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How Sonoma’s New Concrete Wall Will Change The Racing

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What’s Happening?

When drivers and media members rolled up to Sonoma Raceway for this weekend, something new greeted them in perhaps the track’s most iconic corner. Turn 11 now has a concrete wall on the inside of the turn instead of the tire packs from previous years. How will this affect the racing at Sonoma Raceway this weekend?

  • Sonoma’s change comes on the heels of the Cup Series first road course race in March at COTA, which had some major track limits controversies. This concrete wall provides a new way to enforce track limits.
  • Turn 11 was previously a spot where drivers would find a way to shortcut it slightly, thanks to the tire packs. The tire packs did little to stop cars from incrementally shifting towards the inside as the race continued.
  • Fans were very surprised to see this move. Some are concerned this could hurt the racing product, and others are interested to see how this wall will be tested.

Why Would They Do This?

Joseph Shrigley reported that a NASCAR representative told him the wall was put in place to “Reinforce track boundaries.”

Tire packs were introduced at Sonoma in turn 11 to deter drivers from cutting the corner to the inside. However, those packs were more of a nuisance than anything, as drivers would often bump and hit the tire packs with little to no damage. You can see in the incident below that the tire packs did not do much damage and were easily punted away by the drivers.

This meant that drivers could easily push those tire packs out of the way while on the inside lane. This caused the track limits to move slightly lower as the race weekend progressed. In the highlights from the 2023 race, particularly on the last lap, you can see the black marks on the tire packs, indicating they had repeatedly been brushed by cars.

NASCAR is also coming off of its biggest track limits controversy in the last Cup Series road course race at Circuit of the Americas, another track with a lot of asphalt runoff and shoulders like turn 11 at Sonoma. Without natural (grass or gravel) or artificial (walls or guardrails) track limits, NASCAR was forced to enforce them with time penalties, which fans and drivers alike found annoying.

An alternative to that is providing the track limits via the methods mentioned above. Sonoma did this, and it could impact the racing product.

What Will Happen?

It won’t change the approach to turn 11 that much. It’s still fundamentally the same corner with the same approach, and drivers will take the same line through the corner.

However, the wall does open up the possibility of chaos. Drivers squeezed to the bottom now have a concrete wall to negotiate instead of a tire pack. The incident below would have been a lot more violent if a concrete wall had been there, and it probably would have collected more cars.

It also impacts how drivers avoid the typical spins in turn 11 every year. Previously, drivers would drive inside the tire pack to avoid them, but a concrete wall eliminates that potential. This video also shows how inefficient these tire packs were at stopping cars.

What do you think about all this? Let us know on Discord or X what your take is, and don’t forget you can also follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and even YouTube.

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