The barrier at the exit from the backstretch chicane (Turns 11 and 12) at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course was a different type of Tire Dragon.
A far cry from the machine designed to lay rubber on the asphalt during track preparation, the Tire Dragon in the Bus Stop gobbled up cars with regularity during Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series practice sessions at the 2.28-mile, 17-turn course.
Early in Saturday’s first practice, Bubba Wallace plowed into the barrier, destroying his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet and forcing the team to go to a backup. Playoff driver Erik Jones was another casualty, bouncing off the tires and clobbering the outside wall of the oval.
Another mangled wreck, another backup car.
After NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying, the sanctioning body opted to remove five feet of the tire barrier to give drivers more room at the exit. That doesn’t mean, however, that the corner is now defenseless. The “turtles” (six-inch-high steel rumble strips) at the exit can upset a car that takes the corner too wide.
“It’s less treacherous,” said Martin Truex Jr., who topped the speed chart in final practice. “You’ve got about two feet of wiggle room, so if you screw up, you can just hit the turtles and not that thing.”
In Saturday’s first practice session for tomorrow’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the No. 41 Ford of pole winner Kurt Busch lost power and stalled on the track, requiring a push to the garage from a safety truck. The crew diagnosed and fixed an electrical issue, and Busch, who will retain his starting spot, was sixth fastest in final practice…
For its 50th anniversary next year, Sonoma Raceway will use the full road course for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Instead of running directly from Turn 4 to Turn 7, the NASCAR cars will have to negotiate Turns 5 and 6, including the 200-degree sweeping carousel. The addition of Turns 5 and 6 extends the 11-turn course from 1.99 to 2.52 miles. Mark Martin won the last NASCAR race contested at the 2.52-mile distance in 1997.