Homestead, Fla., Nov. 12, 2003 -- NASCAR Winston Cup drivers took to the revamped Homestead-Miami Speedway today to prepare for Sunday's season-ending Ford 400. Following are the impressions of selected drivers concerning the new 1.5-mile layout.
Homestead, Fla., Nov. 12, 2003 -- NASCAR Winston Cup drivers took to the revamped Homestead-Miami Speedway today to prepare for Sunday's season-ending Ford 400. Following are the impressions of selected drivers concerning the new 1.5-mile layout. International Speedway Corp. officials increased the banking in all four corners from six degrees to 20, and it is the third change to the facility in nine years.
The Craftsman Truck Series practiced Monday, and speeds were an average of 20 miles per hour faster than the existing track record (approximately 149 miles per hour). The Busch Series cars were on track Tuesday, and speeds were in the 183-mph range. Winston Cup cars were an average of 21 miles per hour faster on Wednesday.
TONY RAINES, NO. 74 BACE MOTORSPORTS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "It's a lot better than it was last year. I wasn't very good here, so I had sort of a serious dislike for the flat Homestead track, but this has a little bank to it and it definitely has some different grooves. The first year is going to be tough because of the new asphalt being so dark and having so much grip, but as it cures out in years to come, I think it'll have a really good race."
YOU CAN RUN HIGH, LOW AND IN THE MIDDLE? "You can do that right now because of the grip, and I think the only disadvantage is, this early in the asphalt's life, getting up top is going to be tricky because the dust is up there. Middle and low, they'll have a good groove all weekend. I don't know if you can pass yet or not, but there is definitely room to pass and the radius of the turns is going to allow for racing. It won't be single-file like it had been."
RICKY CRAVEN, NO. 32 TIDE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "I'm very excited and very impressed. I love what they've done and I think it's going to encourage some great racing. The first half of practice was a little strange, but we'll work through some of the challenges as it relates to the track. It is an absolute improvement."
A LOT OF GRIP? "Yes, like any new asphalt. Asphalt is really dark and being new, it's going to carry a lot of heat. We're seeing some temp in the tires and that's probably the only concern I have."
HOW IS IT FOR PASSING? "We won't know that for a while, but it has more potential than any new track I've been to."
DOES THE SETUP LEND ITSELF TO ANY OTHER TRACK? "Can't answer that yet either. We have a ways to go yet."
BUT THERE ARE PLACES TO RACE? "No question. It's just a dramatic improvement."
JOHNNY BENSON, NO. 10 VALVOLINE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: "It's good. We came down here and did a little tire testing. I liked it then and now that it's got a little more rubber, it's good. You'd have to ask some of the other drivers, but I like the track. It's going to produce some great racing, and it'll be a fun place to race."
WITH THE EXCESSIVE GRIP, DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR SETUP? "You're going to change it just because it's new asphalt. It's different. You get the car kind of neutral getting into the corner, but then you get a little tight in the center off, which is normal when you have new asphalt. We'll have to work around that aspect and free up the car center off."
DO YOU THINK THERE'LL BE ROOM TO RACE? "I think os. We've had a couple times where guys are out there passing some people already, and I think that's a positive. It's not like you just get behind them and follow them. You have some options. Like any track, it's hard to pass on because it's new asphalt, and everyone is still learning the track, but it looks like it's already starting to widen out."
ROBBIE LOOMIS, CREW CHIEF, NO. 24 DuPONT CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: WHAT SORT OF SETUP CHALLENGES DOES THIS TRACK THROW AT YOU? "It's a lot different. Fortunately, we get to do some testing to kind of figure out where we are. We're really tight middle and pretty good entering and exiting, but the middle of the corner is like a timing gun: a point. It's giving us some pretty good challenges right now."
IS THERE ANY TRACK YOU CAN DRAW ON FOR SETUP? "It's one of the most unique tracks I've been to. We kind of looked at Chicago and Kansas City kind of fell in between. Right now, we're having to tune for Homestead."
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: "It's different. The layout, the line, the way you drive it is pretty unique. There's really no way we can say this setup should work, that setup should work. It's going to be tough by the race to know where the groove is. The pavement is so dark, you have a hard time distinguishing whether the track is clean or dirty. As a whole, they made a very unique track that's going to be good for racing. Especially as it gets older, I think the variable banking is really going to make it interesting."
HAVE YOU BEEN TIGHT ALL DAY? "We've been pretty tight the whole time. The entries are pretty tricky, and from Turn 1 to Turn 3 it's pretty different. This is a pretty challenging track."