One week ago the garage area of the infamous North Carolina Motor Speedway, or as most know it, “The Rock” was abuzz with engine noise in an official capacity for the first time since 2013.
Yesterday the CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car division hosted a tire test with drivers Layne Riggs, Jared Fryar, and Timothy Peters. Results from the first test were inconclusive so the CARS Tour returned to the famous gritty one-mile venue to give the CARS Tour sanctioning body more data as their scheduled March 6th debut approaches.
The day did not go without controversy but the end result was much more promising than it had first appeared.
The final official race at “The Rock” was held in April of 2013. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hosted the event over 7 years ago. Since that time the track has laid dormant. The surface has become more abrasive, and as weather cycles in the sandhills typically produce, the track surface has areas that have been worn away.
This became evident moments into Timothy Peters’ second run of the day, as his nose was damaged by a piece of the turn two asphalt dislodging from the ground and slamming into his machine. His crews were quick to repair the front valance after sharing their grievance with the racetrack crew.
After a concrete sealer was put down in trouble spots of the groove in turns 1 & 2, drivers Jared Fryar and Layne Riggs put down quick laps. Riggs ran a 24.7-second lap that had blistered the bias-ply General Tires that were supplied.
“I’m advocating for definitely pushing this a little farther than March,” Riggs said after running the fastest lap of the day in his number 99 Puryear Tanklines, Romeo Guest Construction entry.
Some of the most abrasive tire wear was shown Riggs’ car during testing on Tuesday.
“They seemed to fix the track. It was strong enough, but the right rear was starting to go almost down to the cords. If they have to reconstruct a different tire for this and take more time, I think it’ll be worth it.”
A fully reconstructed tire would take 12 to 14 weeks to build, distribute, and fully test leaving options limited for CARS Tour officials.
“We have to get these cars slowed down,” said Jack McNeely the series director, who eventually announced that they would put restrictor plates on the cars to get speeds down low enough to slow down the heavy wear on the tires that Hoosier had brought to the track.
The fact is with nearly double the load on the tires and the car at the speeds they were running the rubber combination proved to be a difficult riddle to solve.
Jared Fryar in the Sterling Building Group number 14 Mustang was the first to run the plate on the car.
“You got to have a harder tire than that right there,” explained Fryar. “We’re not saying that it isn’t going to work, we just want to make sure that we got the right combination in general across-the-board. That’s what’s important, the longevity of the tire and ultimately safety.”
Timothy Peters had sustained minor nose damage but he was not done. The team rolled out the newly repaired white number 12 Autos by Nelson Toyota, and that car took the most laps at The Rock. As the sun began to curl around the turn two grandstands, the setup and restrictor plate combination began to allow for more laps to run before signs of heavy wear.
“It can potentially compound your deal if you slow down on the straightaway they’re just going to go faster in the corner,” said Peters, who was the only driver present at the test who has run in an official race at The Rock. “If you’re still running a certain time, the tire’s not going to last you if you’re going to be leaving hard in the corners.”
As the track cooled the Peters entry reached terminal velocity around the track as the engine didn’t change the tone of its roar all the way around the course.
The final run for Peters was 26.185 and 26.250 seconds, nearly a full second and a half slower than without the plate as the sun began to set over The Rock. Tire wear appeared to be much less abrasive as the temperatures cooled and the plates were used.
The plates had caused a tight condition to eventually show wear but the amount of heat was considerably less and mid-day speeds will likely be slower in race trim among a full field of cars.
The conclusion was that the race could be run in segments up to 35 laps safely before a competition break for four fresh tires would be implemented. The originally intended distance of 100 laps would likely be altered but the many different driving styles and tire saving strategies could still make the race a fan favorite.
The Rock has seen time elapse, but her walls are begging for competition. The character of the track is unrivaled and after an up and down day of testing, officials are hopeful for a March 6th debut inside her historic gates. It remains to be seen what will occur but the final run of the day looked promising.
Photos by: Bridger Swinimer @bicubis