Got a phone call from an old friend on Monday of this week. He wanted to know,
_What did you think of all those problems with Turn 1 at Pocono before they started Cup qualifying?_
I will have to admit that I was somewhat mystified with NASCAR’s handling of the situation.
First, I couldn’t believe that they left the track as it was at the end of ARCA’s qualifying session, when the last car had blown an engine. As an aside, I found out later that Will Kimmel, Frank’s nephew and the grandson of one of my favorite drivers from my flagging days, Bill Kimmel Sr., blew his engine at the flagstand when trying to qualify. That doesn’t excuse NASCAR for being rather ignorant of the situation. I don’t mean “ignorant” as in stupid, but “ignorant” as in ignoring the problem.
First, on the telecast of qualifying, they said NASCAR was expecting rain overnight, and they let it sit — and did nothing to work on it. I can’t understand that attitude. You don’t ever _depend_ on the weather to clean up a soiled racetrack — particularly bad weather. Second, when they got to the track the next morning and it hadn’t rained, they should have jumped right on the problem at that point.
Well, they did try to do something, I suppose, because there was oil dry all the way through the first turn. NASCAR told the TV people that there was nothing else they could do. This got to me just a little bit; go back to your short track roots, people.
I know there’s no way they would have had a short practice session to scrub that turn in and rubber it up a bit, because all the cars were set up for qualifying. It wouldn’t have worked in today’s Cup racing, and that’s a reflection on how sophisticated this sport has become. We had the same thing happen during qualifying on our quarter-mile paved oval on Saturday night, and after cleaning as best we could, we had a quick practice for the division that was in line. Worked out fine.
But there _is_ something they could have done and I don’t understand why nobody thought of it. You simply just drag some race tires through there behind a truck a few times. The NHRA has this down to a science. They have a tractor with a tire scrubber attachment that puts rubber down on the track after they’ve cleaned up a bad mess. Of course, they also put a lot of traction compound down as well, and I know that wouldn’t work well with an oval. We tried it at IRP, and the USAC midgets complained that it was pulling their tires off the rims in the turns – bead locks and all.
After watching NHRA’s equipment work during the U.S. Nationals, our superintendent of maintenance, Bill Gunn, took action on his own.
He fashioned an attachment for our tractor for us to use during local drag racing events, and we also used it on the oval several times. However, I’ve seen the trick of dragging tires behind a truck used many times, even as part of the track-drying process, and it has always worked.
Perhaps it looked like too much of a redneck solution for NASCAR to consider it.
In a conversation with our fearless leader, Tom Bowles, he mentioned that some drivers have privately complained about some of the repaving going on at all types of tracks, saying it’s making things too easy in places. One driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the tunnel turn (Turn 2) at Pocono was a perfect example. He said it used to be one of the toughest turns on the schedule, but now it’s become so easy anybody can get through there.
If true, is this making better drivers of some of the “marginal” types?
I can recall when the ground effects first became really effective at Indianapolis, and a driver told me his grandmother could turn 200mph laps in one of those newer cars. I also remember the first year of the Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, when the paving was pretty rough. After our first USAC midget race, a couple of drivers were in the front office complaining to the promoter, the late Bob Hall.
Parnelli Jones, fresh off his Rookie of The Year performance at the Indianapolis 500 and having finished second in the just-completed feature, stuck his head in the door, looked around at who was there, and said to Bob, “Don’t touch it, it separates the men from the boys.”
Apparently that is lacking on many tracks on the schedule today — with more to come with each repaving.
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