjustment, and I think I would have modulated the brakes a little bit different entering the corner. Looking back, I was a little lower than I typically was entering that braking zone and had a bit more steering wheel input in the car and that’s initially why the left front locked up.

“I would change a couple of things, but I don’t know how I don’t go for it.”

Even though Johnson was in a position to advance to the second round of the playoffs, he attempted to maneuver around leader Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap. Johnson spun after his brakes locked, lost six positions and finished eighth.

“It wasn’t this desperate move to try to pass him in that braking zone,” Johnson said. “My intent was to be alongside of him, one side or the other because I felt that would have tripped him enough to where I had a real shot on the exit of the corner to the start/finish line.”

Johnson was eliminated from title contention when Kyle Larson passed Jeffrey Earnhardt’s stalled car less than 100 yards from the finish line. That was the one position Larson needed to forge a three-way tie for the final two transfer spots with Aric Almirola and Johnson. Larson and Almirola advanced via a tiebreaker (best finish in the first round).

The result has provided a week’s worth of second-guessing of Johnson and the No. 48 team.

“I’ve thought about it a lot and what I would do differently,” he said. “I would just like to learn from my mistakes. I do feel bad for my team and the fact that we didn’t advance and how much we put into that, but countless text messages, phone calls, walking though the shop, they’ve all supported my decision to race for the win.

“The other piece that weighs on me … I feel bad for Martin and that No. 78 team. I hate that my mistake affected them and could impact their season to some degree. I don’t like that aspect to it, but it is racing and I know in my heart that it was a legitimate attempt at winning the race and a mistake was made. I didn’t go in there to try to move him out of the way and wreck him and create all of this havoc. I’ve moved on and did have a good week but there are a couple of things that still linger.”

Johnson comes to a track where he’s won a record 11 times and is the site of his most recent victory in June 2017.

“My desire to win has never been stronger,” said Johnson, who is on a career-long 52-race winless streak. “I’m happy last week that people were able to see that.

“But when I’ve been criticized about my commitment and desire while running 20th, this is the same fire has been there. I think it’s unfair to be judged by the performance on track. It’s a collective group that puts the car in position to win.

“We’re at my favorite race track and absolutely do I want to win the race. I will do everything in my power to win the race, but it takes a collective group to have the car, the pit stops, the strategy and I don’t know if this weekend is that weekend. But if there is a track I can make up a tenth (of a second) or two for the team, this would be one of them.”

NASCAR America: Charlotte’s Roval ranks high among major changes to NASCAR

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In 1950, NASCAR added its first speedway to the schedule. The high-banked 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway was a departure from the traditional direction of the sport.

“The first time they went to Darlington, a mile race track, … guys ran the whole race and never got off the apron,” Kyle Petty said during Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Never got up on the bank because they were afraid to because they’d only run half-mile dirt, quarter-mile dirt, stuff like that.”

Today, tracks more than a mile in length make up the vast majority of NASCAR races.

Nine years after Darlington hosted its first race, the top division of NASCAR left the Daytona Beach and Road course and headed to the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway. Once again, the drivers were nervous about this major change.

“Then they come off the beach at Daytona and they went over there (to Daytona International Speedway) in ’59 and they say, ‘look at this place.’ ” Petty continued. “And my Dad (Richard Petty) said the talk in the garage was they were going to take off like airplanes, because it was so different. Look what that’s evolved to.”

Those examples from the past are not the only times NASCAR has made a major change. Nor are they the only times that drivers have worried about the consequences of a bold move.

The NASCAR All-Star race was first run under the lights in 1992.

“They were paying so much money, we had to say this was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Petty said. “And we all had that fear we were going to outrun the lights.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. noted those types of changes are still happening.

“Even more recently: the All-Star race from this year,” Earnhardt said. “That would be another Hail Mary … that everybody thought was crazy. All the drivers hated the idea, and it turned out to be one of the best All-Star races we’ve seen in years.”

The future of oval and road course racing will come down to its reception by fans and the competition the track creates. Just as 1.5-mile tracks exploded in the early 2000s, there are other opportunities to run Roval races.

“At the same time, it’s begged the question – and we’ve seen it on social media this week with Daytona International Speedway – would fans want to see a race on the road course of Daytona?” Earnhardt asked. “It’s started this whole new conversation of what’s down the pipe for this sport?”

The Charlotte Roval is not only a hybrid oval and road course – it has elements of the two existing road courses. The interior may be as technically challenging as Sonoma, but the oval portion is going to make the track behave like Watkins Glen.

“When you incorporate any of the oval into the race track, the cars are going to tend to spread out,” Earnhardt said.

“If you look at the difference between Sonoma and Watkins Glen. The Glen is a faster road course and they get a little more spread out there. We still have great battles … but over time, they do put some distance between one another and we’ll see even more of that with this Roval.”

For more, watch the video above.

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William Byron wrecks during Charlotte road course test

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CONCORD, N.C. — The second open Cup test on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course has been adventurous for some and dangerous for William Byron, who experienced an ugly wreck early Tuesday afternoon.

The Hendrick Motorsports rookie lost brake pressure and plowed into both tire barriers located in Turn 1, the left-hand turn that leads to the infield portion of the course.

Byron was able to exit his car.

The rookie’s incident was the fourth notable one of the day.

The first three all occurred in Turns 3 and 4. Alex Bowman was the first, as he spun and hit a tire barrier, receiving minor damage. The splitter on his No. 88 Chevrolet was replaced.

Ryan Blaney followed later, hitting the wall twice and forcing the team to a backup car.

Erik Jones then spun in the same area without hitting anything.

Bubba Wallace wrecks during Charlotte road course test

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Bubba Wallace’s test day on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course ended early when his No. 43 Chevrolet spun and plowed in a Turn 1 tire barrier during the second hour of the test.

The team left the test due to not having a backup car.

Wallace declined to talk to media after his release from the infield medical center.

It was the second caution of the test following a mechanical issue for Chase Elliott that put fluid on the track.

Wallace’s wreck follows his 29th-place finish at Sonoma Raceway last month.