One repave down, two to go. Pocono Raceway’s facelift produced one of the most intriguing races of the season last Sunday, and this week. The newly resurfaced Michigan International Speedway promises more of the same. Kansas Speedway’s new surface won’t be tested in competition until October.
|Gordon tested the new MIS asphalt in April|
Recent Goodyear Tire tests at Michigan produced sizzling lap speeds of well over 200 mph, making the Brooklyn, Michigan oval potentially the fastest track in all of NASCAR. Ryan Newman’s current track qualifying record of 194.232 mph on June 18, 2005 is almost certain to fall, and some predict that the entire, 43-car starting field for Sunday’s race could eclipse Newman’s mark.
"It's a very fast track, but with a very comfortable pace," said two-time Michigan winner Jeff Gordon, who took part in the April tire test. "The track drives so similar to the way it did before and I believe it's going to have multiple grooves."
"Back-to-back repaved tracks is kind of unique," said Furniture Row Racing driver Regan Smith this week. "But we'll deal with it, as will all the other teams. Now that the track has been repaved, I am hoping some of the old characteristics will be the same. But we aren't going to know for sure until we start testing there. What I do know is that the track is going to be faster -- that's a given. How much faster is hard to tell. The weather will have a lot to say about what kind of speeds we'll produce over the weekend. We went through the same process last week in Pocono with its repaved track, and I think we all did a good job adapting to the new conditions. I anticipate the same at MIS."
Point leader Elliott Sadler said there are questions in the Nationwide garage, as well.
|Bump drafting at Michigan?|
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “My crew chief and I have been talking for the last couple of weeks, trying to prepare for it. We don’t know if it’s going to be like the old Michigan, or of it’s going to be like Daytona and Talladega. There’s going to be a lot of grip in that new asphalt.
“In the Nationwide cars – with less horsepower than a Cup car and more drag because of the spoiler we run – we will definitely be wide open all the way around. I almost believe it’s going to be like a Talladega race. I think there’s going to be bump drafting, and I think there will be too much grip to worry much about handling. That lets us trim our car out like we do at Daytona or Talladega for a superspeedway race. That’s absolutely how we’ve prepared our cars.”
“We really don’t know for sure,” admitted Sadler. “I’ve been racing for a long time, and this is probably the most unknown race I’ve ever been a part of. It’s a wildcard. There are going to be a lot of wrecks (and) you’ll have to miss the Big One, just like at Talladega. We’re looking to find a dancing partner, get out in front of (the trouble) and see where we end up.”