New Hampshire Motor Speedway isn’t a new venue by any means but the recent application of a traction compound has made it feel like one this weekend.
Track officials applied two strips of VHT, both above and below the racing groove, in the hopes of encouraging side-by-side racing during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Overton’s 301 on Sunday afternoon.
The decision of where to apply the compound came from both data collected and studied from past races plus direct feedback from the Cup Series divers’ council. All told, veteran racer Aric Almirola says it’s already produced a drastically different ‘Magic Mile.’
“It certainly moved the typical racing lane around from what we typically see here,” Almirola said. “It has been sort of a new race track so to speak. We typically run in that second lane off the yellow line and we usually dread getting up over that seam. If you look back at video of the races here, all the cars try to keep the right sides inside that seam.
“Now that third lane has the PJ1 in it and you see a lot of cars entering in that lane, straddling that seam and it certainly has thrown everybody a new race track here. I think it is going to change sort of the way we approach the race track and way we attack the corners.”
The substance was first applied at Bristol Motor Speedway for the past two races at the high-banked concrete half-mile and has produced generally favorable results.
It was used again at intermediate-length (and asphalt) Charlotte Motor Speedway to mostly negligible results. Joey Logano is a member of the council and was pleased about the amount of input drivers have collectively had on this ongoing project.
New Hampshire has traditionally produced single-file, spaced-out racing except for restarts, prompting this experiment.
“Hopefully it works,” Logano said. “This is a race track that you can pass on if your car is pretty spectacular and maybe if you have tires on and other cars don’t it might be enough to get through the field. There is some tires fall off that promotes passing.
“After 10 or 15 laps here everyone is kind of where they are at and passes don’t happen often. The wider we can make the race track, the more air we can get on the nose, the more passes that can be made. When you think about that, how do we make it wider? How do we do that? We have to go to where we don’t run. Right now, the fastest lane on this race track is the second lane. How do we make the track wider? We have to put some up in the third lane and make the bottom better so the guy on the bottom has a shot to keep rotating and get off the corner to actually clear somebody. That was the goal.”
The problems with the Gen-6 car are mostly evident at tracks a mile and larger — leading to experiments like this and the multiple tire compound format used for the All-Star Race at Charlotte.
Logano believes this is ultimately a worthy endeavor.
“We will see how it works,” Logano said. “It’s a learning process on how it works. I think it is great that NASCAR, the tracks, driver, teams, everyone is open to trying it. It is something that could be a larger deal than we all think, for sure.
“But definitely there is a lot to learn about it. How long it lasts in a race, where is the right place to put it on each track. Each track is different. It isn’t like you will do the same thing next week. That will be trial and error I am sure. I think this is definitely worth trying.”