Nascar Stuff

Cookies Anyone?

What Is A Cookie-Cutter?

Cookie-cutters is a term that has come to be used to describe nearly all of the new Nascar tracks. The complaint is that they all look the same and they don't present the unique challenges that variety brings. While this may be true to some extent the term is probably over-generalized. As Radt says in the Kansas track article, there's only so much you can do with an oval. One could say that all the short track ovals are cookie-cutters since the shape rarely varies. The differences are found in things like banking and track surface and the visual surroundings. The cookie cutters we refer to here though are the Cup tracks. This is a rundown of the suspects.

Track Debut Length Type Turns
Atlanta 1960 1.54-mile Quad-Oval 24 5 5
Lowes 1960 1.5-mile Quad-Oval 24 5 5
Michigan 1967 2-mile D-Oval 18 12 5
Texas 1995 1.5-mile Quad-Oval 24 5 5
Las Vegas 1996 1.5-mile D-Oval 12 9 3
California 1997 2-mile D-Oval 14 11 3
Kentucky 2000 1.5-mile D-Oval 14 8 4
Chicago 2001 1.5-mile Tri-Oval 18 11 5
Kansas 2001 1.5-mile Tri-Oval 14 10 5

Who Came First

Atlanta and Lowe's were the first replicants. Which one first? Don't know. Don't care. Don't feel like looking it up again. Texas came along much later and was an obvious clone of these tracks, clearly built to capitalize on their success. Atlanta is clearly the fastest non-restrictor plate track on the Cup circuit but Texas is close. Lowes is slightly slower for some reason (which I could find out easily enough if I would move to the research).

The Three Quad-Ovals

Who's Next

Michigan made its debut in 1967, one of two 2-mile super speedways in this study. California is the obvious copy here. Michigan's fastest qualifying time is .008-seconds slower than Texas--if you even want to use the word slow here.

Who's Last

Las Vegas was actually raced before California and is probably least like the other other tracks here--it is flatter and doesn't race as fast. Kentucky followed the Las Vegas lines so closely that some trackmakers for the NR2K3 game actually used a Las Vegas template to create the game track. There are subtle differences though and someone has stepped up and rectified the situation. I will be talking about that when I get to the Kentucky track in the next issue. If you wonder why I included a Busch track in this piece it is because Kentucky was built to stage Cup races. They wanted it bad enough to file suit against Nascar but we'll get to that in the Kentucky feature also. Kansas and Chicago are tri-ovals which also have subtle differences; Kansas is a tougher track to race for my money and it is reflected in the speed ratings (shown in the table below).

1.5 Milers

Who's Fast

Well this is what it all comes down to isn't it? I spend all this time showing similarities and all you care about is how much faster your home track is than all the others. If you look at the banking numbers in the first table you can get a pretty good idea which tracks are going to be fast. Here's another little table though to help you make up your mind. Most of the numbers are pulled from the year 2000 and upwards; some were culled because of weather events that created anomalies for certain tracks' years. I worked mostly from memory and did not do extensive research on other factors that may have skewed the results. If you don't want to take my word on it, do your own research--there's nearly always a way to find some numbers that you like better.

Fast Tracks

Track Record Qualify
Atlanta 197.148 1997 192.935 2000-2006
Texas 194.224 2002 192.538 2000-2006
Michigan 194.232 2005 190.307 2000-2005
Lowes 193.216 2005 187.835 2000-2006
California 188.245 2005 186.226 2000-2006
Chicagoland 188.147 2005 184.715 2001-2006
Kansas 180.856 2005 179.031 2001-2006
Kentucky* 181.287 2005 177.039 2001-2005
Las Vegas 174.904 2004 173.084 2000-2006

* Busch times

Fast Forward

And that's all I have to say about cookie-cutters. This one is in bed.