LOUDON, N.H. (May 3, 2001) - Since it is an oval track at least one mile long, New Hampshire International Speedway is a superspeedway by NASCAR definition. But that doesn't mean all drivers approach the learning process at NHIS the same way. In...
LOUDON, N.H. (May 3, 2001) - Since it is an oval track at least one mile long, New Hampshire International Speedway is a superspeedway by NASCAR definition. But that doesn't mean all drivers approach the learning process at NHIS the same way. In the garage area during the recent open test session preceding the Saturday, May 12 running of the CVS/pharmacy 125 presented by Bayer, , three of the Busch North Series competitors gave completely different outlooks on the "Magic Mile".
Bryan Wall, one of the circuit's young stars, recalled using his road racing background to get comfortable with the track. Mike Johnson, the 2000 Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year, characterized NHIS as a flat track in the mold of Stafford Motor Speedway. Joey McCarthy, himself a 2001 Raybestos Rookie contender, likened the demands of NHIS to those of the short track at Flemington, N.J., where he received his racing baptism.
Those approaches and more will be pit to the test on Mother's Day weekend in the second event of the 21-race Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring schedule, which marks the opener of NHIS' 12th season as the series' most prestigious venue. Practice and Bud Pole qualifying for the CVS/pharmacy 125 presented by Bayer are set for Friday morning, May 11. After the Busch Series, Grand National Division completes its time trials, the final four spots in the 42-car Busch North Series field will be filled in a special 20-lap qualifying race. Race time for the CVS/pharmacy 125 presented by Bayer is approximately 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 12, following the conclusion of the Busch Series race.
For Bryan Wall, laps behind the wheel are the secret to becoming comfortable and competitive at NHIS. "Just get seat time like you were on a road course," asserts Wall, who finished fourth in last May's event. "Just keep driving it in a little deeper each lap. My advice is to try to stick with someone who's pretty good here. The next time you'll be three or fourth tenths (of a second) quicker just because you've had the seat time."
In the race, Wall stresses patience. "The first couple of laps can be a free-for-all," he notes. "You need to use common sense and you'll get into racing the track and watching the car right in front of you, not worrying about what's going on six or seven cars in front," he adds.
"It'll take a while; it took us a while," Wall concludes. "After the first race, you get comfortable."
Mike Johnson proved to be a fast learner at NHIS in 2000, qualifying in the top ten for his first race and on the front row for his second. He put Bryan Wall's theory about learning from the old pros to work early, with mixed results. "I watched some of the veterans and tried to follow them," he says, noting with a grin, "I tried to follow Dale Shaw, but he has his own line that nobody else follows."
Whereas Wall tapped his road racing knowledge to learn the fast way around NHIS, Johnson turned to his technique for flat oval tracks like Stafford, where he would win his first Busch North Series race last July. "It's a finesse track, you really have to be easy through the corners. You have to have a good flat-track set-up. You can't just go in, brake hard, and mash the gas. The corners are so long, you have to ease into them and be smooth," he declares.
Joey McCarthy brings another perspective. Although he's a Busch North Series rookie contender, he raced at NHIS in 2000, and he has superspeedway experience with the Busch Series, Grand National Division at tracks like Rockingham and Nazareth. Earlier, he raced modifieds on Flemington's unique square track, one of the most difficult NASCAR Weekly Racing Series facilities on the East Coast until its recent closing.
"If you ask the Busch Series or Winston Cup guys, they treat it like a short track," McCarthy says of NHIS. "Of course you treat it with respect," he adds, "but you need the short track mentality to get around, because nobody else is laying off. There's a lot of dicing going on, so you have to stay aggressive."