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PRO TIP: Grouping similar NASCAR tracks is a useful fantasy NASCAR strategy during driver statistical research to create a larger, more recent pool of data. View the complete list of Current NASCAR Cup Series tracks or the list of Historical NASCAR Cup Series tracks.
NASCAR has traditionally grouped tracks together strictly by their size.
An oval racetrack that is less than 1 mile in length.
An oval that is greater than 1 mile in length, but less than 2
A racetrack that is greater than 2 miles in length.
A racing circuit comprised of left- and right-hand turns, as
opposed to an oval
is comprised exclusively of left-hand turns.
AccuPredict groups tracks together based on statistical analysis determining the best
Athlon Sports groups tracks together based on size and track banking.
Christopher Harris groups tracks together based on size and track banking. Chris'
article while writing for ESPN, was the foundation for my initial usage and respect
for similar track groups. I call Mr. Harris the "Godfather" because his article opened my
eyes to the beauty and benefit of track groupings. Thanks Chris!
There are only two restrictor plate tracks on the NASCAR circuit.
Both Daytona & Talladega use horsepower-zapping plates over the carburetors
to limit the amount of air coming into the engine. The entire race is run in a
tight-pack of traffic. The team that gets their car too handle the best in this
traffic (and that has luck on their side that day) usually do the best.
There are now four road courses on the NASCAR circuit. In the
past it used to be the 'road course ringers' that were brought in by teams to
replace their regular 'go fast, turn left' driver. Not so anymore. Although some
'ringers' still run for a few start-up teams or those flirting with falling out
of the top-35 in points, most all of the NASCAR regulars have gotten adept at
racing the road courses.
These four 'flat' tracks range in banking from 2° to 14° and vary
in length from .526 miles to 1.058 miles. And while not a universal statement of
'good at one then good at all' of these tracks is true, the relative similar
flatness of these tracks does create a similar racing style and patience needed
by the driver. As well, it is important that the teams hit on the set-up of the
car to give it the ability to turn well in the turns.
These two tracks are shallow-banked, but they're much larger than
the 'Flat Banked' group, so they warrant their own category. The Brickyard in
Indy obviously requires a lot of horsepower, but it's a shallow-banked place, so
it's not at all an equivalent of your superspeedways. Pocono is a tri-cornered
place set up to run partly like a speedway and partly like a road course; teams
tend to set their cars up to work best off of Turn 3, the 6° turn, which is why
we find that racers who do well at shallow Indy tend to do well at Pocono.
Steep tracks that don't adhere to the cookie-cutter formula, and
they're certainly the loosest group on this list. Bristol is often referred to
as a "mini-Dover" (or, rather, Dover is referred to as a "Big Bristol"); at 36°,
Bristol is the steepest-banked joint on the circuit. Dover is concrete, and the
high torque and aggressive driving styles that work on one usually work on the
other. Same for the new configuration of Homestead, which used to be a flat
track, but acquired some steep corners a few years ago. That grouping of three
has worked pretty well for us in the past. The wild cards here are Darlington
and Las Vegas. Darlington is definitely steep-banked enough to qualify for this
group, but its sandpaper racing surface and difficult, narrow exits out of the
turns make it its own animal. Darlington also encourages sliding out of the
corners, which gives it something in common with Texas, among others. Meanwhile,
like Homestead, Las Vegas Motor Speedway used to be a flat track, until its
owners rebuilt the track's turns in the fall of 2006. Now its configuration is
something like the new Homestead.
Other than perhaps the road courses and superspeedways, this is the
tightest grouping, because these cousin cookie-cutters are damn well near
identical. If a guy dominates one, it's often safe to assume he's going to
perform quite well at the others.
This isn't a straight-up fivesome. The tracks which bear the most
similarity are the two 2-milers, Fontana and Michigan. They're both Penske
creations, and while the Fontana venue doesn't get the winters that the Michigan
track does, they still ride relatively similarly. Kentucky and Chicagoland both
have single events each year, and are basically stand-alone tracks. Kansas,
Kentucky and Chicagoland all bear a semi-strong resemblance. Yes, Kansas,
Kentucky and Chicagoland are all 1.5-milers, but they really don't resemble the
Consider Homestead-Miami Speedway where NASCAR races once per season. Comparing driver statistics here for six races your data spans six NASCAR seasons. Six years! Similar track groupings, as suggested in our exclusive AccuPredict NASCAR Driver finish position prediction method, groups Homestead-Miami with four other similar tracks.
Now, one NASCAR season contains eight data contributors for Homestead-Miami fantasy NASCAR research since three of the four similar tracks host two NASCAR races per season. That's 16 for 2 seasons. 48 for my illustration with Homestead-Miami.