Archive for Sunday, March 30, 2003

Racing groove dictates passing at Texas track

March 30, 2003


— The trail of rubber on the racing surface at Texas Motor Speedway shows the safest way around the 1 1/2-mile oval.

Venture off that sticky, black stripe and onto the slick, gray part of the asphalt surface, and the concrete wall surrounding the track can come into play in a hurry.

"You don't want to get off the groove at this place," said Bill Elliott, who will start sixth in the 43-car field for today's Samsung/Radio Shack 500. "You get into the gray and there's just no grip. And that wall is real hard."

Since competition began at the speedway in 1997, the track has been one of the fastest on the Winston Cup circuit. But it has also been a one-groove racetrack, making passing for position a difficult and dangerous prospect.

There were signs of change last April on what was then a newly resurfaced track.

"Everybody keeps calling it one groove," Johnny Benson said. "But I remember a year ago when we were here and were leading. We were passed on the outside, so I don't think it was one groove then."

Despite Benson's observation, though, there's a debate among the drivers about how wide that strip of rubber will be today.

"It's early to tell, but I don't see any black on that second groove," Ricky Rudd said. "It doesn't look like there's been much racing going on up there, and there certainly isn't much rubber up there.

"I would say you'd have a better chance racing side-by-side this time, simply for the fact that the track has weathered some. Atlanta was a single-groove race track, it weathered and all of a sudden the grip wasn't all that great on the bottom so you went to the top.

"I could see a better chance of that happening here this week than it has before. But, right now, I don't want to get out of that bottom myself."

Four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon agreed, saying, "It's a one-groove racetrack as of now, and you have to run the bottom as fast as you can."

Rusty Wallace disagreed, and believe the track will become more "raceable."

"It's definitely seasoned in more and I see a second groove coming in," he said. "I know there will be two lanes of racing, and maybe three, especially in turns three and four."

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