Since the next NASCAR race takes place on the newly redesigned Phoenix International Raceway. I thought this was an interesting article.
AVONDALE, Ariz, By Mark Aumann– Kurt Busch glances over to make sure my seatbelt is fastened.
“The track is clear, so let’s rock and roll.”
What’s it like to take a lap at speed around the newly reconfigured and repaved Phoenix International Raceway? With me in the passenger seat Friday evening, Busch lit up the tires on a cherry-red 2012 Dodge Charger, headed down pit road and explained what he was doing and thinking while turning the wheel at over 100 mph.
What’s different now about exiting pit road?
“On the old track, we’d jump up right there [on the exit of Turn 1]. But this dogleg is so sharp now, we’ve got to stay down here on this flat — and they want us to blend at these hashmarks [on the other side of the new dogleg]. It’s really different. Everybody’s going to be doing 180 [mph] here, whereas when they’re coming out of the corner, they’re doing 100. So it’s a big difference where you blend in.”
Can you describe the transitions between the reconfiguration and the original track?
“Turns 3 and 4 are the same. All of this has the same feel. It’s a long, long corner. You’re in the gas full throttle [halfway through the corner] and you’re still cornering. The front straightaway feels the same — it is a little wider — but you’ve got to get on the brakes way, way earlier.”
So how does that affect the way you get through Turn 1 into the dogleg?
“Here’s the thing. You used to be able to drive in deep, but you’re getting in the gas [earlier] and driving up the track, and there’s no real Turn 2. You’re just kind of aiming for the wall on the back straightaway. And now you drop down and come back up. The major structural design was to change the dogleg and elevate it so the fans could see it on the front straightaway. I’m just not so sure why they had to sharpen it up as much as they did.
“Cars are bottoming out going through the dogleg, versus in the corners. That’s how sharp that corner is.”
There used to be an apron on the inside of Turns 3 and 4. With it gone, how has that changed the groove there?
“You could help turn the car a little bit. Whatever setup you have as a driver stays the same, because before, you could use the apron. If you were tight getting in, you could drive down here into 3 and get this left side to pitch the car sideways. Now it’s all flat. It’s going to be very interesting if anybody ever gets down there anymore.
“The groove is moved up in 3 and 4. Now guys are moving up [an entire lane]. See how far we are, off the yellow line? And then guys are coming back down to come off the corner. So that’s changed a little bit.”
What section of the track concerns you the most?
“Just how we’re all going to be able to race down here into Turn 1 and have this outside groove worked in enough to where we’re not pinching those inside guys down. And if you miss it on the outside, you don’t want to be in that gray area. That’s with any new race track, when you have fresh pavement.
This all funnels down. I was down here [on the flat area below the yellow line in the dogleg] passing guys today. And you can feel what it does to the car. Yeah, that’s a pretty steep transition. It’s really interesting going through the dogleg.”
And the best place to pass?
“The passing zone’s going to be coming out of Turn 4. If you get underneath somebody, that’s because “they pushed out and you’re able to cut underneath them.”
Should be a great race!