The Frontstretch: What Can Charlotte Do? by Mike Neff -- Thursday May 25, 2006

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What Can Charlotte Do?

Full Throttle · Mike Neff · Thursday May 25, 2006

 

The All-Star race was another fantastic promotion by the folks at Speedway Motorsports Incorporated. Train and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers put on great shows (a little too great for the NASCAR folks who had to delay the start of the second segment of the race because of the encore). The facility is still top shelf in terms of the amenities afforded the fans. Humpy Wheeler took every opportunity to blow off a few thousand dollars worth of fireworks, and the race was a showcase of the best drivers in the sport.

Unfortunately, all the promotion in the world couldn’t hide the fact that passing was limited…again. With quite a few cars wrecked for the third straight Cup event, the fans are screaming again that change has to happen.

First off, if there is one thing that is a constant in this sport, it’s that Bruton Smith and Humpy Wheeler will do whatever they can to try and put on the best show possible. Their actions have showed it again, this time with the repaving project on the track after the failed experiment of levigation. At this point, the time has come for some patience. Charlotte has a newly paved surface for the second straight year, and Goodyear brought an overly hard tire due to overreaction to the difficulties of 2005. NASCAR decided to mandate the smaller fuel cell, which may have been an overreaction…but still, the time has come to step back and let things settle back into how they occur in the natural process of a new surface being applied to a track.

While talking to Darrell Waltrip at the Craftsman for a Cure event, he had some very interesting observations about the new surface. After the Truck race, the surface of the track was shiny, almost like a dirt track after a long, hot, summer night of racing. The tire that the teams have this week is so hard that it is not putting rubber into the pavement. It is actually sliding across the top of the track and almost buffing the surface. The result is that there isn’t a lot of grip being added, and it is probably being taken away. Also, the new surface is so good, you don’t even see rocks or imperfections. It is perfectly smooth, again resulting in less opportunity for grip because it is almost like glass.

The answer to these problems is simply time; it’s going to take awhile for the new surface to age. Ted Musgrave pointed out that a new surface has oils in it. It takes a couple of years to work the oils out of the top layers of the track. Once those oils are worked out, the cars should react more in line with how they have reacted in the past to the Charlotte track. Goodyear can make a tire that is closer to the tires that they run at Atlanta and Texas, NASCAR can go back to the full size fuel cell, and the racing can get back to where it was in 2004. Sometimes the best medicine is to simply let time heal all wounds…people need to relax.

Now, if the folks at SMI would just spend some of their profits on a study to figure out how to get traffic out of the parking lots more smoothly, the fans would have a real positive racing experience…

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