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Race Day: Drivers Will Be In For Bumpy Rides

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 6 2011

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the site of today's Kobalt 400 Sprint Cup race. The race is scheduled to start at approximately 3:15 p.m. Eastern on Fox. (File photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

All human beings must deal with bumps in the road as they travel their way through life. Today in the Kobalt 400 in Las Vegas, Sprint Cup drivers will have to deal with bumps in the road between turns 1 and 2.

And these babies are far from metaphorical, Grasshopper. These are three dimensional and are the kind that can pick the front wheels off the ground at 190 mph and send car and driver in unintended directions.

Several of the drivers who will compete in today’s race were asked about the bumps as the weekend progressed and here is what they had to say:

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford: “They are in the middle of turns 1 and 2 a little bit on the entry side so a little bit before center.  I think it is where the tunnel goes under the race track. I think that is settling there. I thought I could go around them on top, but it was just as bumpy on top of the race track for me. I think that is why you saw guys moving up. I think some could get through the bumps easier on top. It is right there in the middle of that corner and it really nothing to speak of in 3 and 4 it is very smooth down there. Don’t fix them the bumps are awesome; you got to have something out there to drive around and battle with. That is what makes racing fun.

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford:   “I went around them today (in practice). They are bumpy, they are there and you have to deal with them, especially in the race when you have to race around other cars. It is pretty rough down there. Three and four seem to be pretty

Things got interesting for Josh Wise in Saturday's Nationwide race at Las Vegas as his car launched skyward. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

smooth. You really have to work on your front springs and shocks and bump stops and sway bar and everything to get the front end to go through them good.”

David Ragan, No. 6 Roush Renway Racing Ford: Even in the Nationwide practice I was watching and you hear everyone talking about the bumps in Turn 1 and I have been trying to find a sweet spot where I could drive around them and I kind of got so pumped up that I got such a good run coming off of 4 that I didn’t really hit my marks getting into Turn 1.”

Trivia time

Which driver in today’s race has the highest average finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

The facts

What: Kobalt Tools 400

Where: At Las Vegas Motor Speedway

When: Today, 3:15 p.m. ET

TV: Fox, 2:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 128

Track layout: 1.5-mile oval

Banking: Progressive to 20 degrees in corners and 9 degrees in straights

Grandstand seating capacity: 142,000

Race distance: 267 laps/400.5 miles

First race: Las Vegas 400 in 1998

First race winner: Mark Martin

First polewinner: Dale Jarrett

2010 winner: Jimmie Johnson

2010 polesitter: Kurt Busch

Today’s polesitter: Matt Kenseth

The keys

Keys to today’s race, from Travis Geisler, director of competition at Penske Racing:

Watch Out For the Bumps: “The bumps in turns 1 & 2 have gotten worse.  Every year they get a little

Bumps in the track are not the only dangers at Las Vegas. Perhap the closest NASCAR came to tragedy in 2010 was when Miss Sprint interviewed Carrot Top there last year. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

bit bigger and the affect is greater because we’re trying to control our car’s attitude more.  It’s a moving target for us because nobody has been able to test here for a few years.  You have all your seven post shaker data, but it’s still not the same as what we are seeing with the actual bumps on the track.

“Essentially you’re porpoising between (turns) 1 & 2 to the point where the splitter just wants to keep hitting on the high spots, and then you lose the nose and push up the race track.  The other thing is that the bumps force the drivers to move their lines around a bunch to find a smooth spot on the race track.  There are spots that are smoother.  If you run on the bottom, or just off the bottom, it seems to be the roughest.  If you run up too high, you get into the dirt and then you’re in trouble.  People are going to have a hard time racing each other over the bumps.  It’s like driving over an icy bridge; as long as you’re pointed to where you want to go, you’ll get there.  There’s no correcting your course.  As soon as you get into the bumps, the driver loses his input and you have to skate through them because the car is just losing traction.”

Speed Alert: “Las Vegas is a high-speed race track and you still have to worry about your car’s attitude.  You just can’t put soft, squishy springs in the car to make it ride like a car with a lot of travel that can handle the bumps.  You’ve got to have a rigid platform because there’s too much speed on the aero side.”

Pit Road Tire Strategy: “Pit stops are going to be a big deal here.  The tire doesn’t slow down a bunch.  It seems like you lose speed because of temperature versus tire wear.  A place like Atlanta, when you run 10 laps, you stop and pit because the tires have lost the speed, they’re worn out.  Here, the tires lose speed from when they’re cold to when they get hot.  Once they stabilize, if you get caution 10 laps in and the tires cools down when you’re pacing around, when you re-fire, it’s with similar characteristics to sticker tire; it’s not the huge speed loss that you would have at other places.  You’re going to see some pit road tire strategy, at least with right sides.  You’re going to see a situation like last weekend in Phoenix where you’ve got good cars pitting, bad cars not pitting; the field is totally mixed up with fast cars trying to come through the field and that’s when big wrecks usually happen.”

Brother vs. brother

The Busch brothers go at each other every week on race tracks. But today, they will do it in front of

Kurt and Kyle Busch will be back on their home turf today. Kyle is first in points and Kurt is second as the race begins. (File photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

family and friends in their hometown. They will do so in first and second in Sprint Cup points.

Kurt Busch was asked about the specialness of family feuds in sports in general and the one between the Busch brothers specifically this week.

“It’s special because the two of us respect each other a lot,” Kurt Busch said.  “We want to race each other as clean as we can.  We know that we want to beat each other at the end of the day.  You see the Williams’ sisters in tennis.  You see every now and then the Peyton’s play each other.  There’s all that extra attention and hype that’s around it.  As far as I’m concerned, the bigger brother always wins because he always knows more.  It’s fun to have that relationship.  We’re always going to be in that situation.  The more that we can be out on the track together, it will be better for our sport.

“The fact that he’s  (Kyle Busch) won here before stings a bit.  I’ve been on the pole, he’s been on pole here.  It’s Vegas.  It’s one of the top-five marquee events of the year; the Daytona’s, Indy, Charlotte’s, I think Vegas ranks right up there with a lot of guys.  Him winning here was great for our family and all the friends that have supported us over the years.  I just want to be able to do it as well.”

History report at LVMS

Number of races: 13

Youngest pole winner: Kyle Busch (22 years, 10 months)

Oldest pole winner: Dale Jarrett (44 years, 3 months, 6 days)

Youngest race winner: Kyle Busch (23 years, 9 months, 27 days)

Oldest race winner: Sterling Marlin (44 years, 7 months, 32 days)

Most poles: 2, by Kyle Busch, Dale Jarrett, Kasey Kahne and Bobby Labonte

Most wins: 4, by Jimmie Johnson

Most top-five finishes: 6, by Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin

Most laps led: 453, by Jeff Gordon

The last five winners (in descending order): Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Johnson, Johnson

Swap meet

It was revealed recently that Sprint Cup’s Tony Stewart and British Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton will swap cars for a couple laps at the Watkins Glen road course some time this year.

A lot of race fans have wanted to see Tony Stewart in a Formula One car. It looks as though they will soon get their chance. (RacinToday file photo by Tony Bush)

Stewart was asked about it this weekend.

Question: Can you talk about it?

Stewart: “Right now I am too busy worrying about what we’re doing, but, I am excited about it. It is an awesome opportunity. It is really a chance of a lifetime to drive something that is probably the most sophisticated race car on the planet. It is going to be really cool to get a chance to do it. We did a commercial shoot day with Lewis and he is an awesome guy. We are really looking forward to talking to him about it and learning from him about what to do to drive his car fast.”

Question: Former F1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya said you might want to work on your neck muscles. Thoughts?

Stewart: “With the G-loads those cars pull, it won’t surprise me at all that that is the area I am going to need to work on. You don’t really think of things like that, but that’s aspects that you have to think about when you go to drive somebody else’s cars. It is kind of the same as running the winged sprint car, they pull on your neck muscles a lot harder too. Hopefully I will just keep running enough winged sprint car races and I’ll get it in shape that way.”

Question: Who do you think will have a harder time in the swap?

Stewart: “It is hard to say. We are both going to be driving cars we are very unfamiliar with and I’ve never run that part of Watkins Glen so it will be interesting. The whole thing of it is to have fun and just see what the other guy goes through and what his car drives like. It is going to be fun to have that opportunity to both drive his car and at the same time be able to help him learn how to drive ours too.”

Trivia answer

Jeff Burton has the top average finish at Las Vegas. That average finish is 9.923.

Up next

The Sprint Cup Series has an off weekend. After that, it is on to Bristol for the Jeff Byrd 500 presented by Food City.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 6 2011
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Terry says:

    GGGGEEEEEEZZZ….Jim….you betting this race?
    That was a HIGH DOLLAR tip sheet on today’s race.
    I mean that as a sincere compliment. That was smokin’….
    And like all MEGA-INFO tip sheets
    I have just second guessed my self
    into an early bloody mary…….thanks guy.
    Enjoy the race…..
    GO # 21….LET IT FLY KID!!!!