How To Measure a Race Track
Before we begin it is useful to know how NASCAR measures a race track. Officially they measure track length from the point 15-feet in from the outside wall. This means that at many tracks the drivers are traveling a shorter distance than advertised (but not by much).
Talladega opened in 1969 amid controversy as the drivers boycotted the race because of the extremely high speeds. Even in 1969 qualifying laps were averaging over 199 MPH.
The qualifying record is over 210 MPH but that was set in 1987, the last year before restrictor plates were mandatory. Since the restrictor plates have been implemented qualifying speeds have been around 189 MPH.
This track is relatively flat with just 9 degrees of banking in the corners so drivers are on the brakes at the end of the two long straights. This keeps speeds reasonable (the qualifying record is a little over 186 MPH).
That unique shape and challenging setup has kept speeds down. While drivers can top out at over 200 MPH at the end of the frontstraight the qualifying record is just 172.533 MPH.
This is a twisty, challenging road course. The frontstretch is a downhill plunge to a hard right-hander. Shortly after that the drivers charge uphill through a series of esses and out onto the long backstretch. Drivers have to work hard for every inch of the 2.45 mile laps here.
Michigan features three different grooves in the corners. Wide and fast this track can make great racing or it can make a good race to nap through. The wide track also keeps the number of cautions down which sometimes allows the leaders to get away from the pack.
California opened in 1997 and has seen a number of fuel mileage battles as the fast, wide racing surface limits the number of cautions.
By way of comparison between the two two-mile 'D' ovals; California's qualifying record is just a bit over 188 MPH which Michigan's is over 194 MPH.
The tight corners and dramatic elevation changes keep the speeds down here. The qualifying record is just over 94 MPH average for one lap.
Originally Atlanta was a 1.5 mile true oval. However, in 1997 the track was flipped and a quad-oval was added to the frontstretch which bumped the official distance up to the current 1.54 mile length.
More than a quarter of all race tracks on the schedule measure exactly 1.5 miles making this by far the most popular race track size on the circuit.