Fantasy NASCAR: Superspeedway track analysis

by Jeffrey Price on February 11, 2010 @ 00:00:00 PDT

 


Also see:
Short track analysis
Intermediate track analysis
Road course analysis
Track details overview

Superspeedways (2.00-plus miles)

Daytona International Speedway

Location: Daytona Beach, Fla.
Completed: 1959
Length: 2.50 miles
Shape: Tri-oval
Banking: 31 degrees
Straight-aways: 3 degrees
Front stretch: 3,800 feet
Back stretch: 3,000 feet
Seating: 168,000

Analysis: Daytona International Speedway is one of two tracks where speed is limited by the use of restrictor plates that place a ceiling on the engine's horsepower. However, the cars still run at very high speeds, and drafting off other cars is the key to success. Drafting is the technique of using the air coming off another car to break wind resistance and create downforce for your own car. If a car loses the draft, it will run one or two seconds slower per lap. Handling is a big factor at Daytona, as well. With cars running at the same speeds and drafting off one another, the cars race around the track in tight packs, three- and four-wide. Any mistake by one car can lead to a multiple-car accident known to fans as "The Big One."

Auto Club Speedway

Location: Fontana, Calif.
Completed: 1997
Length: 2.03 miles
Shape: D-shaped oval
Banking: 14 degrees
Front stretch: 11 degrees
Back stretch: 3 degrees
Front stretch: 3,100 feet
Back stretch: 2,500 feet
Seating: 92,000

Analysis: Opening in 1997, Auto Club Speedway, formerly California Speedway, is one of NASCAR's newer arenas. The track features fast straight-aways and flat corners. Handling is a key at Fontana. Engine attrition can also be an issue. Long green flag runs are common, making fuel strategy a factor, as well. Tire wear is not a factor, so taking two or no tires for track position is a common tactic. Auto Club Speedway is very similar in configuration to Michigan International Speedway. The two tracks are often considered sister tracks, with teams that perform well at one track usually performing well at the other.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Location: Speedway, Ind.
Completed: 1909
Length: 2.50 miles
Shape: Oval
Banking: 9 degrees
Straight-aways: 0 degrees
Front stretch: 3,330 feet
Back stretch: 3,330 feet
Seating: 250,000-plus

Analysis: Indianapolis Motor Speedway falls into the sub-category of a flat track. A flat track represents any track with less than 13 degrees of banking. Despite its lack of banking, cars run at high speeds at Indianapolis. Downforce is a must in order to pick up the throttle early in the turns. Cars can start to push on the long green runs, which are common at the Brickyard. Passing is extremely difficult and lapped cars are rare, so track position is tantamount. The surface is not hard on tires, so two-tire stops are a common strategy.

Michigan International Speedway

Location: Brooklyn, Mich.
Completed: 1968
Length: 2.00 miles
Shape: Tri-oval
Banking: 18 degrees
Front stretch: 12 degrees
Back stretch: 5 degrees
Seating: 137,243

Analysis: Michigan International Speedway is similar to Auto Club Speedway. The track is tough on engines, so attrition is usually a factor. Drivers like the track because there is a lot of room to pass. Three-wide, and even four-wide, racing is commonplace; drivers can pass just about anywhere. Long green runs are the norm, so fuel strategy often comes into play. Wrecks are most common coming out of the corners as it is easy for drivers to carry too much speed out of the turns and slide toward the wall. The race surface is NASCAR's first to use polymer-enhanced asphalt, which protects the track from Michigan's cold winters.

Pocono Raceway

Location: Long Pond, Penn.
Completed: 1968
Length: 2.50 miles
Shape: Tri-oval
Turn 1: 14 degrees
Turn 2: 7 degrees
Turn 3: 6 degrees
Front stretch: 3,740 feet
Back stretch: 3,055 feet
Seating: 76,812

Analysis: Pocono Raceway is as big as Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, but it is not as fast because of the flat banking and the existence of three, instead of the usual two, sets of turns. Additionally, each turn is very different from another, so teams are forced to compromise on their set up. Like the other flat tracks, downforce is very important. Engine problems are relatively common at Pocono because of the extreme shift in RPMs, with cars gearing way down in the sharp corners and then approaching 200 MPH in the front stretch. The best way to pass is to beat another driver to the gas coming out of the turns.

Talladega Superspeedway

Location: Talladega, Ala.
Completed: 1969
Length: 2.66 miles
Shape: Tri-oval
Banking: 33 degrees
Front stretch: 16.5 degrees
Back stretch: 2 degrees
Seating: 143,231

Analysis: Talladega Superspeedway is the other restrictor plate track on the Sprint Cup schedule. How effectively the drivers use the draft off other cars, to create downforce for their own cars, is the key to winning. Handling is not as important at Talladega as at Daytona, and tire strategy can come into play. Cars race in large packs creating lanes of cars three- and four-wide. It is important for cars to be able to run several different lines, as it is hard to tell which lane is going to move the fastest. The best way to pass is to get in the fastest lane and use the draft to get a run. High speeds and sharp turns lead to major crashes.

Also see:
Short track analysis
Intermediate track analysis
Road course analysis
Track details overview

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About Jeffrey Price

Price has been a KFFL contributor since January 2008.

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