|PIR's plan to repave not popular with driver|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 26 February 2011 12:05|
AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Phoenix International Raceway will undergo a transformation almost as soon as the checkers drop on this weekend's Sprint Cup race, a repaving and reconfiguration project scheduled to be completed before NASCAR returns in the fall.|
The track needs it. The last repaving was 20 years ago and the current set up doesn't always make for easy passing.
Necessity doesn't mean everyone's going to like it, though.
Quirky and cracky, Phoenix is fine the way it is for many drivers and crews - especially after one track record after another fell in qualifying this weekend.
``I'm a little disappointed even though it probably has to be done,'' said Steve Letarte, crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr. ``I'm a race fan, and it's just an amazing racetrack. The two different ends make the racing good and the old, worn-out pavement makes it look like the tracks we grew up running on. I know repaves are necessary, but I think they are a necessary evil.
``I'm a real big fan of old, bumpy, worn-out surfaces.''
Built nearly 50 years ago, the mile oval is one of the more unique tracks on the circuit, with vastly different types of turns at opposite ends and asphalt that's developed all kinds of bumps and cracks since the last repave.
The better drivers like those quirks and for the track to be somewhat slick, since it puts a premium on driving and setups. The added grip from new asphalt will even the playing field a little, and allow drivers and crews a little more room for error while still running fast.
``Definitely disappointed that they needed to resurface the track,'' said five-time defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who's won four times at Phoenix. ``I understand that at some point all tracks need it and they are at that point. We love the tracks that are worn out and on the verge of needing to be resurfaced. I think we put on our best races there.''
Of course, repaving along with stretching the dogleg out and adding variable banking - among other changes - will make Phoenix completely different when teams return in November.
``It's going to change the whole outlook when we come back here for a Chase race with two to go in the fall,'' Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch said. ``It's going to be a roll of the dice and I think it's smart on NASCAR's part to shake up the Chase a little bit with a new race track.''
Carl Edwards set a track record on the last go-round at Phoenix qualifying, hitting 137.279 mph on a day in which 15 drivers eclipsed the record he set last fall. Track records also we set in qualifying for the trucks and Nationwide races.
WALTRIP ON THIRD: Two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip tried a different sport Saturday, suiting up and joining the Chicago White Sox on the field at spring training.
The owner of Michael Waltrip Racing bounded around the clubhouse, visiting with slugger Adam Dunn and manager Ozzie Guillen, among others.
``Spring training, he bops in here like we're getting ready to play game seven of the World Series,'' Waltrip said of Guillen. ``It's pretty obvious why people love playing for him.''
Waltrip said he didn't do very well in school and struggled at baseball as a kid, limiting his career options.
``Little League didn't go well for me,'' said Waltrip, whose favorite team is the Braves. ``We had the best team and I played third base, and everyone in the infield made the All-Star team but me. I determined at a very young age that it was probably going to be important for me to make a living sitting on my (backside).''
CHILDRESS ENGINES: Richard Childress Racing has been known over the years for having some of the most durable engines in NASCAR.
So when two Childress cars blew two engines at the Daytona 500, yeah, it was a shock.
Kevin Harvick's car was the first to go after 22 laps and Jeff Burton's went out after 92, leaving team members scratching their heads as to what happened.
Harvick said this weekend that both cars seemed to have had the same problem and they have a good plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.
``Not that I'm going to tell you, but they have a good idea,'' he said. ``They called me Monday morning and told me what had happened, and I feel like they have a good direction to fix it.''
Childress didn't have any blown engines in qualifying, but didn't exactly light up the track; Clint Bowyer had the best starting position for Sunday's race at 16th.
PIT STOPS: Kyle Busch's win in the NASCAR trucks race Friday night gives him victories in sevens straight seasons, tying the series record set by Todd Bodine. ... Sales of Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne licensed merchandise on NASCAR.com is at a rate nearly three times all other drivers and the sales pace is more than double of last year's Daytona 500 winner, Jamie McMurray. ... Hendrick Motorsports didn't bounce back from its disappointing Daytona 500, with Jeff Gordon getting the top qualifying spot at 20th. ... Weather could play a factor for Sunday's race. Strong winds whipped around PIR at the start of the Nationwide race and rain is expected overnight, though it's predicated to taper off during the day on Sunday.
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