The Beast Awakens This Weekend
Back in 1966, it threw David Pearson against the wall and it got Davey Allison and Dale Earnhardt on the same night in 1992. Then, last year, it made a mess of just about everybody.
Always one of the toughest tracks in NASCAR racing, Lowe's Motor Speedway is a beast-The Beast of the Southeast. "Over almost a half century, the track has emerged as a true beast, so why deny it?" said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "Its mean reputation is very well known among the competitors."
When the track was resurfaced in 2006, using in excess of 10,000 tons of asphalt and sophisticated computer technology, it aggravated The Beast and he took it out on the competitors, mangling a massive amount of sheet metal.
After hibernating since early October, no one is sure what to expect when The Beast awakens for the May 19 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and May 27 Coca-Cola 600.
"Your car has to be right, or The Beast will reach out and bite you," warned veteran Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 13 Ginn Racing Chevrolet.
"Lowe's Motor Speedway is really a difficult track to negotiate, so the nickname is pretty good," said Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 44 UPS Toyota. "The track is so fast and so much fun to drive, but it has a unique personality. Going over the hump in Turn 1, and wondering where you are going to land, is always interesting."
Unlike football, baseball and basketball where all the playing fields have exactly the same dimensions, each NASCAR race track is unique.
"NASCAR racing, once aptly described by 1980 Formula One champion Alan Jones as a 'black art,' has evolved into a sport where each of the playing fields has its own quirks," said Wheeler. "Lowe's Motor Speedway is narrow; uphill on the frontstretch and downhill on the backstretch. It has a very mysterious entrance to Turn 1; a fourth turn so tight it has scared even the sport's toughest drivers. "When we repaved the track using computer technology, we got perhaps the smoothest surface in racing history," Wheeler continued. "With this smooth surface, came more grip and our races were really close and competitive, which isn't easy to do with the current aero-dependent NEXTEL Cup cars.
"But, we also noticed that if a driver takes his eye off the ball for a second, The Beast jumps up and bites him. We don't know why, but this track has become fundamentally different and has developed a 'mean' spirit. What is a mean track? It's one that is fast, racy, unpredictable, subject to huge changes in temperature and one that requires a gifted driver to get to victory lane."
Tickets for all May events at Lowe's Motor Speedway, including the May 19 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge and the May 27 Coca-Cola 600, can be purchased by calling 1-800-455-FANS or visiting www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.