Ashton Kutcher said it best during the popular film released to widespread acclaim in December 2000 – “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
Standing with Seann William Scott, who was playing the character Chester Greenburg, they didn’t know where their car was parked. And Kutcher, who was playing Jesse Montgomery III, said simply, “Dude, where’s my car?”
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), might be saying, “Dude, where’s my oval?” as the NASCAR Monster Cup Series heads to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway this weekend.
Busch has competed in 36 point-paying races on the 1.5-mile oval at Charlotte, as well as 19 non-points races. But the 55 races he’s competed in on the 1.5-mile oval won’t help him as this week, he will drive on the 2.28-mile, 17-turn Charlotte “roval.”
And this isn’t Sonoma Raceway in northern California or Watkins Glen International in the state of New York. It’s half oval and half road course. Thus, the hybrid term roval.
Think back to the 1971 Questor Grand Prix conducted at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway. It used parts of the oval and road course at the track. But don’t expect Jackie Stewart or Mario Andretti – the latter who won the Questor Grand Prix – to be in Charlotte.
Busch has tested twice on the Charlotte roval – in October 2017 and in July 2018. And like everyone else, he doesn’t know what to expect this weekend, other than to expect the unexpected.
Busch has he been good at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. Busch has one pole, one win, four top-threes, seven top-fives and nine top-10s and has led a total of 198 laps in his 18 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Sonoma.
His only road-course win in the Cup Series came at Sonoma in 2011 and it was a dominant victory as he led a race-high 76 laps. He passed Denny Hamlin for the lead on lap 13 and stayed out front for the next 19 circuits around the 1.99-mile track. He relinquished the lead twice for scheduled, green-flag pit stops and took over the top spot for the final time on lap 88, then led the final 23 laps.
He’s even had success at Sonoma in the NASCAR Southwest Tour Series, finishing third in 1998 after starting 19th and winning the 1999 race after starting third.
He hasn’t been bad at Watkins Glen, either, as he finished second there in the Truck Series in 2000. In his three NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Watkins Glen, he started first in each, won in 2006 and 2011, and finished third in 2007. In those three races, Busch led 98 of the 250 laps available – 39.2 percent
Busch has one pole, three top-five finishes and nine top-10s at Watkins Glen in Cup competition.
But the roval is new to the series competitors. And hopefully, at the end of this race, Busch can ask, “Dude, where’s victory lane?”
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Thoughts on the roval?
“There will be a lot of anxiety, a lot of unknowns and a lot of interesting, unique things that are going to come out of the road race with it being a cutoff race. It’s a very important race to have a smooth day. And, based on testing, nobody’s had a smooth day getting around that track.”
How did your tests go on the roval?
“I’ve been there twice. They changed the track layout since the last time I was there and the tire is going to be a little bit different since the last time I tested. And, now, I’ve been doing simulation work with Ford over in the simulator and making laps and trying to be as comfortable as I can heading there.”
Is it going to be a little bit crazy?
“That’s going to be a pretty big mix-up, shake-’em-up and we hope to survive that one, in all honesty. We just need to not make mistakes at that one and not get caught up in other people’s mistakes and that’s how we’ll get through this first round.”