There’s no doubt that road course races are an exciting and mostly welcome part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. They also serve as a nice escape from the usual left-turn only speedways that on occasion can cause fans heads to spin.

But please don’t confuse excitement as a stamp of approval for acceptance.

There are spots on the Sprint Cup schedule for road course races. The championshipdeciding Chase for the Cup is not one of those spots.

There is a reason why the NHL’s “Winter Classic” is held in January, and not June. Or why the NFL’s annual games in London are held before Thanksgiving. They are special events, but don’t determine the champion of their respective leagues.

That is how I feel about road courses when it comes to whether or not they belong in the

Chase.

I like road courses. I honestly do. I have never attended a NASCAR race at either Watkins Glen or Sonoma, but I have been to a few races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and I have been following the sport my entire life. Road courses test a driver’s skill in ways that oval tracks can’t. Success at a road course shows a more well-rounded driver than just piling up wins at ovals of various dimensions.

So why shouldn’t a road course be used to help determine the Sprint Cup Series champion? Simple, because the series is not about who can turn right just as well as they turn left.

In it’s 60-plus years of existence, NASCAR has always been about speed and endurance around oval tracks – be they a 1/2 mile long or 2 1/2 miles long. The Sprint Cup Series logo is encircled by an oval, and it’s not just due to creative license.

Two races out of 36 make road courses an outlier, as NASCAR has intended since they were introduced to the schedule. They are akin to playing an NHL game outdoors, or an NFL game on a Canadian Football League (slightly larger than NFL dimensions) or Arena Football League (much smaller) field. Major League Baseball fields come in various shapes and sizes, but it’s still 90 feet from third base to home plate in all 30 of them.

Having been to multiple races at New Hampshire, I can attest that they are often snoozefests, and only a handful of drivers actually have a chance to win come race day. But many drivers have stated that New Hampshire’s tight turns provide a test to their skills.

The powers-at-be in NASCAR didn’t choose the 10 Chase races due to excitement. They chose them in part because of variety and difficulty (they also are in place in part because of their place on the schedule prior to the Chase being implemented).

There are fans that still debate whether the Chase itself is a good idea or not, as many racing series crown a championship on a full season’s worth of accomplishments. The Chase creates urgency, while also condensing 36 races worth of successes and failures into a 10-race format.

Some drivers are better than others on road courses, and some of NASCAR’s better oval drivers struggle when the steering wheel has to go right as well as left. But a look-back at past champions shows at least an acceptable aptitude when it comes to road course success.

Road courses belong in NASCAR. They are exciting. They are challenging. And they are a welcome break.

But they don’t need to help determine a championship for an oval-track series.

— Sports Staff Writer Wil Kramlich can be contacted at 282- 1535, ext. 323 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WilTalkSports.


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