The Frontstretch: Some Crazy Ideas For A New Superspeedway by Kurt Smith -- Friday April 10, 2009

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Some Crazy Ideas For A New Superspeedway

Kurt Smith · Friday April 10, 2009

 

In case you missed it, some weeks ago Happy Hour discussed how NASCAR can learn from baseball and build new venues designed to create better racing experiences for fans and teams. I presented a rough outline of what the next speedway could look like.

Judging from comments and e-mails, the idea was well received. Thankfully, there are fans out there that understand and appreciate the value of the venues where the NASCAR circus takes place.

Coming up with a short track wasn’t difficult. Most NASCAR fans love short track racing, a sentiment that is clearly lost on the guys who make decisions about where races will be held. So a quirky short track was likely to go over fairly well with purists.

But a superspeedway, now that’s a challenge.

Here’s the problem we have. I know many people love Daytona and Talladega. But I am not interested in a speedway that will require the dreaded restrictor plate.

Look at the results of any restrictor plate race and you will see drivers in the top ten that usually struggle to make the top 25 in any other race. You will also see the best drivers and teams in NASCAR at the bottom of the results, usually courtesy of the Big One. It may be exciting to people, but when the dust clears and the results are skewed in a way they shouldn’t be, that isn’t fundamentally right.

Besides that, I detailed in a column last year why at plate tracks, more than anywhere else, aero package is everything. And NASCAR stated with their unleashing of the Winged Snowplow that they want the racing to be more in the hands of the drivers than the engineers. Like that will ever happen.

If you love the uniqueness of Pocono, you should see the latest concept for a Superspeedway that Kurt Smith has dreamed up.

At any rate, no restrictor plates allowed here. So the obvious design should include lower banking than is found at Daytona or Talladega.

But if we lower the banking, we create two new problems.

What happens when the banking isn’t high enough to require restrictor plates? I give you Pocono Raceway. Now, I have no problem with that…I love the place and how it provides a unique challenge. But it’s understood that many people don’t, seeing it almost as a road course with not enough passing and unexciting finishes.

The second problem is much worse, as anyone who saw last year’s race at Indianapolis knows. The new car has a high center of gravity and is very hard on outside tires to begin with; having little or no banking could result in races like last year’s Indianapolis debacle. We don’t want unhappy fans at Happy Hour Superspeedway.

The box to think outside of is this: that racetracks must be ovals (and notably, Pocono and Indianapolis do not quite share this distinction). Places like Daytona, Texas and other big speedways are called “tri-ovals”, with the front straightaway bowed outward to make room for pit road. This makes it easier to come down the straightaway with a full head of steam, but also necessitates the use of restrictor plates on the biggest speedways, because the cars simply go too fast.

So I’m pioneering a new proposal: the “Eight Track”.

No, I’m not talking about the erstwhile musical medium of the 1970s that somehow persisted despite its infuriating mid-song fadeouts and “ga-chunks” as the program changed. I’m talking about a racetrack shaped somewhat like the number eight.

The “Eight Track” will require drivers to initially make a slight right turn at the end of a straightaway, before making a wide left around the turn. As the driver completes the 180-degree turn, he must then make a slight right to get back on the straightaway. Sort of, but not quite, like a chicane on both straightaways.

I don’t have the exact calculations for what the degree of arc should be in the turn, but the ultimate goal is to slow the driver down enough that the dreaded restrictor plate isn’t necessary. Yet the banking in the turns (the left turns) could be higher than that of Pocono or Indianapolis. So we don’t have drivers taken out of races through no fault of their own in colossal wrecks, and we don’t put the wear and tear on the tires that low-banked tracks cause.

So now where does pit road go?

I’ve stated in the previous track columns that pit road should be wide, easy to get onto, and visible to all in attendance. I initially thought that pit road could be on the outside of the track as opposed to the inside, but I scrapped that idea when I decided it would distract from the racing on the track. And I’m thinking it may just be too dangerous to have pit road straight out of the last turn, where a lapse in concentration could send a driver (like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., given his lack of focus on pit road lately) screaming down pit road at 150 coming out of a turn.

So I thought of an idea so crazy and nuts that you’re welcome to call me names (within reason) for thinking of it.

An on-ramp to an elevated pit road.

Given my idea to elevate the grandstands in the previous track design, which would allow fans to still be able to see the backstretch over pit road, I think that an elevated pit road might make for a better show. Certainly, it would be something unseen at a racetrack in the past. I don’t mean 20 feet above the ground like a parking garage, I’m just talking high enough, maybe two feet, so that: a) drivers know when they’re racing not to get on the ramp, and b) pit road is still separate from the racing on the track—not by a large patch of grass but by elevation. Ideally, this would make the pits a sort of separate show in itself.

One concern is that pit road would have to be wide…since drivers can’t push each other into the grass anymore I wouldn’t want them hitting a wall and skidding towards crew members. Most short tracks have walls on the outside of pit road out of necessity, so on a wide pit road this shouldn’t be a problem.

The racing won’t be underneath pit road. The pit road “on-ramp” will be going into turn 3, leading onto pit road on the inside of the frontstretch, and the exit will be out at the end of turn 2. This is a long pit road, but they’re long on superspeedways anyway. Speed limit 75-80 from the entrance to the yellow line, then 55 in the pits.

So the new superspeedway has a new style of pit road, and high banking without a need for restrictor plates.

Regarding the rest of the features at Happy Hour Superspeedway, let’s review:

Remember that there were no seats on the backstretch. This would be a much easier sell on a superspeedway, given that there could almost be 80,000 seats in a grandstand going from turn four to turn one. Everyone should be able to see pit road as well as the entire track.

I hadn’t planned on an asymmetrical layout for this one, but it certainly could be done. Just so long as we never need that stinkin’ plate.

The elevated grandstands would also be in place here, but with the grandstand being as long as it will be, not only could there be concession stands underneath the grandstands, but there could be as many as 30 open stores just for driver merchandise. I enjoy taking time to check out the merchandise haulers, but not everyone arrives at the race so early. This would give fans something to do during a red flag or a long green flag run early on.

Some people really liked the idea of having video screens on the outside of the racetrack showing films of some of NASCAR’s greatest moments to people waiting in line to get in. That could certainly be done.

Since Happy Hour Superspeedway will be the biggest of all of NASCAR’s tracks, checking in at 2.8 miles, they’ll serve the biggest hot dogs too.

And given its shape, Happy Hour Superspeedway could be nicknamed “the Dogbone”, if “Eight Track” doesn’t go over so well.

Kurt’s Shorts

  • Well just like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon seemingly set out to prove me wrong and succeeded. Last week I reminded everyone that he had been running well before Texas last season as well. To think all he needed was for Hendrick to give him the good stuff he’d been giving to the 48 team.
  • If anyone is looking to get into the lugnut glue business, you would have a huge potential customer in Roush Fenway Racing.
  • Sadly, Aric Almirola and the No. 8 team are the latest victim of sponsorship difficulties. So less than two years after Dale Jr.’s departure from DEI, his car and team have folded. I’m not trying to suggest that Junior doesn’t get better results on the track than Almirola did, but this is a prime example of why the marketable guys get the sponsorships.
  • As we have reported in the newsletter, NASCAR’s ratings are down an average of 15% this season, continuing the steady decline since 2004. Wasn’t that the year the Chase was introduced? Amazing coincidence, that.
  • Happy Easter to everyone out there who celebrates it. If you don’t, send me your peanut butter-chocolate eggs.

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Buffalo Anderson
04/10/2009 04:02 AM
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Tell Las Vegas that they can have another date if they build a 1 mile dirt track with 120,000 seats. They would have it built in 9 months.

Douglas
04/10/2009 07:45 AM
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Oh great! Just absolutely GREAT!

Quote: “The second problem is much worse, as anyone who saw last year’s race at Indianapolis knows. The new car has a high center of gravity and is very hard on outside tires to begin with; having little or no banking could result in races like last year’s Indianapolis debacle. We don’t want unhappy fans at Happy Hour Superspeedway”.

Now we are building a track to accommodate a POORLY DESIGNED RACE CAR! (if one can call the CoT piece of trash a “race car”!)

So, between the arrogance of NA$CRAP, and the total INEPTNESS OF GOODYEAR, we are now going to accommodate those idiots by spending billions on a “new design” race track!

RIGHT ON BROTHER!

NOT!

M.B. Voelker
04/10/2009 09:31 AM
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You’ll still need that pit-road wall — to keep the cars from falling off the outer edge.

You know that these guys will use every inch of possible room and try to find 6 inches more than there actually is. And tires loose grip something awful when hanging over empty space. ;-)

Just for clarification — you’re talking the shape of an outline of an 8, right? No actual crossover (though the elevation changes involved in a overpass/tunnel system would add to the challenge).

yankeegranny
04/10/2009 11:12 AM
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Boy, what kind of wacky weed were you smoking when you wrote your column??? How about a hexagon or a pentagon or an octogon or one with a hill in it. Or how about getting rid of that COT and Baddyear tires? It would be interesting if someone developed a computer program we could buy to build our own theoretical racetrack, could be lots of fun. Happy Easter.

Kevin in SoCal
04/10/2009 01:07 PM
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Kurt said: “down an average of 15% this season, continuing the steady decline since 2004.”

Guess again, Kurt. 2005 was the highest ratings ever for NASCAR broadcasts. After 2005, THEN it went downhill. You cant blame the chase for it.

Birt Aldon
04/10/2009 05:44 PM
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Let me start by saying I AM NO Waltrip fan by any means but in a colum Darrell wrote about a month ago he speculated about creating a low profile tire instead or the tall sidewalls that Goodyear has used for many years. I have not seen any comments to his new idea from readers or writers and I was wondering if this something to consider or is it some more DW bull sh** to fill pages on the internet?

phillip
04/10/2009 05:57 PM
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hey heres a crazy idea lets go racing at THE ROCK

Paul F.
04/11/2009 10:59 PM
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There’s a game from Papyrus(now defunct unfortunately…) called NASCAR Racing Season 2003 for the PC. For its time, it was the most realistic driving experience a stock car racing fan could dream of. As holds true with any computer game with fame, modding, or tweaking aspects of the game occurs and completed work shows up online. There is software for this game out there that lets you create your own track and there are TONS of tracks to find and try out on the internet.

There are endless short tracks, fantasy and real. I found my two local short tracks and downloaded them, along with a late model mod for the game, and got to take a spin around each of them. A popular fictitious superspeedway, called Zen Joltis, is a 5 mile track with a huge amount of banking with no restrictor plates. Needless to say, it could never happen, but it IS fun to draft at 270-280 miles an hour 5 wide.

It’s hard to come by a copy of the game nowadays for less than 80-100 bucks, but there are people living out their crazy track fantasies.

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