IRL: Calkins Looks for "Concrete" Success at Dover

CALKINS HAS CONCRETE VISIONS OF SUCCESS ON FAST DOVER TRACK DOVER, Del., July 7, 1998 -- Concrete is better, says Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Buzz Calkins. Calkins is talking about the pavement on the 1-mile Dover ...

CALKINS HAS CONCRETE VISIONS OF SUCCESS ON FAST DOVER TRACK

DOVER, Del., July 7, 1998 -- Concrete is better, says Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Buzz Calkins.

Calkins is talking about the pavement on the 1-mile Dover Downs International Speedway, which will play host to the open-wheeled Pep Boys IRL cars for the first time during the Pep Boys 400K on July 19.

Dover Downs is the most unique track on the IRL circuit because it is concrete, said Calkins, who shared the first Pep Boys IRL title with Scott Sharp in 1996. All other tracks are paved with asphalt.

"I think in a lot of sense, the concrete is better just from the standpoint that it is more constant throughout the day," said Calkins, from Denver. "The heat doesn't affect it the way it does asphalt. The track temperatures stay constant. You don't get the oil coming up when it does get hot.

"You have more grip that way plus, there's the natural tendency with concrete that you get more grip out of it."

After saying all of that, there is one slight area of concern.

"One downfall is that it's bumpy where it seams," Calkins continued with his analysis. "If they could figure out how to lay the concrete without having to put the seams in it, it probably would be the best possible situation."

The seams that Calkins refers to actually are saw cuts in the track, necessary to provide room for expansion and contraction of the concrete due to weather changes.

There's another difference between Dover and the other mile tracks -- Orlando, Phoenix, New Hampshire and Pikes Peak -- where the IRL cars compete. "The Monster Mile" at Dover is banked similarly to the longer tracks with a maximum of 24 degrees in the center of the 1,564-foot turns and a minimum of 9 degrees at the center of the 1,076-foot straightaways.

The banking is only 12 degrees maximum at New Hampshire, where the IRL cars last competed on June 28. At Phoenix, the banking is 11 degrees between Turns 1 and 2 and only 9 degrees between 3 and 4, while the Pikes Peak turns are banked at 10 degrees. The Walt Disney World Speedway banking diminishes from 10 degrees to 8.5 degrees to 7 degrees on the three turns of its tri-oval layout.

Of course, the high banking creates faster speeds. Tony Stewart was close to 184 mph during testing in June. The banking makes the drivers feel like they are in a bullring, Calkins said.

"It's very quick for us," said Calkins, who won the first IRL race ever, the Indy 200 in January 1996 at Orlando, Fla.

"We're running around 183 mph, so it's very quick. I think overall it's going to be fun, but it's going to be tough on equipment.

"And it's going to be tough from the standpoint that if you do have some sort of incident, inevitably you're going to come down to the bottom of the track and most likely crack somebody by just having that many cars on that short of a track.

"Overall, I think it's positive, but it's going to take a different shot at you for the race than at most other places."

Avoiding trouble will be a key factor toward winning the race, said Calkins, who drives the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Besides staying aware of what is happening on the track during the 248.6 miles, Calkins also sees a need to baby the car somewhat to make it go the distance.

Though his best finish this year has been a ninth at Phoenix, Calkins leads all competitors in consecutive races running at the finish with five. He is tied for 10th with Stephan Gregoire in the Pep Boys IRL standings with 88 points.

"We've had some potential, but it's gone the wrong way for us," said Calkins, 27, a graduate of the University of Colorado.

"I think when we get to the point where we start getting some breaks going our way, we can wind up a lot better. So far, things just haven't fallen our way when we need them. I think we're close.

"I don't think we're completely out of range. But I think we need to have a little break." Maybe Calkins can cash in on the concrete banks of Dover.

***

Pep Boys 400K tickets: Tickets for the Pep Boys 400K at Dover Downs are available by calling Dover Downs at (800) 441-7223.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Stephan Gregoire , Scott Sharp