NASCAR drivers completed a two-day test of the resurfaced Phoenix track this week, and, well ... the polite thing to say is that opinions are "mixed."
Because no one knows exactly how the surface will play out, many observers are targeting the Phoenix race as even more of a potential wild card for the Chase than Talladega; at least with Dega you know that if you stay out in front, you're not going to get collected in a pack-swallowing Big One. At Phoenix? When you don't know the best line, or even if there's more than one line, racing becomes a gamble at every turn.
Universally, drivers agreed that the track needs more rubber, and accordingly, Phoenix will be running cars from the Richard Petty Experience around the track between now and the November race date to help rubber in the track. ("Rubber in" is one of those great NASCAR expressions which you have to be very careful using in non-NASCAR company, like "wedge in the left rear.")
Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah, Phoenix. Some of the drivers were optimistic: "I think so far the track is great," Kasey Kahne said after the testing. "I think it's smooth, it's going to be different. It's going to be kind of exciting to see how it races, which is pretty cool. I'm looking forward to that."
Others were diplomatic: "Whenever you introduce something new like this new surface and new track layout, there are going to be guys that figure it out quickly and there are going to be guys that struggle," Carl Edwards said. "The way the surface is, it's unforgiving so there could be some accidents and things happen that we don't usually see at Phoenix."
And still others were brutally honest: "There hasn't been enough rubber or laps put on the race track to really know what it's going to be, but right now it's not very good," David Reutimann said. "Not very good at all, but it's a new race track and we're hoping once it get some rubber on it and we all get to work on our cars a bit it'll continue to get better."
The big fear, of course, is that there will only be one racing line, and that passing will be so difficult we'll get the dreaded train-car effect. Until the green flag drops, there'll be a lot of praying and hoping and guessing.
So, yes, basically nobody knows anything yet. But hey, at least the testing drew more fans than Dover. At least there's that.