FONTANA, Calif. – The rougher a track is, the more drivers seem to like it.
That’s certainly the conventional wisdom at Auto Club Speedway, which features pronounced bumps on the backstretch, abrasive asphalt and distinct seams between the racing lanes.
“You could write a book about a lap at this place,” said Carl Edwards, runner-up to Kevin Harvick by .010 seconds last Sunday at Phoenix. “There’s so much happening out there—where you place your tires, how you enter the corner, what the guy in front of you is doing. All of those things add up to a lot different balance. Turns 1 and 2, as many times as I’ve been here, I still don’t feel like I have it figured out.
“There’s spots that I like to run, there’s things I like to do, but there’s some spots out there and it’s like, man, I can’t quite figure out what’s happening. When you hit this point in the race track and the car moves and I can’t repeat it all of the time, so you never really know what you’re going to get. I think that’s good. It’s a little bit unpredictable, it’s definitely tough and, to me, that’s part of the fun.”
Edwards, however, didn’t have as much fun as he would have liked during Friday’s opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. He was 25th on the speed chart, and he pointed to a dilemma that can haunt drivers and crew chiefs at the two-mile track: Whether to change the car or change your racing line?
“Your car can drive terribly, and then you can move around a little bit and it drives pretty well,” Edwards said. “So then you’ve got to decide, ‘Well, is that where I want to race, or do I want to race over here where it’s terrible? Should we work on it?’
“It’s tough. It’s hard to decide exactly what you want. The fun is that you can actually change it. You can do things. If the car isn’t working well in one spot, you move somewhere else and try something else. You’re not locked into a tiny little box where everybody has to run in the exact same spot.”