Jay Drake and Jerry Coons Jr. captured pole positions for this weekend's Sprint and Silver Crown, respectively, races at Richmond International Raceway. Jason McCord sits on the outside pole for both races, tonight's "Showdown at Sundown" USAC ...
Jay Drake and Jerry Coons Jr. captured pole positions for this weekend's Sprint and Silver Crown, respectively, races at Richmond International Raceway. Jason McCord sits on the outside pole for both races, tonight's "Showdown at Sundown" USAC Valvoline National Sprint Car Series event and tomorrow's "Dominic's of New York 100" USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series event.
Qualifying today had a historic aspect. Rain delays eliminated traditional single-car qualifying. Instead, USAC used their new transponder system to time every car on every lap during practice sessions, road-race style. The lineups for the two races were set by the fastest time each car set during the sessions.
Coons, who scored his first pavement pole today, did not mind the new procedure at all. "Personally, I like doing the practice (times)," he said. "Some of these guys - like Jay Drake and Jason McCord - I've seen them go out and they'll be two or three tenths quicker in qualifying than in practice. I don't know what they do. I haven't learned that yet. They just hold their breath, I guess, for those two laps and they pull out two or three tenths somewhere. But this is my first time on the pole, so I have to say I kind of like it."
Dick Jordan, USAC Vice President of News and Communications, said that the transponders "...might take the situation of a changing race track out of the mix. On a dirt track, sometimes you start with a great one and finish with a bad one, and where you draw your pill for qualifying relegates you to either a good or bad qualifying time. So this could change that a little bit too."
Despite those potential benefits, Jordon does not expect road race style qualifying to be the norm in USAC racing. "Tradition in open wheel racing has been to qualify with single cars," he said. "I think we probably prefer that when we can. It's probably better for you guys (the drivers), but I can't speak for you. But the fact that we have this new transponder system will give us a little more freedom and flexibility on these programs where we have weather problems and have to speed things along."
With qualifying out of the way (one way or another) the drivers are looking forward to the races themselves. Sprint pole sitter Jay Drake sees the start of each race as being interesting, because the starting order was determined partly by gamesmanship in the session and partly by speed. "In the top ten, you might not know exactly how fast all those guys are, since it's hard to say who did get a clean lap and who never did. We're fortunate enough to have a real fast race car, maybe good enough to get a clean lap and post the fastest time of the session. We have that going for us, and we got a good starting spot in the feature.
"We'll see what we can make of it. This 60 lap race is a longer race than what we normally run," Drake continued. "This is the first time I've been involved in a race with this format. We're going to run 30 laps, have a break, virtually just for fuel. We're going to be allowed to do some tuning up. What we're not allowed to do is change tires. That's going to play into the strategy of the race. We're going to have to be very careful with the tires. We've already found that we're building a lot of temperature - this is a real sticky race track."
Being second - twice - did not hurt Jason McCord's enjoyment of the racing. "This is one of my favorite race tracks," he said. "We always seem to be pretty strong here. I started second here last year, so this is three in a row starting outside the front row. I love Richmond.
"As far as the (two kinds of) cars, it doesn't really feel a whole lot different to me. The silver crown cars are a little more stable, a little lazier. But in the car, it felt similar to me. I'm definitely looking forward to the Sprint car race - I think we'll put on a whale of a show here."
The Sprint car show is scheduled to take its first green at 8:30 EDT tonight. The Silver Crown field will be filled out with a Last Chance race tonight, and the 100 lap feature will start at 5:45 pm EDT tomorrow.