Experiencing "The Rock". HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (October 29, 2002) - If there is one place on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit where seat time is crucial to learning the nuances of a racetrack, it's (Rockingham) North Carolina Speedway. With its ...
Experiencing "The Rock".
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (October 29, 2002) - If there is one place on the NASCAR Busch Series circuit where seat time is crucial to learning the nuances of a racetrack, it's (Rockingham) North Carolina Speedway. With its abrasive surface, high-banking, and unique shape, the 37-year old racetrack can wreak havoc on drivers and teams trying to figure out the right set-up to conquer the 1.017-mile speedway.
"I would definitely say that Rockingham is one of the toughest racetracks we visit," states Tim Sauter. "It's unlike any other racetrack we see all season. The track's surface eats up tires fast and leaves you hanging on halfway through your run."
Hard enough for veteran drivers, "The Rock", as it is nicknamed, can be extremely frustrating if you label yourself a rookie. While most of the freshman class has only one race under their belt, Sauter has the advantage with two. His experience one year ago driving the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet garnered him valuable seat time that he looked to when he came back at the beginning of this season.
"It was nice to have some seat time when we went back there this year," adds Sauter. "I think it gave me a little edge over the rest of the rookies, and I felt more comfortable when the race got underway. Coming around to my third time there, I hope to accomplish one thing I haven't been able to do yet, and that's a top-10 finish."
Sauter certainly has a good shot at that if past experience plays into it. He's consistently gotten better in his first two races, and his numbers - two top-10 qualifying efforts, 20 laps led, and a top-15 finish - show that.
* North Carolina Speedway was the second of five races that Johnny Sauter competed on at the end of the 2001 season. After surprising the field with a sixth place starting position, he ran solidly in the top-15 before tangling with the No. 92 Chevrolet on lap 192 and finishing 30th.
* Team ACDelco will take chassis No. 010 to Rockingham for Saturday's race. This car, the same one they took to the spring race, has been run five times during the second half of the season - Chicago (1), Pikes Peak (34), Michigan (22), Darlington (25), and Kansas (15).
* Start time for Saturday's Sam's Club 200 is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. EST. TV coverage of the 200-lap event on TNT starts at 1:00 p.m., with radio coverage on MRN beginning at 12:30 p.m. Remember times and dates of the race may change, so check your local listings. ACDelco driver Johnny Sauter on North Carolina Speedway
What's your take on The Rock? "I think the place is awesome. High-banking, fast racing. It's really a driver's racetrack, where you always have to be up on the wheel the whole time and ready for anything."
How was your first experience there? "It was pretty exciting. I didn't know really what to expect heading into that weekend. I must've been coming off a high from the ASA championship because I busted off a good qualifying lap to put us in contention. Unfortunately, I ruined what could've been a good finish when I got into it with the No. 92 car late in the race. Our day was done after that."
How about your second? "In the spring race we were extremely strong from the get-go. We ran in the top-five for the first half of the race and even led for a little bit. After a late pit stop, we got stuck in the middle of the pack and I got my front fender knocked in by the No. 98 car. That gave the car a terrible push and ended our chances for a top-five finish."
ACDelco crew chief Rick Viers on North Carolina Speedway
What's most important at Rockingham? "The set-up for the racecar is crucial at Rockingham. Because the track surface is so tough, the tires fade after about three laps leaving everyone pretty much equal. So for us, if we have a good set-up right off the truck, we don't have to chase it. That puts us a step ahead of everyone."