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Racing history lessons via Exit 286

23 Aug

The Kansas Auto Racing Museum is a hidden gem for racing fans and those interested in the history of the sport. (Photo from http://www.kansasautoracingmuseum.org/)

If you planned out a road trip with the goal of visiting the sights and sounds of early auto racing, the city of Chapman, Kansas, might not automatically be one of the first places on your list. But believe it or not, it probably should be.

Residing in the town of 1,400 people is the Kansas Auto Racing Museum, where one can see restored racecars, footage and photographs of pivotal events in racing history, and the trophies for the first NASCAR and NHRA events – the winners of which were both from Kansas.

Doug Thompson, the owner and curator of the museum, has personally accumulated a large amount of racing memorabilia over his own lengthy career in the sport, but most of the pieces on display are donated or loaned to the museum because their owners are proud of the racing history.

“We say there’s a million-piece puzzle, and some people are walking around with one or two pieces of the puzzle, and if we all put it together, we’ll see an entire picture, and that’s been the case,” Thompson said.

“Others who are involved in racing have come in, toured the museum, and they say, ‘Well, you know what, I have my grandfather’s scrapbook…’ and they will send it to me, so that’s more pieces of the puzzle coming in, and it’s just ongoing.”

While the museum – which sees about 4,500 visitors each year – is home to many actual racing vehicles, including one that participated in the first NASCAR Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway, it has also cataloged early coverage of the sport, which is significant in part because the medium of covering sports has changed so dramatically over the years.

In addition to photographs showing the transformation and growth of racing over the years, the museum has photos and video of one of the most infamous racing events in the world. It took place at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson in 1974.

“They had a wreck right at the start of the 50-lap Grand National event. 17 racecars burned up, 3 people were badly burned, and we have the film footage and color photographs,” Thompson said.

While the event itself was certainly newsworthy, the repercussions of it to the sport had an even more lasting and widespread effect: protecting the wellbeing of drivers.

“That racing event helped to reorganize the safety aspect of racing by mandating in-car fire extinguishers, fuel cells, racing suits, racing gloves and some other changes in that aspect of racing,” Thompson said. “That was an event that those photographs were on almost every newspaper, every sports page across in the United States in 1974. That happened in our state and it was well-documented through photography and video.”

Thompson said that racing fans from this area or ones who are passing through enjoy visiting the museum because it brings back good memories of watching races as a child or going to events with family. Often, Thompson said, visitors comment that they had no idea that Kansas had so much racing history and that they should have allocated more time to go through the museum.

Since its construction in 1997, the goal of the museum has been to preserve the history of racing in Kansas. With its own racetrack nearing its 10th birthday, the state seems well on its way to having not only a racing past but also a racing future.

“When it was the France family involved [in building Kansas Speedway], I knew it would be an excellent facility,” Thompson said. “It’s been an economic boom for the Kansas City area and has been a major attraction, and it brings big-league racing to the central parts of the United States, and it helps to take NASCAR racing from just being a Southeast-area to truly a national racing series.

“Sometime in the future I think you will see, maybe in 10, 12 years, if the economy can get back to where it should be, you may see race teams that are no longer based in the southeast area only but are more centrally located, and Kansas would be an excellent location for them.”

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Shifting Gears: Rule change going into Pocono Raceway

11 Jun

At the halfway point of the Sprint Cup Series regular season, NASCAR teams competing at Pocono Raceway – known as the “Tricky Triangle” – will test the impact of new freedom they’ve been given when it comes to transmission gear ratios. In the realm of gear ratios, whether you want one that is higher (1.1:1 as opposed to 1.5:1) or lower (1.7:1 as opposed to 1.4:1) depends on what kind of track you’re running.

A lower gear ratio allows for more acceleration. This is what comes in handy when you want to put the pedal to the metal as the stoplight turns green. Or, if you drive a race car for a living, more acceleration is what you want during a restart. It’s also helpful when you’re on short tracks, when you’re constantly slowing down to turn and then speeding back up on the straightaways. The drawback to the increase in torque that comes with a lower gear ratio, however, is worse fuel economy and a lower top-end speed. The latter isn’t as much of an issue on a short track, but fuel economy is always an issue, and it certainly has been prominent in the sport lately.

A higher gear ratio, on the other hand, gives you a higher top speed and better fuel economy. You want this kind of setup on superspeedways like Daytona, where you’ve got extensive straightaways and time to get all the way up to your max speed.

Keeping those things in mind, here’s the official rule change from NASCAR, and further down is the Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby on how this relates specifically to Pocono.

More Shifting Now Available At Pocono: Gear Ratio Changes
For practice, qualifying and the race, all competitors must compete with transmission gear ratios as follows: 1st gear optional; 2nd gear 1.70:1 or greater (1.699 or less will not be permitted); 3rd gear 1.14:1 or greater (1.139 or less will not be permitted); 4th gear must remain 1.00:1. Overdrive ratios will not be permitted.
This is an addendum to the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book which states: Transmission gear ratios between 1.00:1 and 1.28:1 will not be permitted for the remaining forward transmission gears except road course Events. Overdrive gears will not be permitted.
“There has been some confusion that shifting was not allowed at Pocono, and that isn’t true. The real reason shifting stopped at Pocono was because gear ratios weren’t compatible for shifting. Over the last few years, teams have done it with limited success but not on a consistent basis.
So, what we did was change transmission gear ratios to make it easier on engines and give teams a better opportunity to use third gear and shift. Primarily it’s in an effort to allow the drivers to maximize the RPM on each of the three straightaways.
When you look at the race track, you instantly see the issue that they’re faced with. The frontstretch is more than 3,700 feet [3,740], the backstretch or the Long Pond Straight is 3,000 [3,055] feet and the short straightaway between the Tunnel Turn and Turn 3 is only 1,780 feet. So consequently [there will be] a straightaway that you don’t get anywhere near your maximum potential RPM. This is all done in an effort to try to even those three straightaways out in the RPM that the engine will attain.”

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.”

Understatement of the Century

8 Jun

Here it is: “NASCAR teams come well-prepared.”

This past weekend at Kansas Speedway, I took a tour of Jeff Burton’s No. 31 team hauler. I had never been in one of these monstrous vehicles before, so suffice it to say I was impressed. The gentleman who showed me around opened cabinet after cabinet of car parts and pieces, all labeled and organized. Stunned, I commented jokingly, “So basically you’ve got spare parts to build a whole other car here.”

Sliding back a portion of the ceiling, he responded, “Well, there’s actually that too.” Above our heads was a whole car, the backup that the team brings along to each track in case something goes awry with the main one prior to the pre-race inspection.

One of the more interesting pieces I learned of was the shock dyno. The team could build and test out the suspension components right there in the trailer, on a fairly small, innocuous-looking piece of machinery. I was told they had a spare engine tucked away somewhere too, and up around the corner was a lounge equipped with TVs and computers so the crew chief and engineers could strategize together.

The team’s public relations lady – who was a little busy since the news was just breaking about team owner Richard Childress punching driver Kyle Busch – summed nicely the whole setup.

“It’s basically like the office on wheels,” she said. “Anything the guys need to fix the car, replace parts on the car, there’s everything on here.”

 

Q&A with NCWTS driver Cole Whitt

7 Jun

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

I wrote a feature on rookie Cole Whitt a few days ago, but here are some of the other topics of our conversation that I didn’t have a spot for in that piece. It was really interesting to get the perspective of someone who, at the ripe old age of not-quite-20, has already been doing what he’s doing for over a decade. He analyzed Kansas Speedway for me, too, but I figure I’ll save that for when the races return here in October. Enjoy!

Q: Is it hard to adjust to the tracks so quickly, as you’ve only got a day or two to practice on them?

A: That’s what makes it tough being a rookie. You’re coming to a lot of new tracks for the first time that you’ve never seen, and you’ve got to kind of pick up where you’re at. And all the veterans, like [Jeff] Gordon has been to this track – I don’t know how many times, probably more than I’ve raced. They know where they need to be and what they need to do. It’s always good to get behind one of those guys and just kind of pick up what they’re doing.

Q: What does your preparation for a race look like?

A: There’s not a whole lot. More for me, I try to help the team out a lot. I go to the shop every week, Monday through Friday, whatever we’ve got to do, to help them get the trucks ready and make sure that everything I need to get done is done, in the cockpit of the truck, anything they need me to help with.

But for the most part, it’s just kind of going to the track, making sure most of our stuff is squared away and good to go. A lot of these tracks are new to me. I come to a new track for the first time and have got to kind of just pick it up and go with it. Usually I just rely on [team owner] Stacy [Compton] to just get a couple little pointers and just pick it up as we go.

Q: What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten from your family, with its history in racing?

A: I remember one time [my cousin] Brandon was telling me … he always talked about this late apex, and it always seemed to work everywhere we went doing go-karts, and that was where I started at. My dad always explained to me: it’s always opening up your entry and getting a late run off the corner, just being able to straighten up your exit a lot and be on the gas a lot more. It seems to apply to almost every track you go to.

Q: Do you have time to sightsee when you go to different places, or is it more fly-in and fly-out?

A: It’s pretty much fly-in and fly-out. My parents got to have a lot of fun in Nashville. I didn’t get to. I had to leave and get out of there, but they stuck around and went to like Grand Ol’ Opry and stuff. I wish I would have got to go, but I get to hear about it at least.

Q: What would you say it takes to get into racing anymore?

A: It’s crazy, the way that times have changed. It’s changed like about the time that I was coming into the sport. It’s definitely not as easy as it was. Even about three or four years ago, before I came into the NASCAR world, almost anyone could kind of do it if you had the skill. Almost anyone could pick you up, when the economy was really well. If you were fast, guys would recruit young kids and really bring them along. Nowadays with the way the economy has changed, you almost can’t do it without a sponsor. You’ve still got to run good at the end of the day, but at the same time, you almost need someone backing you with the money. It’s tough nowadays. Definitely not impossible if you don’t have [the money] – if you’ve got the skill and you’re winning races, beating everyone everywhere you go, things will take care of themselves.

Q: What’s been your favorite track to race?

A: Hands down, probably Dover. It’s just a place that’s fast, it’s got high bank. It’s just a lot of fun to go there. You can really get after it a lot.

Q: What are the best parts and most challenging parts of your job?

A: It’s not a hard job really at all. It’s fun. It’s really enjoyable. Just trying to live it up as much as I can because you never know, one day it could be gone. Fun parts is, like you said, going to new places, and you do get to see different states. At 19 years old I’ve probably been to almost all the states. I haven’t been to, like, Alaska, but I’ve probably at least driven through all of them. It’s pretty cool to say you’ve done that already at 19 years old. I think most challenging would be dealing with – I guess you get a lot of requests through the week. You kind of feel like when you get home from the race track you just want to relax and try to reset and go to the next race, but you end up getting a lot of requests – I guess at least when you’re running good, and get a lot of people wanting to talk to you, but it’s still part of the job.

At Whitt’s Beginning: NCWTS rookie is making his mark

6 Jun

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

The late teenage years are often good ones. For many people, that is the age at which you’re old enough to make most of your own decisions but still young enough that you’re not completely (cough, financially) independent. But at 19 years old – at least until June 22 – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie Cole Whitt has a demanding schedule to go with a high profile career that he has been working toward since elementary school. Here’s the good part: he’s loving every minute of it.

“It’s not a hard job really at all,” Whitt said. “It’s fun. It’s really enjoyable. Just trying to live it up as much as I can because you never know, one day it could be gone.”

Look through the list of drivers and team owners in NASCAR, and you’ll see a disproportionate amount of names with “Jr.” attached to them. Very often, racing is a family affair, passed down from generation to generation. In Whitt’s case, he had always wanted to race because he saw his older cousin do it – not to mention his dad and grandpa.

Of course, racing is an intense hobby – one that requires extensive travel and even more time. As a result, Whitt didn’t get to have a completely normal childhood lifestyle. He went to a regular elementary school, but as he began racing sprint cars in Indiana, around when he was beginning junior high, the normal setup became more difficult to maintain.

Whitt began going to a charter school. He would go to school Monday through Wednesday, then fly out Friday for the weekend’s race, come back on Sunday, and begin the cycle all over again.

“It was pretty crazy, and it was really hectic for me, traveling all the time,” Whitt said, “but at the same time … schooling came first from [my mom]. They really pushed me to make sure I did everything I needed to do.”

For Whitt’s senior year of high school, he did full home-school because his travel was incompatible with any sort of a normal schedule. He finished up school, and after seven NCWTS races and five top 10 finishes, he had become the first rookie (and youngest driver) to lead the series points standings.

As a kid who loved to watch the trucks race on Friday nights, being able to set a little bit of history in the series that was fairly important to him growing up  – “and at least be able to say I did something” – has been pretty cool.

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

The 19-year-old led the standings by just one point, right above 33-year-old Johnny Sauter. While Whitt’s moment on top was short-lived – Sauter regained the points lead with a second-place finish in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 – he didn’t seem inclined to let it go to his head even before he knew it would shortly end.

“This sport will humble you really quick,” Whitt said just a few hours before the 250. “It’ll do it by itself. If you think you’re on top of the world, next thing you know, you could be at the bottom of it. The sport’ll knock you down quick if you get too much on top of it.”

“I was raised with great parents. They always taught me to keep a level head and be really humble and just be thankful for the opportunities you have and everything that kind of comes around. I’ve been very fortunate to have, you know, as much as I’ve gotten already.”

His recent rise has prompted some changes in attitudes toward him, Whitt said. When he and his team first entered the series, no one really knew who they were, and no one really cared. These days, it’s a bit different.

“Now I feel like we’re on everyone’s radar, you know,” Whitt said. “I feel like they’re kind of gunning to go beat us, which, I guess that’s good. I mean, that’s what we’re here for. But at the same time it makes it a little bit tougher because everyone seems to be wanting to only beat you, but I mean at the end of the day we’re still trying to beat every truck here too.”

After his 15th-place finish at Kanas Speedway, Whitt is second in the standings, 12 points behind Sauter, Whitt still averages a finish of 8.2. He said that as long as he and his team keep putting the car in position at the end of races, they’ll eventually cross the finish line first.

“I feel like we’ve just been at the end of every race,” Whitt said. “At the same time we’ve also been fast, so you know what I mean, it’s been good, but we’re still trying to win races every time we go out. That’s our goal every time we go to the racetrack. I think we’re getting closer to that. We started running a lot of the top 10s, and now we’re moving into top fives. Hopefully if we just keep going down the right track we can turn it into wins.”

Fuel conservation becomes recurring strategy for NASCAR teams

5 Jun

Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR

A NASCAR team takes many variables into account when choosing when its driver will come in for pit stops. But while a team can plan for different situations to the best of its ability, when you throw in 42 other cars and the cautions that go along with the interactions between those, everything gets much more interesting.

Gas – or rather a lack thereof – played a pivotal role in last week’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Dale Earnhardt Jr. led on the last lap but then ended up seventh because he ran out of fuel in the final stretch. Fuel also proved relevant on Sunday at Kansas Speedway. This time it worked more toward Earnhardt Jr.’s favor, as he finished second behind Brad Keselowski, who got his first win in 61 races.

Earnhardt Jr. qualified 28th for the STP 400, so even running 13th – his position on lap 134 – had required making up some serious ground, and Kansas is a track on which it is hard to get around other cars anyway. Midway through the race, Earnhardt Jr. spun out between turns three and four, which created a caution for laps 154-157.

“Starting where we did, it just wasn’t easy,” the popular No. 88 driver said. “And we finally got to right outside that top 10 and was looking good for the last 100 laps. And I went to searching for more speed and busted my butt up there on 3 and 4. And tossed us in all the spots we worked for all day.”

However, there was a silver lining to that incident; it put into use the savvy of Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte.

“[It] gave Steve the chance to play the strategy game … when that caution came out that we came and got fuel. We put ourselves in a one-stop scenario where everybody else didn’t pit. They can’t give up the track position because it’s so hard to pass,” Earnhardt Jr. explained. “So they stayed out there knowing they’d have to come down to pit road twice. And that was the game that we took, and the race  … could have had a caution and changed everybody’s strategy, but it worked out for us and right to the end.”

After the race, Earnhardt Jr. seemed less than enthusiastic about the finish. Although second place in the STP 400 puts him third in the overall Sprint Cup Series points standings, it was clear he viewed the runner-up spot as a bit of a letdown. He explained his frustration of having to slow down in order to have enough fuel to finish the race … even though he felt his car was fast enough to overtake Keselowski’s. Earnhardt Jr. recalled his conversation with Letarte.

“Man, he was telling me that whole run: ‘We’re good. Let Mike be short, we’re good, we’re fine.’ Then we got within 10 to go, and he said, ‘Back it down, back it down.'”

“I can catch the 2, he’s real slow,” Earnhardt Jr. indicated his response.

“And he’s like: Back it down, back it down, back it up to the 11.”

Letarte told Earnhardt Jr. the fuel would run out at the flag pole, and the driver followed his crew chief’s instructions. At the press conference, he confirmed that Letarte was right; the gauge was red and the No. 88’s tank was indeed empty coming down the back straightaway.

Fuel-influenced finishes generally aren’t preferable, but they are certainly part of the sport. As Keselowski’s crew chief Paul Wolfe pointed out, the fastest car doesn’t always win.

“Everything has to be perfect to win one of these races.So when I say the fastest car doesn’t always win, I mean you can have the fastest car, but if you don’t have good pit strategy or you don’t keep yourself out of trouble or put yourself in situations, it really doesn’t matter,” Wolfe said. “So what I’ve seen is if you can put yourself in the top 10, you give yourself a chance, at least. And we feel like that’s what we did today.”

Finishing behind Keselowski and Earnheardt Jr. were Denny Hamlin in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth and Carl Edwards in fifth. Keselowski’s teammate Kurt Busch finished ninth after leading 152 laps – over 120 more than any other driver – in the 267-lap race.

On Track: Pit road

5 Jun

Everyone looked a little toasty Saturday morning, as the sun beat down to the tune of 95-plus degrees at Kansas Speedway. Today, for the Sprint Cup Series race, figures to be just as steamy. Taking the brunt of the heat (outside of the fans, of course) are the members of pit crews. I’ve got to hand it to them for their efforts.

Yesterday I stood behind the pit stalls, about 10 feet removed from the guys preparing tires, testing impact wrenches, readying 11.5 gallon, 91-pound gas cans, and surveying other equipment, including several computers that were set up on top of the massive “toolbox” – understatement of the year – that each team worked out of. The soundtrack to this was “Ain’t Goin’ Down Til the Sun Comes Up.”

Before yesterday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 250, it felt relaxed on pit road. I couldn’t wait to see the crews in action once the race started, and they did not disappoint. It was cool to be able to tell when a certain car was about to pit, because the team would suddenly begin moving about, all the members moving around at the same time, but somehow not in the way of each other.

When a team’s car got ready to come into the pits, crew members clad in firesuits, gloves, kneepads and helmets stood on the wall and got in a ready stance – almost like a defender on a basketball court, except these guys held massive tires, equally large gas tanks, jacks or impact wrenches.

As the team’s car decelerated impossibly quickly to 45 miles per hour, the driver’s crew members leaped over the wall, and the truck squealed to a stop. Every time, it looked like it would run right over the guys waiting to fill it with gas or change its tires.

Jeff Gordon talks Kansas, points

5 Jun

On Saturday Jeff Gordon talked to reporters outside his #24 hauler. Gordon has one win this season, at Phoenix, and he currently sits 16th in the points. Here’s a Q&A snippet of what he had to say.

Q: How has Kansas Speedway changed since you began racing here?

A: To me this track has just gotten better and better every single year. I loved it from the beginning obviously, but like all tracks do, over time as they settle in, you get some different characteristics that come into play, some different bumps, you see the pavement start to wear a little bit. But here in Kansas I think those things really only made the track better because the wear, the way it wears the tires, the grip level, just makes for multiple groups. We already saw yesterday in practice, cars up against the wall, cars on the bottom, cars in the middle. That’s going to make for a great race here.

Q: Having raced here before, how much use do you get out of the notes that your team brings in?

A: Things change so quickly in this sport, especially over the off-season when you get the teams that … in the Chase, gave everything that they had to have fast racecars and then they go in the offseason with that knowledge, and some go in the offseason knowing that what they had wasn’t working and they just go to work.

So it’s amazing how much can change over the offseason. Not to mention Goodyear constantly trying to improve the tires for this racecar, for these racetracks. For some of those teams, definitely make you have to stay on top of things in a big way. So those [notes] from last year, they definitely help us a little bit here, but a lot of things have changed so we can’t go off of that too much, but this race, until the second race, it’ll be interesting to see how accurate [those notes are]. I think they’ll be fairly accurate.

Q: With your position in the points, although you have a win, are you kind of in a nervous area right now?

A: I’m certainly not comfortable with it. It’s not a good place to be. To me, I guess I look at it a little bit different. It’s not just about being in the top 10 in points; it’s about being a threat for the championship. And yeah, you have to be in the top 10 or 12, but in order to do that, and you can improve your program by the time the Chase comes around, and be in there for the championship, so that’s why we can’t give up. We’ve got to work hard to improve all the time.

But I think from a points standpoint right now, what we have to focus on is winning races because if we can win another one or two races, to me that locks us in … Not only locks us in, but gives us momentum to actually be a threat for the championship. And we’ve gotten ourselves behind, and that’s obvious. It shows, where we’re at in the points. We’ve been inconsistent and we haven’t performed the way we need to.

So to me it’s not just about being in the top 12, it’s about being in the top 12 and being a real threat for the championship. And so we definitely have work to do. But I’m excited. This weekend, things have gone really well.

10 years at Kansas Speedway: Time to Repave?

4 Jun

Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

After 10 years of hosting NASCAR races, officials at Kansas Speedway say it’s only a matter of time before the track surface needs to be revamped. (For a comprehensive article on this, check out this link.) Drivers, however, don’t necessarily agree. One reporter asked racers about this on Saturday after the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250, and Todd Bodine, Johnny Sauter and Joey Coulter all said that if they got to vote, the track would not be repaved.

“This place has got so much character now,” Bodine said. “When it was first built and we came here … it was smooth, and lots of grip, and now, even in trucks we’re out there sliding around and we’re driving the heck out of them every lap. That’s why you see great racing here. It’s got a lot of character. It’s a neat place.”

The reporter remarked half-jokingly that the track would most likely be repaved anyway, and Bodine in particular gave a passionate defense of Kansas Speedway’s current state.

“Why would they repave it?” Bodine began. “Yeah it’s got a couple of bumps and it’s wore-out, but that’s what makes it fun. It separates good trucks from bad ones and good cars from bad ones, good drivers. That’s what makes it fun. Anybody can go fast on dry pavement.”

Coulter’s statement was short and sweet but seemed to summarize what the general feeling was.

“I don’t think I’d repave it either,” the rookie said. “It’s pretty fun the way it is.”