While the drivers appreciate the track's character, when it rains, it weeps and that's a challenge for NASCAR.
Following some of the best racing of the 2015 season — and by far the most scintillating action on an intermediate track in quite some time — the debate ensues over whether Kentucky Speedway should be repaved.
While the bumps absolutely add to the character of the 1.5-mile speedway and less grip with the lower downforce aerodynamic package created exciting moments, getting track time due to rain and the consequent weepers flowing through surface presented a challenge for the racing community.
I think in one case, we got the track dry in two hours and it took an additional four to address the weepers.
“That facility from a surface standpoint is an absolute challenge for us,” NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. “I think in one case, we got the track dry in two hours and it took an additional four to address the weepers. And what those are, cracks in the race track where water — even once the track is dry — water continues to pour out of it like a river almost.
“Sometimes when you put heat on it, like we used to dry the track, it just brings up more and more water. It was a problem all weekend and it’s absolutely something we’re going to address with the folks at Kentucky because we need to get on the race track as quickly as possible.”
Cry me a river
Practice on Wednesday, Thursday and part of Friday was cancelled due to rain and the inability to dry the track.
After representatives from most of the race teams made a stead stream into NASCAR hauler on Friday to express their opinions, the sanctioning body agreed it was in the sport’s best interest to offer additional practice time to the teams rather than go through the exercise of qualifying. Every team understood the possibility of time trials being rained out and planned accordingly by making qualifying runs in first practice in an effort to post a fast lap.
Still, the sanctioning body took heat from the fans for electing to cancel qualifying and allowing Sprint Cup teams 90 additional minutes of practice on Friday. O’Donnell said with the three hours needed for the teams to transition from qualifying to race trim, NASCAR made a judgment call in an effort “to wanting to put on the best race possible on Saturday night.”
“This was really a Kentucky situation,” O’Donnell added. “And by that I mean if we were at…New Hampshire, say the same package, teams were familiar with it, we’ve had proper time on the race track and then it rains, you would have seen us do everything we could to get qualifying in.
“But with all the circumstances we were faced with, the limited amount of time that the cars had been on the track, the desire from really from the majority of the garage to get some more time on the track prior to the race became our priority at that point. And then the challenges we had drying the track, we didn’t even know if we’d get to the point where we would get cars on the track. So we elected to go early and have everybody focus on setting up for the race.”
When motorsport.com asked Kentucky Speedway president Mark Simendginer about the possibility of repaving the 15-year-old track, he replied, “Every time we hand out a trophy they beg me not to repave the track, but the discussion comes up every year.”
Saturday night's winner Kyle Busch, who has two wins, four top fives and five top 10s at the track, loves the demands of the track.
You really have a fine balance there that you have to work on in making sure that you can get over the bumps well enough, but yet keep your car fast.
"It’s a place that lends itself to different kinds of setups because it’s so rough," Busch said. "Fast lap times at Kentucky come from momentum. The place is so round that there’s not a ton of banking compared to some other 1.5-milers. It’s all about how round the corners are and just being able to maintain corner speed and stay on the gas.
"You really have a fine balance there that you have to work on in making sure that you can get over the bumps well enough, but yet keep your car fast."
Prior to the start of Saturday night’s Quaker State 400, track services vehicles made one last attempt to dry the weepers between Turns 3 and 4 that were a nuisance throughout the weekend.
“It presented a challenge, for sure,” O’Donnell said. “But yeah, we’re having those conversations. The good news is we were able to put on three nights of great race and ultimately we were able to get everything in but it’s something we’ll address and when we go back next year, hopefully, we’ll be in a better situation.”