Gappens: Tire Test Brings Cup Drivers to NHMS
Being successful in Sprint Cup racing requires more than just dropping the pedal and roaring down the straightaways. As you are well aware, success is measured by a fraction of an inch or a fraction of a second. For all of the high horsepower and high-speed action we witness every weekend, for the hundreds of miles that must be driven to win any Sprint Cup event, race teams obsess over the tiniest of fine details. And they are not alone.
On May 8th and 9th, New Hampshire Motor Speedway will come alive with the roar of Sprint Cup racing as a handful of the sport’s top drivers perform a live-action test of the latest Goodyear Tire products. During the event, access to the grandstands will be free and open to the public. It’s certain to be a preview of the great racing we will see this summer, as five Sprint Cup teams descend on Loudon to test the new Goodyear tires in realistic race conditions.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers scheduled for this test session include, nine-time Most-Popular Driver Award winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr. of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; NHMS Nationwide Series winner and 2011 Sprint Cup runner-up, Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford; former Sprint Cup Series Champion, Bobby Labonte of the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota; reigning Southern 500 winner, Regan Smith of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet and reigning Brickyard 400 winner, Paul Menard, driver of the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Goodyear has been working on several new compounds for their mile track tires, and they want to see how well their product holds up under real conditions. It’s been years since they’ve tested their tires at our track, but it’s not unusual. Just like the race teams themselves, the tire maker is constantly tweaking its product to make their tires faster and more durable. And the only way to know if they’ve been successful is to test them in real ways.
The five drivers will treat the two days just like they would treat a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The key is realism. It doesn’t do the tire company or the teams any good if the test isn’t taken seriously. These five drivers won’t celebrate in Victory Lane after it’s over, but they’ll be driving as hard and as fast as they can at NHMS to give Goodyear as much data as possible about their new tire compounds. They’ll turn several laps and make numerous pit stops to see how the tires hold up on “The Magic Mile.”
NHMS is one of four sites chosen by Goodyear to test tires in 2012. We are the last stop on the tour for the tire maker, so they will want to see if all of their adjustments and final tweaks result in the best product for NASCAR.
I’m opening the gates for all of you to come and watch the show! In my days on the staff at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I have witnessed several of these test sessions before and they offer some great racing action for fans.
The tire test is a kickoff to a great weekend of on-track action at NHMS. As the Sprint Cup teams head out to their next race in Darlington, S.C., we’ll leave the gates open for the start of our Vintage Weekend.
From May 10-13, hundreds of legendary race vehicles will be navigating the turns of both the oval and road course during the 22nd Annual Vintage Racing Celebration. Unlike the tire test, the garage area will be open for everyone, so you can get as close as you want to the machines that helped shape today’s form of the sport. Motorcycles, British racers and open-wheel phenoms from several decades will all take their turns running wide-open on our two track layouts.
What’s unique about this event is accessibility. The weekend is designed to get you as close to the action as you want to be. The drivers who come to NHMS for Vintage Weekend are as excited about talking to the fans as they are about taking on the track. Come to Loudon and stroll through history! Ask the drivers questions and get a guided tour of your favorite racer from the past. Check out the motorcycles that were once the fastest road course machines on two wheels. Then, sit back and watch these time machines take you back to racing from yesteryear. I guarantee you will see something you’ve never seen before.
That’s just the beginning of our spring schedule. On behalf of my whole staff, we hope to see you trackside this month!