CONCORD, N.C. -- Drivers competing at Eldora Speedway will get an extra night to play in the dirt, and teams in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series will receive additional track time at several venues this coming season.
As part of a competition update provided to media members Thursday at NASCAR's Research and Development Center, officials said Nationwide teams would receive extra track time at four facilities, while Truck Series operations will be able to gather more information at five venues -- including Eldora, which this summer will host the sport's first national event on dirt since 1970.
On the Nationwide side, new series director Wayne Auton said teams would receive additional practice time at four tracks -- Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Mid-Ohio. The last circuit, a road course, is a new addition to the tour's schedule this season. The extra practice at Las Vegas will be on the Friday morning of that race weekend while the extra session at Richmond will be on Thursday morning.
Auton added that on the Thursday before the spring Charlotte race, Nationwide teams will be able to use data acquisition as on a test day. The garage area would then be open for inspection on that Friday, which is traditionally a dark day on the Memorial Day weekend schedule. Teams will also be able to use data acquisition on a test day slated for the Thursday before the event at Mid-Ohio, which the Columbus-based series sponsor has christened the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200.
Under NASCAR's more relaxed testing guidelines, Nationwide teams will be allowed two private tests per organization. Former series director Joe Balash surveyed the garage prior to the end of last season and found that Charlotte, Las Vegas, Richmond and Mid-Ohio would be the most likely targets so NASCAR opened up extra track time at those venues to save teams from having to go on their own.
The same thing is occurring in the Truck Series, where teams will also be allowed two private tests per organization. New series director Chad Little said Charlotte and Iowa Speedway weekends would be extended for a test day, allowing teams to use data-gathering tools not permitted on a normal race weekend. Both tours are staying in step with the Sprint Cup Series, which allows four tests per organization this year.
"It helps save them money, because we opened up testing," Little said. "They'll get to pick two private tests this year, which is new. But this is a way to save them some money. All the teams got together and chose those two places to test at."
Additional practice will be added at Kansas Speedway, Eldora and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, the first of which has been repaved since the series last visited there while the other two venues are new on the Truck schedule. Little said trucks will first take to the half-mile Eldora oval on the day before the July 24 Mudsummer Classic, although it's not yet certain in what capacity. Qualifying for that event, he added, may have a dirt track feel.
"I think Eldora is going to look like a typical dirt race," he said. "That's what's important to their fans up there. So they'll be qualifying most likely in some type of a heat race format."
Eldora announced Thursday that it had sold out general admission as well as reserved seats for its inaugural Truck Series event, and roughly 20,000 people are expected for the race. The format is still a work in progress, in large part because the facility lacks a traditional pit road.
"We're still working through it," Little said. "It won't be too much longer, but I think we'll allow some time and get through that. Because of the way the pit road is laid out, we're trying to figure out what's the best way to accomplish a traditional dirt type of look, and at the same time, have our (pit) stops."
And if the Eldora race is delayed by inclement weather? That would bring up a host of issues, both due to the track's dirt surface, and the fact that the Nationwide and Sprint Cup tours are slated to compete in the Super Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway days later. Some drivers almost certainly will be competing at both venues.
"I guess it would be like any other event," Little said. "Truck Series concerns would come first, and the race track's in trying to reschedule it. But if we do have weather, it's going to make it interesting. You know how dirt racing is. It changes the complexity of the race quite a bit."
In that eventuality, there would be only one certainty, according to John Darby, NASCAR's managing director of competition. "I don't think," he said, "we'll be using our new track drying equipment on that."
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