CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 31, 2002) -- Every Winston Cup driver labels one track as the hardest track to race on. And Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton chooses Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pointing out that its four distinct corners provide ...
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 31, 2002) -- Every Winston Cup driver labels one track as the hardest track to race on. And Schneider Electric driver Bobby Hamilton chooses Indianapolis Motor Speedway, pointing out that its four distinct corners provide challenges for cars at high rates of speed.
And because of that speed, Indy has implemented a soft-wall program, trying to protect drivers. The soft walls were placed around the race track to help dissipate some of the force that drivers experience when they wreck. But during a July test session drivers didn't really notice the soft walls, which are being used for the first time in competition this weekend.
In the following question/answer session, Hamilton explains why racing on the 2.5-mile oval is so difficult and what he thinks about the new soft wall program.
Why do you think Indy is the hardest track to race on in the Winston Cup Series?
"It has four distinct corners that we go into wide open, but you have to approach each one of them differently. Most tracks we race at allow you to take your car and flow into a corner, which helps you into the next one. The smoother you are, the better you come off that last corner. In Indy it's different. We go wide open down the straightaway and then go into a sharp corner. Instead of flowing into the next corner, we have to straighten up the wheel and then turn all over again. One turn doesn't help you slide into the next one because you have to approach it different than the one you just came off of. If you make a mistake, it is a long time before you are back at that spot to try it differently the next time. It's fast there and a lot depends on your horsepower, but you have to focus on those four turns."
Did you notice the soft wall program during the test session? Was the diamond-cut groove a big difference?
"I forgot all about the soft walls when I was there testing. I didn't even notice them when I went around the track. I guess because my focus is not on the walls, but on the turns. If I am looking at the walls for some reason, it's usually not a good one.
"I didn't notice a lot about the grooving that everyone was hyped up about either. It's good that they are trying to improve the facilities and make it friendlier to race on. It makes you feel better coming to places where they are applying technology to make our sport safer.
"This place has a lot of history. I haven't always ran well here, but after the test session we felt pretty good about some things we figured out. I am anxious to test them during practice and see if other teams found out the same things that we did."