The CARS Tour’s first trip down to the historic Rockingham Speedway on Dec. 15 resulted in an inconclusive tire test.
A second visit one week later raised more questions about tire wear, forcing the series and track to postpone the planned season-opener on March 6 until a better Hoosier tire compound could be developed.
The third test on Thursday with the new compound finally produced the results CARS Tour owner Jack McNelly had been looking for, which has convinced him to move forward with the updated Rockingham race date on Nov. 6.
“Everything went real well,” McNelly said. “We had 12 sets of tires and they were exactly what we wanted. We got the wear factor out of them and they still had speed. The drivers were real comfortable with them as well, so I think we all went home pretty happy.”
Following the tire wear concerns that popped up during the previous two tests, McNelly wanted to make sure no problems popped up with the new compound and had Layne Riggs and Timothy Peters stay at Rockingham until approximately 5:30 p.m.
Multiple representatives from Hoosier were also on hand to watch Riggs and Peters make numerous laps around Rockingham’s abrasive surface, with one set of tires having 50 laps on them in total.
The race in November is schedule to last 100 laps but McNelly said that a procedure is in place to ensure teams will have plenty of tires and opportunities to work on their cars.
“It’s going to be an eight-tire race,” McNelly said. “Teams will have four sticker tires in the pits to use as they see fit when they see fit. We’ll have controlled cautions in which drivers can come in and do their work without losing track position.”
Now that preliminary testing at Rockingham is complete, McNelly said that the first of two open test dates for teams ahead of the November season-finale will take place on Sept. 18, with the second one occurring on Oct. 30.
McNelly had wanted the race to take place on Oct. 30 but agreed to move it forward one weekend so that it would not conflict with the penultimate NASCAR Cup Series race of the season at Martinsville Speedway.
Moving the race date again is not a major issue for McNelly, who was relieved to see that a compound developed by Hoosier could in fact last a significant period of time around the facility.
McNelly said that Thursday’s successful results would not have happened without the strenuous work of so many people and is looking forward to watching that effort pay off with the return of one of NASCAR’s most cherished facilities in just a few months.
“I want to thank the teams for their time and energy,” McNelly said. “I also have to thank everyone at Hoosier that helped us and came out to the track. We were there the whole day but all is well and we are ready to move ahead.”
Rockingham’s revival will follow a normal CARS Tour weekend schedule with practice on Friday and the race being held on Saturday afternoon.