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Archive for Thursday, July 24, 2003

Clean air,’ ‘cured’ tracks and other topics

July 24, 2003

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Questions, questions, questions.

How does the air know who's leading a NASCAR race?

Every week, especially in recent Grand National series races, it seems "clean air" makes the leader invincible. A car gets out front and it's gone, pulling away even from a previous leader's car that looked dominant when it was out front.

I understand undisturbed air pushing down on a car running by itself helps plant the nose and front tires to the track. But once the leader's car opens up a gap of 30 car lengths, how come that same advantage doesn't transfer to the car running behind it? That car now has clean air on its nose, too, doesn't it?

It was always said that Dale Earnhardt could "see" the air. Is it possible the air has figured out how to look back? Whatever's going on, it seems obvious that with 43 cars on the track, 42 of them aren't going to be getting the seemingly crucial clean air.

Why, then, would teams design and build their cars with so much dependence on aerodynamics? Why not build in other things to balance the car's handling in dirty air, the conditions that most cars will be racing in most of the day during a long race?

Could that be part of the reason Matt Kenseth is threatening to make this year's championship race a runaway? Are he, crew chief Robbie Reiser and their team smart enough to know they need to have the No. 17 Ford ready to race in traffic more than to race up front?

Kenseth himself makes fun of his lack of qualifying prowess, but he almost always finds his way toward the front no matter where he starts. He rarely leads laps in big chunks. Could that be because his car isn't designed to take maximum advantage of the clean air once it's in it?

OK, on to another question.

For three years, Winston Cup cars have been going to Chicagoland Speedway. Later this year, they'll go to Kansas Speedway for a third time. In both cases, we keep hearing it takes time for a track's pavement to "cure" and for a second racing groove to come in.

All right, then how do you explain what happened in Sunday's New England 300? New Hampshire International Speedway was repaved -- again -- in April. That was three months ago.

Yet this surface seemed to have "cured" just fine and permitted some of the best racing ever seen, at least in Winston Cup competition, in this track's history.

Is that because asphalt mixed with oil imported from Trinidad was used in the latest of the several paving jobs tried at New Hampshire? If so, wouldn't the good folks from Trinidad be willing to help "cure" some of the single-groove problems at Chicagoland and Kansas?

The baseball trading deadline also is approaching, so how about a racing trade?

It's becoming pretty obvious that Winston Cup's all-star race, previously known at The Winston, will not be run at Lowe's Motor Speedway in perpetuity.

So what if Speedway Motorsports Inc. trades the all-star race to International Speedway Corp.? In return, SMI gets a second Cup race for Texas Motor Speedway and agrees to convince stockholder Francis Ferko to drop his lawsuit against NASCAR.

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