Opinion: Snoozefest 600
May 22, 2006 | 3:11 P.M. EST
Options are aplenty with racing taking place everywhere from Monaco (Formula One), Indianapolis (IRL IndyCar Series and USAC), Connecticut (Grand American Rolex), and everywhere in between.
With the plethora of choices, viewers and spectators alike will have to choose not only which races to watch but also how much time to devote to the sport.
Here's a tip – if you are a fan of high speed racing with multiple passes around the track...stay away from the racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Indications coming out of this past weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge (and preceding NEXTEL Open) are that the 1.5-mile track, that will host both the NASCAR Busch Series Carquest Auto Parts 300 and NEXTEL Cup Coca-Cola 600 this weekend, will witness long parade laps rather than competitive side-by-side racing.
The track, which was resurfaced after tire concerns in last year’s events, has lost its multiple grooves and could prove to make both passing and surviving difficult.
While most attributed the rain showers and its effect on the course as the cause for only 10 of 20 starters in the All-Star Race finishing, it is definitely more than that.
"I think the 600 is going to be a survival race. There is no grip out there. I've never driven anything like this before. It's just ice," said Casey Mears. "It has a little bit of grip and then nothing and there's not much warning."
While Mears may appear biased, as he was the first driver to crash in the NEXTEL Open, many other drivers with successful (and unsuccessful) results felt the same way.
"We had a really good car, it just took too long to come in," said Brian Vickers, who finished third in the Open.
"(In) the 600 everybody is going to be cautious. If you're not cautious you're going to be crashed. We need to gain points. You're going to have to take it easy if you want to finish the race," said Kasey Kahne, who finished 14th in the All-Star Challenge after crashing while battling amongst the race leaders.
"You could find grip about eight or ten laps on the tires. The thing is that the tire gets so tight on you in the long runs. You have to start out so loose and yet the tire is so hard, you slide the back end around the corner for the first eight to 10 laps then you push the front end of the car the rest of the time," said Jeff Gordon, who finished third in the Challenge. "I think that is why we didn't see much of a second groove come in tonight."
With teams seeing so many of their drivers struggle with the surface - especially when they were attempting to pass - that race strategy may be more about being conservative and surviving instead of pure racing.
That's not to say that this track is bad, not at all. Lowe's has hosted many fantastic races that have been etched into the minds of longtime race fans for many years to come.
However, as Elliott Sadler explained, the surface needs more rubber on it so the it can develop more than one racing groove. While the driver of the No. 38 M&M's Ford was implying that this could happen in one race, this track will unfortunately need more than the 900 combined miles run by the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series this weekend to develop multiple grooves – thereby allowing drivers to make passes and offer a more entertaining race.
So unless you are in the mood to watch long lines of cars, make sure you plan for something else to watch this weekend.