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For the second time in as many years, Lowe’s Motor Speedway found itself repaved in the offseason. This time around, though, the repavement finds itself under a different type of scrutiny. With 37 caution flags, shredded tires and wrecked race cars spread out over 1100 miles of Nextel Cup Racing at the track in 2005, to say the first repaving job didn’t quite live up to expectations would be the understatement of the year.
In order to make sure the new pavement is working to the liking of both the teams and NASCAR, both a tire test and regular test have been conducted at the facility to gauge the viability of the new surface.
After this round of testing at Charlotte was completed, I sat down for a few minutes with John Darby to get an evaluation on where things stand.
Mike Neff, Frontstretch: What are your overall opinions of the test now that it’s complete?
John Darby: Well, if you align the priorities I think you can say it is pretty successful. There were no issues with the new surface. It stayed down very nicely, and it is pretty smooth. The Speedway here has done a nice job with the repave.
Frontstretch: After the surface, what was the next priority?
Darby: You go from there to developing a tire that will endure a repave and handle the new surface and everything. From what I understand there, I don’t think there are any issues with regard to blistering or accelerated wear. Anytime there is a repave, you always approach it to the conservative side to try and further prevent problems. (With that in mind) I think that everything is OK. The tire is probably a little harder than what the drivers are accustomed to, so there is a lot of adjustment work going on by the teams.
Frontstretch: How do you feel about the speeds that the teams are posting?
Darby: That’s another important part of the deal is that the speeds seem to be in check (David Stremme led testing with a 186 MPH average speed). Typically, a repave can create very quick speeds, as we have seen in years past like Atlanta or Texas and places like that. I tell you, right now everything is looking favorable.
Frontstretch: What is next on the agenda?
Darby: Obviously, we’ll meet with Goodyear coming away from the test the rest of this week. We’ll speak with a lot more of the competitors that we may not have spoken with already and get some more input on the whole deal, and a couple weeks from now we’ll put her to the real test.
Frontstretch: On the small fuel cells, is that a done deal, or is that still up in the air since the tires held up so well?
Darby: I think it is for right now. You know, we’ve tested a couple of days, but the one thing we haven’t done is run a 600 mile event. Although everything looks encouraging and I don’t think there are any “911s” going on right now, we still need to go through a real life application of 600 miles to really evaluate whether it is needed or not needed.
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