Burton first to test reconfigured Texas track

FT. WORTH, Texas (Dec. 9, 1998) Jeff Burton, winner of the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, also had the honor of being the first series driver to test on the reconfigured speedway, in a tire test for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Burton, who drove his Roush Racing No. 99 Exide Batteries Ford during the session, said the changes made to the racing surface earlier this year -- following the Texas 500 in April -- have made a real difference. "It's much better," Burton said. "The groove is much wider - Turn 4 and Turn 1 are much smoother. I'm not sure exactly what all they did, but whatever changes they made, it worked." Following the April 5 Texas 500, speedway officials embarked on an aggressive reconfiguration of the 1.5-mile racing surface, to correct problems that caused water to seep onto the racing surface, as well as perceived problems with the track's shape. A completely new drainage system was installed around and underneath the speedway, the transitions entering Turn 1 and exiting Turn 4 were redesigned and the 24-degree banked corners were widened by eight feet. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competed in the Pronto Auto Parts 400 in early June and staged an exciting debut for the new configuration. The track will get its official NASCAR Winston Cup Series "baptism of fire" in the PRIMESTAR 500, which is scheduled for March 28. It will be preceded on March 27 by the Coca-Cola 300 for the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division.

"I think it's going to be faster," Burton said. "We'll definitely have more speed in the turns. I think it's just going to be better racing all the way around. It's going to give more drivers the chance to stay competitive and to win. Burton's teammate, Mark Martin, won the Texas 500 in April at an average speed of 136.771 mph in his Valvoline/Cummins Ford. Ford driver Jeremy Mayfield won the Bud Pole Award in April at a speed of 185.906 mph in the Mobil 1 Ford. Burton finished 29th in April, but was 58 laps down to his teammate after experiencing problems in the race. Burton's anticipating better luck in 1999, but said everyone should expect widely varying opinions, as is usually the case. "I'm sure there will be a few drivers who'll come here and say they still don't like it," he said. "But you can ask any driver about any track and they'll all have a different opinion. But I'll tell you what, nobody will come here and say that it isn't better - because it is. They've fixed the problems." Thousands of race fans already seemed sure of the speedway's success as a record number of individual race tickets were sold Saturday, Dec. 5 - the first day of individual ticket sales for 1999. "We're so pleased with the response from the fans," said speedway general manager Eddie Gossage. "The support for the speedway and motorsports in Texas has been tremendous, and we'll continue to give the fans the great racing they deserve." In addition to the more traditional methods of buying tickets at the speedway or by phone, many fans are taking advantage of the speedway's web site. Tickets may be purchased online at: www.texasmotorspeedway.com, where fans can link to TicketMaster to purchase their seats.

Source: NASCAR Online