#10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson today became one of the first NASCAR Winston Cup drivers to take laps on the $10 million reconfiguration of the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Benson and two others participated in a Goodyear tire test on the 1.5-mile oval. The Series will conclude its 2003 season at Homestead on Nov. 16.
According to the track, the banking was increased from six degrees to a maximum of 20 degrees. In each turn the degree of banking is increased progressively from the bottom to the top of each turn. At the midpoint of each turn, there is 18 degrees banking at the bottom, 19 degrees in the middle, and 20 degrees at the top. The variable banking system is designed to create three competitive racing grooves around the track.
It's a busy week for the Valvoline team. Benson and his crew raced on Monday in Atlanta, then flew home to Charlotte that afternoon. Early Monday evening they flew to Homestead where they will test Tuesday and Wednesday when they will return to Charlotte before going to Phoenix on Thursday for this weekend's race.
Johnny Benson on Homestead Reconfiguration:
"I think this one is going to be a keeper. You drive through the tunnel here and look up and say 'oh my gosh this thing is banked' but once you get on the track it's not as banked as you think it is. I think the track is going to provide some great racing. Only time will tell but so far I have been pleased."
How Do You Feel About The Variable Degree Banking?
"I have run on some short tracks with that type of (variable) banking and they have seemed to work fine. But, those were at about 100 mph and you wonder what it would be like at 170 mph. It isn't too bad. I don't think any of the drivers here today have ventured up to the third groove but we have run the lower and middle grooves without problems. That will give us an opportunity in the race to pass and that will make it better for the fans."
"Well, we have been in race trim all day, but the best we have been able to do today is a 31.15 sec. and that's down from the 33.50s that we started from today. As the track got cleaned off and we learned the track the times have been coming down. Again, that was in race trim. I don't foresee us doing anything besides race trim tomorrow. We are just trying to help Goodyear get a tire to bring down here in a couple weeks. So far what we have seen is they have a good tire. The wear might be a little more than what they have wanted but that is typical for a new track."
Any Paving Concerns?
"I haven't seen anything that would make me concerned about the paving. Sometimes when you come to new tracks you think to yourself 'boy, this is going to be interesting.' But, all in all it is really good. There is a little bump going over the tunnel but it is early enough in the corner that it won't upset the car. I think all in all the racers will be pleased when they come down here."
Will It Be A Better Race?
"I believe so. But, it will be unfair to expect side-by-side racing right off the bat. No new track has had that immediately. Some of the NASCAR people are down here and they are looking at different ideas to make it a two-groove track. I think we should put pylons down on the bottom and make everyone practice in the second groove. I think that will help develop that other groove and make the side-by-side racing come quicker. It's just going to take time but if we speed up the process it will be even better."
Does Homestead Now Compare To Another Track?
"Each track has its own characteristics and this track is no different. You are in the gas pedal for an awful long time. It gives you the sensation of the old Atlanta track. I think everyone liked the old Atlanta track so they will probably like this as well."
How Tiring Is A Week Like This For You And Crew?
"It's been busy. But you know, we are getting to do what we love to do. I haven't heard any complaints. I hope all this work pays off for us here pretty soon. We really want to cap this season off with a good run."
"With the luck we have had of late, I would hope it will all even out at Phoenix. We've run pretty good over the years at that place. Since (Crew Chief) Jay Guy has come on board we have been fast everywhere we have raced but something has happened. We damaged the car at Kansas and Charlotte, brakes at Martinsville, and then we cut a tire at Atlanta. If we can take all that bad luck and make it even out at Phoenix then we would probably have a great day."