Speeds at Forth Worth track scare drivers

The Texas Tornado

Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2002

FORT WORTH, Tex. - Part of Bobby Hamilton's preparation for this Sun day's race at the Texas Motor Speed way included a trip to the lawyer's of fice. Before he will get behind the wheel of his race car for at the re-paved raceway he wanted to make sure his will was in order.

The people who make their livings in the fast lane are concerned make that scared about the speeds at Texas.

''I went yesterday and got my will settled up with my lawyer to get ready for Texas,'' Hamilton said.

The new pavement at the 1.5-mile speedway eliminated the bumpy ride, but it created the kind of grip that's led to corner speeds of more than 200 mph.

A group of drivers tested at Texas last week, and it didn't take long for the word to spread: Texas is fast. Maybe too fast.

''It's so fast that you run 10-12 laps, and I couldn't stand it,'' said Jeff Burton. ''You have to come in. I don't know about the speeds we're turning, but there is nothing that feels as fast as this place. It's real fast.''

The track record for stock cars is 192.137 mph, set by Terry Labonte two years ago. Drivers now say they've been clocked at more than 200 mph at the ends of both straightaways.

The raceway, considered one of the premier facilities on the NASCAR Win ston Cup Series schedule, has had its share of problems. When the speedway was opened in 1997, it was greeted with several crashes and a lot of criticism with the transition points coming off the fourth turn and onto the double dogleg frontstretch.

Immediately after the race, the first and fourth turns were redesigned.

The second year, a glitch in the drain age system in the grandstands allowed water to seep through the pavement in the first turn.

A year ago, the Championship Auto Racing Teams cancelled their main event at Texas a couple hours before the green flag after the drivers decided to boycott the event because of speeds that left them dizzy.

Now comes a re-pavement job that es sentially will erase the outside groove and foster follow-the-leader racing while increasing speeds by nearly 10 mph.

''The bad thing about that is it usually makes it a one-groove race track and it's right down on the bottom,'' said Matt Kenseth. ''I'm not exactly sure why they paved it. I guess that's a question I'd like to ask because I'm not sure why it got paved. It was just getting to the point last year where we could run almost side-by-side. You could almost pass somebody on the outside.''

''You're going so dam fast if something goes wrong, we'll hit the wall a ton,'' said Rusty Wallace. ''Some guys were running practice laps (a week ago) and they didn't want to go back out.''

''Everybody's nervous. The place is so fast," driver Stacy Compton said. "You run about 10 laps and you have a hard time breathing."

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