CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Sept. 26, 2001)& ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Sept. 26, 2001)– As NASCAR prepares to open the new Kansas Speedway with the inaugural Protection One 400 Winston Cup series race this Sunday, the Square D Racing Team heads there with many questions about the new 1.5-mile tri-oval. Driver Bobby Hamilton and the team, along with many of the other Winston Cup teams, have no notes or experience at NASCAR’s newest venue.
"I have only seen a picture of this track, so I have no idea what to expect," crew chief Jimmy Elledge said. "I’ll go by word-of-mouth from people who did test there on how to set up the car. I have heard several things. Some say it is like Chicago and others say it’s not. I’ve also heard it is like Las Vegas, but then I’ve heard contrasting thoughts to that. We’re going with the setup that is pretty much similar to what we had in Las Vegas in the No. 33 Chevrolet (driven by Hamilton’s teammate, Joe Nemechek).
In Kansas, Elledge will use Thursday’s open test day to determine the setup for Hamilton and the No. 55 Chevy.
"The strategy our team will use will be determined in this practice session on Thursday," Elledge said. "I don’t know how the surface will hold up with us racing on it, but we’ll take notes on how we figure the car will run during the race. It will depend on how much grip our cars are going to have as to whether we will have to change a lot of tires or not."
Since Elledge decided not to use one of the team’s seven 2001 test sessions at Kansas, he has to use a more general approach in preparing for the race. "By not testing, you have to be real broad on your setup for the race," he said. "We prepare our cars ready to change gears, shocks or other things because we’re not sure what to expect. We’ll know more by the end of the first day.
"This particular race car is one that Bobby and our whole team have a lot of confidence in," Elledge continued. "This is the same car we ran in Dover (Del.) last weekend and fortunately it didn’t have any damage so we could turn it back around quickly. Since we’re going to a new racetrack, we wanted to eliminate variables. We know this car drives well. It handles good. It’s versatile– it’s good on a flat or banked race track."
As the inaugural Kansas event loomed, Elledge had only one remaining 2001 team test to put on the Square D schedule. He opted against testing at the new track, which is located about 10 miles west of Kansas City, Kansas. "I feel like I learned something at Chicago and Las Vegas that will help our performance on this track," Elledge said. "We felt that we should save our last test for Martinsville (Tuesday and Wednesday after Kansas) which would be more beneficial to us than to test in Kansas," Elledge concluded.
Hamilton agreed with the selection for Kansas of the Chevy that he drove to a 10th-place finish at Dover. "This car has proven itself time and time again. I think that we’ll know more information on the racetrack after testing on Thursday, but we’re ready for this race. Our momentum is back on track and the confidence our team has once again shows in our performances. It’s great that we’re going to all these new venues and branching out our roots of this sport."
The Protection One 400 airs live on NBC at 1 p.m. EDT Sunday Sept. 30.