BROOKLYN, Mich. – Representatives from Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. and the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards visited Michigan Int’l Speedway this week to conduct a second tire test on the two-mile oval’s surface, paved last October and competed upon for the first time this June.
The pavement project was Michigan’s fourth after opening in 1968, and the track’s first since 1995. CGH Motorsports driver Chad Hackenbracht, who competed in the June race and has been Hoosier’s primary test driver this season, was ARCA’s driver representative at the test.
As occurs after any new pavement project, Michigan’s oval proved much faster than it had previously been when ARCA cars took the track in June.
Not only did Cale Gale’s 2011 qualifying record at the track fall, but three drivers topped it – including Menards Pole Award winner Joey Coulter (192.149 mph), who beat Gale by nearly a half-second, or over 2.5 mph on his best lap.
But one race – especially the first for any stock car on the new surface – was not enough to give Hoosier and ARCA the clearest picture. To understand fully the best tire compounds to use as the track ages and to understand the pavement’s development over time, continued testing and analysis is necessary.
“The track has evolved from when we raced here to our observation today, but very slightly,” said Doug Barnes, Hoosier product manager for the ARCA Racing Series. “We’re working to resolve the heat issue we saw here on the new track, and we’ve been successful. We’ve got some options to look at. We haven’t determined exactly the compound, but we’ve narrowed it down quite a bit and we’re pretty close.”
Using Hackenbracht and CGH Motorsports – who in 44 starts and multiple tests since 2009 have become ARCA veterans – for the test is a smart and strategic move for Hoosier.
“Chad’s becoming seasoned at these tracks as much as he’s run in the ARCA Racing Series,” Barnes said. “He knows these tracks; it’s not his first time out. It’s that, and his team is very professional. Kevin Reed, his crew chief, is awesome with sharing information and giving us what we need. He’s really taken care of our agenda. He’s not on his own plan, which is very helpful. They give us good feedback, listen to us, and go the direction we want to go. That makes all the difference in the world.”
Hackenbracht is proud to carry the banner for ARCA in Hoosier’s development at Michigan and other tracks. He also tested at Pocono, which also received a new pavement job this year, and he will be at Kansas in September for a day and night test to simulate the conditions ARCA teams will experience for the season finale on Friday, Oct. 19.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It shows that obviously as small as we are, we’re looked upon as being one of the top teams. It’s a compliment to us. It helps for seat time, which is key in these cars.”
As for the specifics on Michigan, Hackenbracht said the track has kept its quick profile. He thinks Michigan will continue to be fast when ARCA returns for its 32nd race on the track next summer.
“There was a little bit of difference in speed this week, but we were still comparable through the corners,” he said. “The track’s lost a little bit of grip, but it definitely hasn’t slowed down like other places have.”