This Week in Ford Racing May 27, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Ford Championship Weekend may still be six months away, but competitors and teams are already talking about the season finale after it was announced by officials at Homestead-Miami ...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 27, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Ford Championship Weekend may still be six months away, but competitors and teams are already talking about the season finale after it was announced by officials at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week that they would be tearing up the relatively flat corners in favor of a graduated banking system. Is this the wave of the future? Ford Racing asked some of its team personnel their thoughts on the subject.
TODD BODINE - No. 54 National Guard Taurus
IS GRADUATED BANKING THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE IN THIS SPORT? "I've been saying that for years. If you go to any engineer and ask him how to make a larger radius the same time distance as a shorter radius, they're gonna tell you by having more banking. The only way a flat track is gonna have an outside groove is to have more banking. You can't expect a car that's going a further distance around to go around that distance in the same time that a car going a shorter distance around is going. Loudon and Homestead are the two prime examples. Even to take it to the next extreme, if you look at St. Louis one and two isn't a graduated banking but it is a little bit. It probably isn't as much as it should be, but in the race when you go into one and two you can run just about anywhere you want. High, low or middle, it doesn't matter, but when you get to the other end of the race track in three and four, you better be on the bottom because it's flat. That's a perfect example. One race track has both corners and one end is better than the other, so what does that tell you? It's about time that somebody smartened up and did it. Even for a place like Charlotte or Texas - any race track - if you graduate the corner and actually consult an engineering firm that knows what they're doing and knows something about race cars and vehicle dynamics, they can make a corner that's absolutely perfect from top to bottom for any groove that you wanted to run."
DALE JARRETT - No. 88 UPS Taurus
DO YOU LIKE THE CONCEPT OF PROGRESSIVE BANKING AT HOMESTEAD? "I think any change is good. We've got a couple of places that have something similar to that, but nothing to the extent that they're doing at Homestead. I think it's got to be better and it should make for better racing. You have to applaud them for realizing that with our race cars something had to be done, so I think it's gonna be interesting. As I told them, I wish the first time that we go down there that they would block off the bottom lane and not let anybody run there. I'd like to see them put something down where we couldn't run on the very bottom for the first year. If that ends up being ripple strips or something like that, make it to where we've got to use the upper grooves and then we can always go back to that at another time. I think that would make for a better track, but it's got to be better than that flat surface that we had."
IF THIS WORKS WELL DO YOU SEE OTHER TRACKS POSSIBLY GOING TO THAT IDEA AS WELL? "Anything that we can do to try and make it where we as the drivers can use more race track. If you look at the places that we have the best races, like Richmond and Michigan, those are places that we have more than one groove. You can pass and run side-by-side there and that's what we need. If that works at Homestead, I see other race tracks that might not have those capabilities right now turn to that."
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION ABOUT WHAT HOMESTEAD IS DOING? "I had some of the guys contact me about that and I think they went to most of the drivers and got a little insight. I like what they're doing. I liked driving Homestead the way it was, but it just didn't lend itself to real close racing. What they're doing should really close up the field. It should be a good race there."
IS THIS THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE? "I guess the answer is that it's nice to know that the bottom lane and the upper lane should be about the same speed. We've run tracks like Martinsville for example. It was a good track over the years and Clay Campbell decided to fix something that we didn't really know was broken and smooth his race track out a little bit. What he did was he succeeded in basically taking speed out of the bottom lane by accident, which was the preferred racing line. When he did that, it made the top groove, which had not been worked on, equal to the bottom so it evened up the race track. That's made for better passing and it lends itself to more side-by-side racing. So actually hurting the track evened up the two lanes and made for a better race. I think that's what you're gonna see at Homestead and that's what everybody is expecting to see."
ONE OF THE COMPLAINTS HEARD TODAY IS THERE ISN'T ENOUGH SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING. IN THEORY THIS BANKING SYSTEM SHOULD PROMOTE THAT, CORRECT? "It makes a lot of sense with what they're doing. The cars should stick a little bit better on the top groove. The groove below that is the shortest way around, but the extra banking should give you a little more grip. It'll be interesting to see how it works out. On paper it looks good and in theory it sounds good."
IF IT WORKS DO YOU THINK OTHER TRACKS MIGHT COPY IT? "Yeah. I'm sure it's very expensive for a promoter to go tear up what he's got, but I can see something like a New Hampshire doing that. I'm sure they're probably in a what-and-see mode to see how it turns out, but I could see that happening there too."
EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
IS THIS PROGRESSIVE BANKING SYSTEM SOMETHING MORE TRACKS SHOULD CONSIDER? "I don't know until we actually go and race on it. I'm not sure you can make an intelligent decision on that, but I used to think that fresh asphalt made for better racing. I can remember when they paved Rockingham and Morgan Shepherd was driving our car in the mid-nineties and they had a heck of a race down there. They were everywhere. I guess with the aero packages and stuff we've got now, it seems that fresh pavement is in-line racing because that's one groove and if you get out of the groove, you're gonna wreck. I think Texas is almost there with the outside groove. Rockingham is old pavement and they have a heck of a race. Darlington is old pavement. Fontana was pretty competitive and that place has cured out well. Charlotte has good races as well and it hasn't been paved in a long time. I read somewhere earlier this year where somebody was begging a track not to re-pave the place, but until we go there who knows? It'll make for a big weekend. My understanding is that they're not gonna allow anyone to test on it. You're gonna show up a day or so early and do your deal there and go. That might be one where if you're trying to pick a race to go to, that might be it."
DO YOU FEEL SOMETHING NEEDED TO BE DONE THERE? "Probably so. Everything you read and hear indicates it did. We actually ran pretty well there the last time we were there. We finished ninth and had struggled there everytime we had been there up until this past race, so we kind of got a hold on it. Now it's gonna be changed, but as far as what the fans are looking for and all the media hype about side-by-side racing, I guess that's the reason they're doing it. They're not doing it just because they want to spend the money, they know what they're doing. I'm sure they've researched it and I know they talked to a lot of drivers. I know they talked to Ricky (Rudd) and got a lot of opinions and I guess they pulled them all together and came up with this plan."