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Kansas Going Extra Miles To Ready New Pavement

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 10 2012

If the new, repaved surface at Kansas Speedway is not up to par next weekend, it will not be for a lack of effort on the part of track operators, veteran drivers brought in to rubber-up the place said Wednesday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Veteran NASCAR driver David Green said he was concerned when he arrived at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first NASCAR event after that oval was repaved and reconfigured with variable banking in 2003. He figured there would be substantial growing pains.

His concerns were allayed, however, as soon as his Nationwide Series car hit the track for the first time that November day.

Wednesday afternoon, after spending the morning running on the repaved and reconfigured variable banking at Kansas Speedway, Green predicted that drivers who show up for next weekend’s Sprint Cup/Nationwide weekend at the track will have their concerns quickly allayed as well.

And fans who buy tickets to the races, he added, will be pleased with the revamped 1.5-mile track as well.

“This track is fantastic,” Green said. “It’s a lot like with Homestead. We rolled in on Thursday and practiced on Friday and boom, we were on the track. That track was race ready from the get-go. That’s what I see here.”

Track repaves tend to be sources of controversy these days. Drivers don’t generally like them and fans fear them because some have resulted in what they believe is inferior action because increased grip sends the cars to the bottom of the track and keeps them there.

The decision to repave the 11-year-old Kansas venue, which had weathered its way into becoming a very racy track, was hit hard by drivers when it was announced last year. Many of the top drivers in the sport – like Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle – issued moans. No matter that the track surface was wearing away from underneath and was suddenly dangerous.

Hearing the moans was speedway president Pat Warren. Not content to hold his breath and see what the reviews would be like when the Cup cars hit Kansas next weekend for the Hollywood Casino 400, Warren got proactive. His track staff has been running the Tire Dragon – a machine that uses counter-rotating tires to lay rubber down on the surface – for the last couple weeks.

Then this week, the track, with the cooperation of Goodyear and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, brought in six veteran drivers to log laps on the new surface. They logged 400 miles on Tuesday and 500 more on Wednesday in recently retired Cup cars.

“We ran all three grooves,” Green, who finished ninth in his Clarence Brewer-owned Great Wolf Pontiac in the NNS race at Homestead in 2003, said of Kansas. “That’s a home run. A grand slam. The transitions (between lanes) are beautiful. The Cup cars will be going faster, and have different setups, but I didn’t even feel the transitions.”

Green said the track was rubbering-up extremely well. He said that he expected that the track would have to be blown off before Wednesday’s runs in order to remove excess rubber from Tuesday. But, no blower was needed. “That tells me the rubber is getting into the pores.”

Randy LaJoie, also a veteran of the Cup and Nationwide series, said he was impressed by just how porous the new surface is.

“We did this at Phoenix (International Raceway, which was repaved and reconfigured last year) but these are two different pave jobs,” LaJoie said. “That track seemed more shiny. Less porous. It seems like this track has more places for the tires to grip. More pores.”

Green said he thinks the racing will be side-by-side immediately with the new pavement and banking, which increases to 20 degrees in the corners.

LaJoie said probably.

“If somebody finds a way to hook up  down on the yellow line, he’s going to be hard to beat,” LaJoie said. “But there are going to be options (in getting around the track) for the other drivers.”

LaJoie, when asked about increased speeds at Kansas, paused and thought. Finally, he said. “I would say qualifying will be in the 28-second bracket.”

The track qualifying record is 29.858 seconds (180.856 mph) and was set in 2005 by Matt Kenseth.

So, new track record next Friday? LaJoie was asked. “Oh yah,” he said.

The only problem drivers encountered this week was the fact that the surface was so black, that they asked that lane lines be put down in the corners.

“We need them to get a sense of where abouts we are” on the track,” LaJoie said.

Track officials put tape down at the drivers’ suggestion on Wednesday and that solved the problem. Warren said permanent lines will be painted on the surface before the cars arrive next week.

Several of the drivers at the speedway complimented the effort and expense that Warren and his crew are putting in to make sure their facility is ready when the show hits town for two days of extra pre-race testing next Wednesday and Thursday.

“Above and beyond,” LaJoie said of track efforts.

And successful, too, he said.

“If somebody comes in here and complains next week,” LaJoie said, “then they are just making excuses.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 10 2012
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