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