Concrete poses passing problems

The new concrete paved Nashville Speedway has come in for criticism from many Indy Racing League drivers

Concrete poses passing problems

The 1.33-mile oval is paved with concrete, rather than the more traditional asphalt. Some believe that this will adversely affect the quality of the racing in Saturday night's Harrah's Indy 200. Kelley Racing's Mark Dismore was the most vocal of the concrete critics.

"The track is real bumpy and very inconsistent," said Dismore, who will start third. "Everybody has been politically correct about the track and biting their tongue, but the fact of the matter is it needs to be asphalt. If it was asphalt, you could race three-wide here. But here, it's one groove and if you step out of that one groove, the wall will stop you.

"The NASCAR Busch cars couldn't run side-by-side here either. If I'm the bad guy for being honest, so be it."

Eddie Cheever felt that the main problem was that the new surface gave a very different feeling to the normal asphalt tracks.

"I keep looking outside to see if the moon is in the sky because I'm not sure if I'm on Mars or not," said Cheever, who will start fifth in Saturday night's race. "This is a different kettle of fish. There's no feeling in the track at all. You have to go on memory and trust the changes that the team makes to the car because I can't tell if the car is getting better or worse for me.

"I keep picking up more speed and using more and more track, but I have never once felt the car slide. It's very bizarre. I'm very uncomfortable."

Greg Ray must have felt comfortable as he won the pole on Friday night. He defended the track and pointed out some of the advantages of the surface.

"The good thing about the concrete is it is not temperature sensitive," he said. "Whether it is 80 degrees or 110 degrees, the grip level is about the same. I'm very impressed that the track is as smooth as it is and it has a lot more grip than I expected.

The big concern will be how high a driver can put his car on the track in a race. The bottom area has grip while the top line is very slick.

"That's the $1 million question," Ray said. "The groove has quite a bit of grip and above the groove doesn't have a lot of grip at all. I've seen some people run a little higher than I am, but right now it's not a two-groove racetrack.

"With time, this track will age and mature and that second groove will come in over time, but not by Saturday night. The higher I got, the more it took my breath away. I don't want anything to do with that top line right now."

Scott Sharp is Mark Dismore's teammate at Kelley Racing and will have to drive his way through the field to get to the front after qualifying 13th in the 21-car field. He knows he may have to test the outside line.

"I think a lot of people didn't think we could run up high at Kansas prior to the race, but we easily did it," Sharp said. "We just have to put some rubber up there. We don't have a support race to do that, but after the NASCAR truck race at Kansas, the groove got substantially better.

"It's a strategy race, a plotting race and track position will be very important. If you are going for the lead and you are the lead car and you want to run through the middle of the corner, nobody is going to pass you."

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