An oval track is a dedicated motorsport circuit, primarily in the USA, which differs from a road course in that it only has turns in one direction, which is almost universally left. Oval tracks often have banked turns as well. Despite the name, tracks do not have to be precisely oval, such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, to be classed as oval tracks.

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The racing held on these tracks is referred to as 'oval racing', and is a type of motorsport, primarily American, that involves running multiple cars wheel-to-wheel in a race around the track.

Major forms of oval racing include stock car racing, sprint car racing, and forms of open-wheel racing currently sanctioned by the Indy Racing League or IRL.

For many years the premiere oval race in the United States was the Indianapolis 500 (an open wheel race), but among some pundits this has been largely superseded by the Daytona 500 (a stock car race).[1]

Track classificationEdit

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Oval tracks are classified based upon their size, surface, and shape. Their size can range from only a few hundred feet to over two and a half miles. Track surfaces can be dirt, concrete, asphalt, or a combination of concrete and asphalt. Some ovals in the early twentieth century had wood surfaces.

By sizeEdit

The definitions used to determine track sizes have changed over the years. It should be noted that while some tracks use terms such as "speedway" or "superspeedway" in their name, they may not met the definitions set in this article.

Short tracksEdit

Main article: short track motor racing

A short track is an oval less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) long. Short tracks are often used as a starting point for drivers seeking careers in oval track racing.


Speedways (also known as "intermediate tracks") 1 to 2 miles in length. Since their size makes allows them to compromise high speeds with sightlines, they have become commonplace in major racing series that utilize oval tracks.


Superspeedways are at least 2 miles in length [1], featuring only left turns. The most famous superspeedways are Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway. These tracks were built in 1909 and 1959 respectively. Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built as a facility for the automotive industry to conduct research and development.[2] Daytona International Speedway was built as a replacement for the Daytona Beach Road Course, which combined the town's main street and its famous beach, the track holds the Daytona 500, NASCAR's most prestigious race.

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The longest and fastest superspeedway is the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama. Built in the 1960s, it is 2.66 miles (4.20 kilometers) long, and holds the current record for fastest speed in a stock car, 228 miles per hour (367 km/h). [3]

Other superspeedways used by NASCAR include the Auto Club Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, and Pocono Raceway.


While many oval tracks conform to the traditional symmetrical design, asymmetrical tracks are not uncommon. Pocono Raceway, for example, has the shape of a scalene triangle with rounded corners. Darlington Raceway was built with an egg-shape to accommodate a near by minnow pond.


Tri-ovals have become preferable to track builders as they offer superior sightlines. However, the recent construction boom of 1 ½ mile tri-oval shaped tracks has given these tracks a “cookie-cutter” label.[4] A tri-oval with a "double dogleg" is often called a "quad-oval".



A "Roval," sometimes referred to as a "Combined road course," is an oval track racing facility that features a road course in the infield (or outfield), that may or may not be directly linked to the oval circuit. A roval allows the facility to be used for road racing (Formula One, sports cars, motorcycles, etc.) Some forms of racing never race exclusively on ovals, and therefore would not have the ability to otherwise compete at some of the most famous speedways in the world.

Rovals typically consist of the oval portion of the track, utlizing the same start/finish line, and same pit area, but a mid-course diversion to a winding road circuit in the infield. At some point, the circuit leads back to the main oval, and completes the rest of the lap. On some of the faster ovals, a chicane is present on long back-straighaways, to keep speeds down, and create additional braking/passing zones.

Rovals combine the high speed characteristics of ovals and technical precision of road courses, and allow road racing the unique experience of being held in the "stadium style" atmosphere of an oval superspeedway. Since 1962, the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona has been one of the most notable roval races. However, due to the limitations of infield dimensions, and the common lack of topography, rovals often compromise the road racing experience. While the oval’s sightlines are popular, some fans may feel that the racing itself is lackluster.[2] In many cases, the grandstand seating around the oval offers the least popular view of the road racing, as fans are drawn to observe from the more challenging infield portion.

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