Track owner Andy Hillenburg added a half-mile oval behind the Speedway dubbed “Little Rock” which he hopes to use for racing by 2011. Right now, the small track is being used by nearly all the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams for testing because it is similar to the Martinsville Speedway, where the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will battle on March 29.
Even though the Martinsville race is more than three weeks away, several teams have scheduled practice time at “Little Rock.”
Dennis Setzer, an 18-time winner on the NASCAR truck series and two-time winner in the Nationwide Series, was running practice laps in a Richard Petty Motorsports car Tuesday afternoon.
While the teams were back in the garage in Statesville, information regarding Setzer’s track times, tire wear, brake use and more was being sent back to the garage by the crew.
“We are testing the car and giving that information back to the teams in the shop,” Setzer said. “The teams are confident with the information that I give to them to use on the cars. All of these guys (the practice crew) have been to the big show. It takes guys of this caliber to make it work.”
The creation of the multiple car teams have allowed teams to send one driver to a track for practice and share the information across the board. However, the rule which bans testing at any NASCAR-sanctioned track, including the tracks where only the Camping World East and West series run went into effect on Jan. 1. This rule changed has allowed the tracks no longer on the NASCAR circuit to reap the rewards.
Setzer said although the dream of nearly every track owner is to host a NASCAR event, he knows Hillenburg is happy to rent not only the big track, but the smaller track to teams on a regular basis.
Setzer posted lap times very close to what drivers are able to record at Martinsville even though “Little Rock” has one big noticeable thing missing - walls.
Hillenburg designed the track to only have grass on the inside so cars will only spin out avoiding crashing into wall causing a huge amount of damage, but there will be walls on the outside eventually, just not at this time.
The lack of outside walls is generally not a problem, however, Jimmie Johnson blew a tire during one of the first testing sessions and joking said he nearly ran into his own transporter because of the lack of a concrete wall for safety.
Even though NASCAR may not ever return to Rockingham for a race, NASCAR teams have found a home “The Rock.”
Contact sports editor Shawn Stinson at 997-3111, ext. 14; e-mail email@example.com