An on-track perspective of Kansas Speedway

9 Jun

Brett Bodine is a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. His younger brother Todd is tearing up the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and his older brother Geoff also competed at NASCAR’s highest level. Those three represent the third generation of their family in racing. Before the STP 400 last Sunday, Brett was back on the track, giving pace car rides in the hours before the race would begin. Listening to him, here’s what I and several other media members learned about Kansas Speedway.

1. First, let’s address that “Tar of Death” question. Everyone who lives in Kansas will tell you that the weather is schizophrenic – one day you’ll need a t-shirt and shorts, but the next you’ll be desperate for jeans and a jacket. A bigger problem for the racetrack than the oscillating weather, however, is the extremes the state gets between seasons. It’s not unusual to encounter wind chills in the negative teens in the winter months, and the summer yields 98-degree days on a regular basis. Over the last 10 years, those harsh temperatures on both ends of the thermometer have caused the track surface to mature drastically, Bodine said.

“Those seams have widened out and racetrack maintenance has applied some sealer down in those cracks. If it wasn’t such a different color they probably wouldn’t be near as noticeable, but they’re there. You can feel them as you cross over them diagonally, and you also feel a few horizontal or 90-degree bumps and cracks in the track.

“That’s part of an old racetrack. It gives it character.”

2. The fastest part of the racetrack is when you’re approaching Turn 1. The front straightaway is about 800 feet longer than the back stretch, which is why it’s so much faster.

3. The banking at Kansas Speedway is one of the lowest for 1.5-mile tracks. There is 14 degrees of banking, a far cry from the 24 degrees at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where drivers had competed the previous week.

“Going into turn 3 you’ll notice, Where’s the banking?” Bodine said as he turned the wheel. “Relatively flat-looking as you enter the corner.”

4. It’s a slick ride in the summer months. The grip just deteriorates as the race goes on. As the track just progressively hotter, it takes rubber right off the tires of the cars. When that happens, Bodine said, grip tends to go away.

“Drivers’ll continue to move up the racetrack looking for some fresh blacktop. They’re not going to find any because we’re using all the lanes right now.”

5. The speedway has a nice wide pit road, with three lanes of travel and one pit stall lane. There is one little drawback to the setup, however.

“Pit stalls are kind of short, they’re not very roomy, so getting boxed in in possible, particularly under yellow flag.”

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