Count one of motorsports’ truly legendary drivers as a fan of the road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
None other than Mario Andretti tested the CMS road course earlier this week, with the championship driver, now 77, reaching speeds of up to 177 miles per hour in a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid, one of two high-performance cars Andretti unleashed on the 2.4-mile layout.
In addition to driving the 887-horsepower 2015 Porsche, Andretti also drove a 640-horsepower 2017 Cadillac CTS-V.
“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” Andretti said. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking.
“It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway currently holds two NASCAR Premier Series points races, plus the exhibition All-Star Race, on its 1.5-mile oval track.
But Monster Energy Cup Series driver AJ Allmendinger tested a Cup car on the purpose-built road course in January. Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith since has confirmed that he has talked with NASCAR about the possibility of running CMS’ annual fall playoff race on the road course in the future, possibly as soon as in 2018 after additional upgrades are made to it.
Andretti seems like he would be a fan of it.
The only driver ever to win a Formula One World Championship, a Daytona 500 and an Indianapolis 500 also competed in the 1967 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Holman-Moody Ford, finishing 27th after being involved in a crash.
But that was on the 1.5-mile oval. The road course is, of course, a totally different animal.
Andretti took Marcus Smith for a ride on the road course Tuesday, as well as Sonic Automotive vice chairman David Smith (Marcus’ brother) and former Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR driver Max Papis.