Fantasy NASCAR: Intermediate track analysis
by Jeffrey Price
on February 11, 2010 @ 00:00:00
Intermediate tracks (1.01-1.99 miles)
Atlanta Motor Speedway
Location: Hampton, Ga.
Analysis: Atlanta Motor Speedway is the fastest track on the Sprint Cup circuit - bar none. Qualifying speeds border on 200 mph. Drivers often run wide open, never using the brakes. Horsepower is a must to have a chance to win, but holding the throttle down and running high RPMs can be hard on engines. In recent seasons, Atlanta has featured late lap passes and some of NASCAR's closest finishes.
Location: Joliet, Ill.
Analysis: Chicagoland Speedway features several grooves that allow cars to race all over the track. It is a sister track to Kansas Speedway as the dimensions at both tracks are very similar. Chicagoland is a fast track with room for a lot of passing. Cars run high RPMs and engine wear can result. Passes, and therefore crashes, most frequently occur in Turn 2. Tire wear is minimal here, so tire strategy rarely comes into play. With the race run in the mid-summer, the track can get hot and slick, which causing cars to slide, thus increasing the chance for accidents.
Location: Darlington, S.C.
Analysis: Darlington Raceway is the "original superspeedway," if you were to ask them, while also being known as the track that's "Too Tough to Tame." It is unique in that it has two very different sets of turns - many tracks are symmetrical or close to it. This can make finding the right setup difficult. Cars that are even a little off will wind up with "Darlington Stripes," or marks on the right side of the car from their contact with the wall. To further the problem, Darlington eats up tires, so a good handling car can become a bad one very quickly. Yellow flag stops to get four new treads is pretty much mandatory, as any track position gained by staying out quickly disappears behind cars with fresher tires.
Location: Homestead, Fla.
Analysis: Homestead is the only track on the Sprint Cup circuit with variable banking. That means the banking on the track is gradually increased from 18 degrees on the bottom to 20 degrees at the top. Theoretically, this creates multiple lines for cars to run and promotes three-wide racing. In practice, it has proven to be a risk to run more than two-wide. The track recently was repaved with new asphalt, which has caused tire blistering, and, in turn, has led to cautions. Additionally, the Florida heat, even in November, can make the track slick. The graduated banking has made Homestead a faster track than it was prior to 2003, when it was one of NASCAR's flattest tracks with 6 degrees banking. With drivers staying on the throttle around the track, cars run high RPMs and blown engines can be a factor.
Location: Kansas City, Kan.
Analysis: Like its sister track, Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway hosted its first race in 2001. As a result of the track having almost no banking in the back stretch, the car setup is similar to the setups used on flat tracks like Pocono Raceway and Indianapolis. Downforce is a key factor. Engine attrition can be a concern, as the cars run high RPMs and long green flag runs are common. Incidents are most likely to occur upon entering the turns. Drivers carry a lot of speed out of the straight-aways into the turns, and a loss of control can mean a hard hit into the wall.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Location: Las Vegas
Analysis: Las Vegas Motor Speedway added banking prior to the 2007 season in the hopes of creating a second groove and facilitating side-by-side racing. Still, the track is one of the flattest on the circuit, making downforce a key concern. As the race wears on, drivers can experience late-exit push forcing them to throttle down coming out of the turns and lose speed. As with most flat tracks, passing is difficult and track position is very important. Two-tire calls are common but can exacerbate the push condition. Chassis adjustments can be used to offset this somewhat. Cars that can hold the bottom are able to pass going into the turns. Otherwise, most passing takes place upon corner exit. When cars lose their handling, incidents are common in Turn 2 and Turn 4. However, races here tend to turn into a snooze fest with the lack of action on the track.
Lowe's Motor Speedway
Location: Concord, N.C.
Analysis: Lowe's Motor Speedway hosts more miles of racing, 1,100 in two races, than any other in the Sprint Cup. As a result, engine wear is a chief concern. Aggressive setups often don't play well on this track; a neutral setup is more favorable. If a car is too tight, it can result in too much push, forcing drivers out of the throttle and causing the car to lose momentum in the straight-aways. Since the turns are long, downforce is important to allow drivers to use the gas to keep their speed up. Passing occurs all over the track. Drivers have the option of out driving their opponent into the corner or getting a run coming out of the corner and passing them in the straight-away. Turn 4 sees the most incidents as the track gets very narrow at that point.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Location: Loudon, N.H.
Analysis: New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been described as "Martinsville on Steroids." Both tracks share a paper clip shape and shallow banking. With the limited banking, teams will often play with the springs to get the car to turn properly. Like Martinsville, passing is difficult, and the way to pass is to get inside someone on the straight-away and out-brake them at the turn. Lapped cars become a factor late in the race, as well, so track position is extremely important. Using tire strategy to gain track position is an option, as New Hampshire was recently resurfaced and the track isn't too rough on tires.
Texas Motor Speedway
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Analysis: Texas Motor Speedway is an extremely fast track. Cars run soft springs to maximize speed and grip, which can be hard on tires. If a car does blow a tire, a hard hit into the wall is usually the result. This is most common in Turn 4. Like a lot of high-speed tracks, engine performance is a big factor with engine attrition and fuel strategy coming into play. Passing on the track is very difficult, so despite the tire concerns, teams will often employ two-tire stops and or have their drivers stay out late in the race.
About Jeffrey Price
Price has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.
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