By Brian Wiggins
Whenever a race track undergoes a repaving process, there’s going to be some change for a while. Not everyone wants it to be that way, but that’s how repaves go.
Most of the time, repaves bring out the dreaded one-groove, single-file racing that makes track position almost more important than having a good handling car.
Not to mention, having to deal with the unknowns of how tires will take to the new surface is something constantly in the forefront of crew chief and engineer’s minds before, during, and after the race is concluded.
The weekend of the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan proved to be no different than repaves in the past.
With a change in tire compound being tested by the teams less than 24 hours before the scheduled green flag, drivers had positive things to say about Michigan International Speedway’s $7 million paving process.
As part of the process, engineers worked to seemingly re-create the MIS of old, a track which numerous drivers claimed as their favorite track on the Sprint Cup schedule due to the variety of grooves they could race on.
“I did enjoy it. I was very difficult at times, especially when you had four new tires on and they were so hard and you had people to the outside and the groove was narrow and you didn’t have a lot of air,” said Matt Kenseth who finished third in Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400.
“It was definitely a challenge, especially on short runs and restarts with cold tires.
“Overall they did a nice job with the track. I don’t know what they will do for next time with the tires. It would be nice to have a little more grip when it is cold but yet they did a great job to bring something in here that wouldn’t fall apart and that we could race on. Overall I really liked the track. Your hope is that it gets wider.”
With the new tire compound being tested by the teams for the first time Saturday evening after the Nationwide Series race, there wasn’t any telling on how the track surface would affect the tires after rain washed away the track’s rubber built up since the Thursday testing session by Cup teams.
” The track surface was great today,” said race winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. “The tire was a tough one, a little bit of a curve ball, but we didn’t have any trouble. We got to put on a race and I thank NASCAR and Goodyear for the work they did.”
Speeds over 200 mph didn’t make things any easier on drivers and teams as they dealt with a MIS that they had never encountered before .
When all was said and done, it wasn’t the MIS of old quite yet where drivers could push their cars four-wide through the corners, but the track showed promise to provide racing of that nature as years progress on it’s surface.
” Before we could run anywhere on the race track and I hope it gets back to that,” said Kenseth. “But overall I thought it was competitive racing and lots of action out there.”