Expect bent fenders and bruised egos in Charlotte road course race

(Harold Hinson Photos for Charlotte Motor Speedway)

CONCORD, N.C. – AJ Allmendinger didn’t hold back when he talked to reporters during a break in Tuesday’s road course test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of contact, for sure,” Allmendinger predicted. “Through the infield, it’s pretty narrow. In general, through the infield, I think there’s going to be contact.”

The bus stop chicane on the backstretch may be the most challenging section of the 2.28-mile course. Drivers will carry tremendous speed into those two quick corners (Turns 11 and 12), which sit close to the entrance to Turn 13 (NASCAR Turn 3 on the oval).

“Every time I go in there, my eyes are wide open, and I know I’ve got to hit my marks,” Allmendinger said.

When the track gets crowded during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Bank of America Roval 400 playoff elimination race on Sept. 30, there’s no telling what might happen, but the action during Tuesday’s testing produced some obvious clues.

Ryan Blaney destroyed his primary car in the tire barrier on the backstretch bus stop. Alex Bowman scraped the tire wall in the same place. William Byron charged into Turn 1 (the transition from the oval to the infield), broke a brake line on his No. 24 Chevrolet and plowed through the first tire barrier into the second one.

“It’s kind of fun by itself,” Bowman said. “I’m not sure how much fun it’s going to be with 39 of my best friends out there. It’s going to make the highlight reel interesting, for sure. …

“It’s going to be an interesting race. I’m not sure anybody knows what’s going to happen.”

Bowman says the Charlotte road course is unlike any other track he has ever driven.

“There are a couple corners at Mid-Ohio that get pretty awkward and off-camber and stuff, but not like this,” Bowman said. “This is just from really fast areas to super slow, can’t get to the throttle at all, not a lot of grip.

“Into (NASCAR Turn) 3 there, we’ve have three cars spin out already today. There’s no room for error—the tire barriers are right there. It’s a handful.”

Joey Logano agrees. To the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, the most important “strategy” in the race will involve keeping the fenders on his car.

“Not crashing will be the biggest challenge,” Logano said. “There’s going to be some areas where we wad some stuff up. To be in the Playoffs, it’s going to be quite the race to see how this thing goes. I would say the most challenging part, honestly, is getting through the race.

“You can get decent speed, but at some point, there’s going to be a caution, and strategies are going to change, and you’re going to see the fastest cars be in 15th and 20th, like you do at road courses. You’re going to see something like that.

“You may see some fast cars get torn up, so, honestly, I think finishing this thing is priority number one. Do that, and you’ll probably have a pretty good shot at winning.”

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