[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”252″][/media-credit]Kansas is my home track. I have seen it go from a run down residential area to the modern state of the art facility that it is now. It’s a beautiful place. The people of the community are hard working Nascar fans who waited a long time for this facility and it’s second date. But early summer in the plains of Kansas, it’s brutal. It will take it’s toll on everything and everyone, including the STP 400.
The race was lack luster with very limited passing. Dale Earnhardt Jr said, “It’s so hard to pass here. It’s awful hard to pass. Worst I’ve ever seen it. And I went to searching for more speed and busted my butt up there on 3 and 4 and lost us all the spots we worked for all day.. But it gave Steve a chance to play the strategy game.” He went on to say, “The track didn’t like the heat too much. You had to run dead against the apron. If you was off the apron by two or three inches you’re in trouble there’s no grip.”
Kansas officials have stated that the track will be repaved following the fall race here for the 2012 season. The track is peppered with slick tar seams with heat and weight sensitive pavement. As the heat of the day grew so did the slickness of the track. You could smell the oil in the tar and after the race there was a haze that hung just above the pavement.
The heat was stifling out of the cars as well as inside the cars. Denny Hamlin described it as a sealed sauna at about 140 – 180 degrees with very little air movement. “These cars are hotter than the cars we used to run. We are sitting right on top of our exhaust system that’s a thousand degrees. in these new cars are completely sealed off. We’ve got our window nets now to where they pretty much seal the left side of the car so there’s no air getting in or out of the car.”
Jeff Gordon said that the track freed up a lot over the day, “I felt like we needed to free it up a little bit more. It seemed like the track freed up at the same time so that adjustment definitely hurt us a little bit but we were still able to maintain second so I am guessing everybody was dealing that.”
Tony Stewart seemed to be the only one that didn’t notice the heat. Living up to his nickname Smoke he said “It was warm. But I didn’t think it was that bad. It didn’t really bother me. It’s normal.”
The fuel mileage game was unfortunate, but lets not take anything away from Brad Keselowski. He was smart enough to know how to save enough fuel by coasting through the corners. Give the 88 credit. Earnhardt Jr. knew what he had to do and he did it. Give Denny Hamlin some big kudos as well, he finished 3rd in a car with an unidentified broken part in the front end.
The fans did their part as well. The near sell out took place in heat that was stifling and draining. Even the shady areas offered no relief. Many stayed as long as they could bear it or their children could bear it. The second date for this track was much sought after and highly anticipated by everyone in this community. But the day and the time of the year it was given was a horrible choice in this part of the country not only for fans but for drivers as well.
Hopefully after this experience Nascar will make some tweaks in the schedule for next year and schedule us a little earlier in the year.
As the sun is beginning to set and Nascar’s Kerry Thorpe announces that post race inspection is clear and the engines of the 2, 88, and the 5 are going back to the R&D center and the 2 and the 5 cars will also be going back to the R&D center for routine post race. The media center has grown quiet and only the clicking of lap top keys can be heard. The haulers have begun pulling out and the weekend has come to a close.
It had it’s excitement with Clint Bowyer winning the truck race. It’s controversy with the Childress and Busch altercation. It had it’s concerns with the heat. But the one constant, the one thing that didn’t change or even give second thought was the fans. No matter whose shirt they were wearing, no matter what make they supported, they were there and die hard. They are what makes Nascar work. They are the life blood of the sport. They may get disgruntled. They may not always agree with the sanctioning body but they will stand behind their driver and their sport. And Nascar, it’s drivers, it’s officials and even those of us that cover the sport are thankful that they do.
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Congratulations to Brad Keselowski on his Sprint Cup Series win, his first in 2 years.
Congratulations to Justin Allgaier on his NNS win. The first for a NNS regular with Sprint Cup regulars in the field.
And congratulations to Clint Bowyer on his impressive Camping World Truck Series Win.
That said, to all the competitors in all the series thanks for giving us everything you have to give, you are our heroes. Most importantly, thanks to all the families who shared their loved ones with us so we could cheer our favorite driver and favorite teams. You are the true heroes of the sport and we are forever in your debt.