CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 31, 2000) - If Kenny Wallace, driver of Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, had his way after Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, he'd probably rename Lowe's Motor Speedway's 400-lap race the Coca-Cola 372. Wallace was in the...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 31, 2000) - If Kenny Wallace, driver of Square D/Cooper Lighting Chevrolet, had his way after Sunday's Coca-Cola 600, he'd probably rename Lowe's Motor Speedway's 400-lap race the Coca-Cola 372.
Wallace was in the 20th position with a strong race car just before light showers delayed the race on lap 248. After a 51-minute rain delay, the Square D/Cooper Lighting pilot struggled with complications to his race car during the final 152 laps to cross the finish line in the 27th position.
"We had a competitive race car for the first 250 laps," said Wallace. "Unfortunately for the Square D/ Cooper Lighting Chevy, we still had 150 laps to go. After the rain delay, a broken sway bar loosened us up. On top of that, we had a booster in the carburetor break, which interfered with the throttle, and we had to plug a leak in our power steering.
"These guys worked so hard to give me a competitive race car, and bad luck ruined our night," continued Wallace. "We really had to fight together to stay in this race. A lot of hard work from the Square D Racing Team saved me from finishing at the end of the pack."
As winter moves straight into summer this year, the blazing temperatures aren't exactly what NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers need while they prepare for one of the most physically demanding races - the MBNA Platinum 400 at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway.
"During any race where the weather conditions are hot, heat exhaustion becomes a factor," said Wallace. "Short tracks are harder on drivers because we spend a lot of time and energy in the turns. At bigger tracks, heat isn't as much of a factor because we get more airflow into the car and we don't spend as much time fighting the corners.
"The heat in a race car comes from the headers," continued Wallace. "Since race cars create so much horsepower these days, they also produce more heat. That must be a law of physics somewhere; the more horsepower, the more heat. A little heat comes from the oil lines, but the exhaust makes most of it. Because of weight issues, exhaust pipes can only run out the left side of the race car, which is underneath the driver's seat. If we run them out the right side, the race car will roll over to the right and bottom out. In England, we wouldn't have this problem. Since we race here in America, the key is to keep the pipes off the bottom of the race car, so that the heat from the exhaust doesn't translate into the driver's seat."
As well as preparing for the heat, Wallace will have to plan for the concrete track known as "The Monster Mile." Dover has never been known for its hospitable ways.
"Dover is a tough place physically because the banking is so steep," said Wallace. "You pull a lot of g-forces there, and it really sets you into the right side of the seat. Since they've shortened Dover to 400 miles, driver-performance has improved. We're sharper mentally at the end of the race, and that gives the fans a better show.
"The biggest difference between asphalt and concrete racing is that asphalt is smoother while concrete is very abrasive," added Wallace. "After a couple of laps, rubber buildup forms on a concrete track. During the first couple of days at Dover, you'll see the groove form at the bottom of the race track. That normally lasts through practice, qualifying and into the Busch race. About half way through the Winston Cup race, the rubber from the tires turns the track black, and the weight of the Winston Cup cars forces drivers up to the high groove. Once that happens, it becomes fun to race at Dover."