Drivers like new Darlington surface
The roar of racing engines could once again be heard at Darlington Raceway on Monday as three of NASCAR’s top teams participated in a Goodyear tire test at the track "Too Tough to Tame."
Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman took to the track shortly after 12:30 p.m., and it did not take long for them to get acclimated to the new surface.
"The basic transitions, the banking and the walls haven't changed," said seven-time Darlington winner Jeff Gordon. "The bumps are gone, the grip level is high and it's awesome, they did a great job."
"I'm happy with the new surface, they have done a nice job, said two-time Darlington winner Greg Biffle. "There are no bumps or dips anywhere that we have noticed; I was pretty impressed with how smooth it was. The car was really stable and I was happy with the first few laps."
Before embarking on the $10 million capital improvement project track officials consulted several drivers and crew chiefs about the track’s surface. The response was unanimous, don’t change Darlington. In response engineers utilized over 4 million reference points around the track’s surface to ensure that the integrity of Darlington Raceway’s original design remained the unchanged, a fact that did not go unnoticed.
"They really didn't change anything," said Gordon." One of the neat things I heard from them was that they wanted to keep the history, keep the shape, the banking and everything the same as it has been throughout this track’s history and I think they did a great job with that."
"Darlington has always been my favorite track because you are always adjusting," said 2008 Daytona 500 champion Ryan Newman. "You adjust to the tires, the bumps, the character of the track, the fact that you are running right next to the wall is challenging. It's the most challenging track that we have and that is why I enjoy it the most."
Monday’s test marked the first time that race cars had returned to the track since off-season capital improvement projects that included a new racing surface, new infield access tunnel and the addition of SAFER barrier walls on the interior walls down the frontstretch and backstretch.