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New Michigan Surface To Produce New Problems?

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 4 2012

It looks like the pace will pick up this year at Michigan International Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Stepping into NASCAR’s repavement-controversy spotlight this week is Michigan International Speedway. The track, which just got a fresh coating of asphalt, enters the spotlight thanks to comments Matt Kenseth issued after testing Wednesday.

Kenseth got out of his car and said he had just gone more than 215 mph in the straightaways.

Asked if the new surface was fast, the Roush Fenway Racing driver said, “I would probably say fast to too- fast.”

Michigan has always been one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR. Average qualifying speeds have been well into the mid 190s. Straightaway speeds above 200.

But 215 sounds high and for Kenseth, apparently, felt high.

Asked how the repave would affect racing at MIS in June, he said, “I think the racing has always been great here. I think it would be hard to improve on what you had. It was pretty slick before. You would run real fast and slow up on old tires and the groove was all over the place, so I don’t think it’s going be better than that. I think it’s gonna be faster than that. I think qualifying is going be real exciting. I think the race will be real exciting like it always is, but I think you’re probably going to see a little different race at

Matt Kenseth says Michigan's new pavement is 215-fast. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

least for a year or two until it gets more worn out and the pace comes back.

“We’re running at least three seconds faster than what we would run in race runs the last time we were here and that’s going to change the racing a little bit, so you have to pave these places eventually or they’d fall apart, I guess.”

Kenseth stressed that Wednesday’s test was on a track that was new and dirty and that it will burn in with more use.

And he said that the look of the racing there will be determined by Goodyear.

“The tire is always the biggest factor in the speeds no matter where we go or what kind of pavement we’re racing on,” Kenseth said, “so I think Goodyear has done a really good job with all of these new repaves that have come up the last four or five years. They’ve brought a tire that doesn’t fail and we can drive and maneuver on it. In the past, it used to be when they paved these places they’d bring a tire that was so hard, because they couldn’t keep them from failing, that we couldn’t drive the cars for 20-30 laps. So I think they’ve done a good job of giving us something we can drive off the get-go and still seems durable.”

But talk of 215 or 216 is sure to raise some eyebrows in the garages and at the NASCAR research and development center in North Carolina.

Also testing Wednesday were Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch.

Montoya said minimum speed was 189 mph, but cars were going above 215 in the straightaways.

The repave was concluded last November. This was the fourth repave – 1977, 1986 and 1995 – of the track in Brooklyn.

Return of the Viper

Chrysler announced that a factory-backed SRT Viper Racing team will return to the American Le Mans Series in this season.

“Racing has been a significant part of the illustrious history of Viper not only with wins on the track, but also in the continued development of the street cars – and our new 2013 SRT Viper models are proof of those lessons learned,” said Ralph Gilles, President and CEO – Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC. “Now with our new team and the launch of the GTS-R, we’re excited and proud to begin writing more chapters in the racing history of the Viper later this summer.”

SRT Motorsports has partnered with Riley Technologies, based in Mooresville, N.C., on the design-and-build process of the new SRT Viper GTS-R.

Two SRT Viper GTS-Rs will compete in the production-based GT class in the series. Four drivers currently are signed to drive including Dominik Farnbacher, from Ansbach, Germany; Marc Goossens from Geel, Belgium; Ryan Hunter-Reay from Dallas and Kuno Wittmer from Montreal.

Additional driver and team announcements will be forthcoming.

Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, hails the SRT Viper’s return to the Series as one of 2012’s top announcements.

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the significance of the SRT Viper returning to the top level of professional sports car racing,” Atherton said. “The Chrysler Group has a long, storied and very successful history of competing with the American Le Mans Series. The fact that they’re coming back concurrently with the introduction of the new production car and doing it simultaneously, we would be hard-pressed to come up with a better-case scenario. What a great way for SRT Viper to come back to racing.”

Going boating

Driver Ryan Truex Jr. will spend the upcoming weekend off from the Sprint Cup Series chasing a world speed record.  On water, but from land.

Truex will be in Huntsville, Ala. trying to break records for radio control boating.

The Michael Waltrip Racing driver already owns several RC records. “Three world records,” he said. “They are all three oval records, which is a timed oval. Two of them are on a one-third-mile course and one is a quarter-mile course. They are all sanctioned by IMPBA (International Model Power Boat Association).”

And this weekend?

“I’m going for three new oval records,” Truex said. “One that I already have and want to lower it because I know I can. I’m going to try to go for a straight line record, which is straightaway speed. The record I’m going for in that is with a little 3.5 cc engine and it’s 103 miles per hour. I’m trying to go at least 105.”

Asked how he got started in the sport, Truex said, “It all started when I bought the house on the lake (in North Carolina). I’ve always been into RC cars and trucks and built them since I was a kid. Then I raced them with my buddies and stuff. When I moved to the lake, I decided I needed to get a boat. So, I bought one and I wasn’t happy with it so I did some looking around on the internet and found some stuff. Then I started building my own.”

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 4 2012
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