Busy Day on Thursday for The Busch Cars By Bob Whitwell - Motorsport News International Fort Worth (March 26, 1999) - Nothing comes easy for the 1.5-mile high-banked super speedway and this year is no different. On Wednesday evening over an...
Busy Day on Thursday for The Busch Cars By Bob Whitwell - Motorsport News International
Fort Worth (March 26, 1999) - Nothing comes easy for the 1.5-mile high-banked super speedway and this year is no different. On Wednesday evening over an inch of rain fell at the speedway throwing visions of the 1997 inaugural event / mud-fest into the fears of the fans and visions of the 1997 and 1998 track disasters into the teams and drivers.
Not This Time!
Texas Motor Speedway officials appear ready to host a Winston Cup Race where what happens on the track gets more attention than what happens to it.
Early morning rumors of the track seepage problems that have plagued the track for the past two years did not materialize. And for the fans enough pavement and parking drainage is in place to make the mud disappear. Even mother nature seems to be smiling on this year's event as weekend threats of rain were revised after the predicted cool front pushed farther south, forcing rains is that direction. Temperatures will be in the high 60's to low 70's. In Texas everything changes quickly and the weather is perfect so far this weekend.
The track surface has been completely redone, thanks to a 4 million-dollar investment to improve the track to the NASCAR drivers liking. Wider turns, smoother transitions to the straight-aways, and a new drainage system make this a new track for those not lucky enough to do some testing here. Track officials refuse to comment on the improvements, taking the wait and see approach. "We're going to let the track talk for itself and let the drivers be the voice" said General Manager Eddie Gossage. Quite a turnaround from the "shut up and drive" attitude last year.
And talk for itself it has! In today's Busch practice as six drivers hit the wall. In this morning's practice Mike Skinner - driver of the No. 19 Yellow Freight Chevrolet hit the turn two wall. Forcing Skinner into his backup and to miss first round qualifying. Mike was taken to the infield care center and later released, avoiding the 1998 disaster where Skinner broke his shoulder in a similar accident.
Other drivers who were forced into their backup cars include Larry Pearson - driver of the No. 00 Cheez-It Pontiac, Phillip Morris - driver of the No. 01 Lluar Chevrolet, Dick Trickle - driver of the No. 5 Schneider National Chevrolet, Kerry Earnhardt - driver of the No. 40 ChannelLock Chevrolet, and Jimmy Kitchens - driver of the No. 22 Air Jamaica Vacations Chevrolet.
Four of these drivers (Skinner, Trickle, Earnhardt, and Kitchens) crashed in turn two making turn two the spot to watch.
This is also one of the five Busch Races Jeff Gordon will run this year and he placed his slightly damaged #24 Pepsi Chevrolet 4th. Gordon's car was damaged on the left rear quarter panel after an early morning practice incident. "There's not much difference (in the track), except it's dry and there is no seepage" said Gordon after his qualifying efforts. Which is almost positive considering Gordon's vocal objections on the track following last year's NASCAR Race.
Mark Martin gained the poll with a qualifying effort of 181.592, 2.3 mph faster than last year's record. Martin's poll position held through much of qualifying until Dave Blaney took the track late in qualifying.
Blaney, of World of Outlaw Racing fame, shocked the field with a qualifying effort of 183.082. Almost a full 1.5-mph faster than Martin and a full 3.8-mph faster than last years top qualified, Elliott Sadler.
Blaney had trouble putting together consistent laps in practice but obviously solved the problem taking his second Busch Series poll of the year.
"Turn one and four are so good and you carry a lot of speed, the only problem is turn two falls out from under you" said Blaney, giving the first clue why drivers may be having problems negotiating the turn.
Interestingly the track, while still challenging, is extremely fast and hasn't been the focal point in any controversy. Then again there is always tomorrow