LOUDON, N.H. – Making passes at some NASCAR tracks has turned into a sticky situation.
And it’s planned that way.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, is among the NASCAR tracks choosing to put a traction compound – variously known as PJ1, VHT and TrackBite – on its surface in an attempt to expand the racing lanes.
NHMS typically is a one-lane speedway, with most drivers choosing to stay in the middle groove around the 1.058-mile track. This often makes passing an adventure because grip isn’t as good lower or higher on the surface.
Enter the traction compound, which will be sprayed on the track several times during the race weekend. The material is applied in 12-foot-wide strips on the inside and outside lanes, allowing drivers to wander into those grooves and, at least in theory, juice the level of competition.
The material has been used at other tracks, notably Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, with mixed results.
Denny Hamlin is a fan.
“I’d like to openly petition for PJ1 at the top of Turn 3 at Pocono,” Hamlin said. “When we had that new fresh asphalt up there, it completely changed the racing at Pocono. I really believe that it could do wonders for that race track because it’s been such a single-file race track since the repave.”.
Hamlin also recommended Texas Motor Speedway as a client for the sticky material.
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“Texas is a big challenge because we run fast there anyway, but that track is so wide,” he said. “Just put a strip way up there (on the outside) where you never think we’ll go, and eventually someone will go up there. They’ll keep testing it, and the next thing you know we’re going to have two-wide racing.
“These tracks that are really one-lane based, it could really do wonders. I like the direction that the tracks and NASCAR have gone on it, and they’ve done a good job of being more consistent with where they put it from year to year.”.
Of course, as the race wears on, the compound wears out. Teams and drivers must adjust to its impact on the surface over the 301-lap distance.
“It’s a long race, so you get to gauge it every time you go through the corner each lap,” Kyle Larson said. “It definitely changes throughout the race, so you know I would say it wears out. I feel like the last couple of races here, the last, I don’t know 50 laps or so, maybe a little longer, it kind of just turns back into normal New Hampshire where you can run lower.
“Right now the PJ1 is in the first and third lanes. Once it wears out up top, you kind of just move down a lane and run your typical New Hampshire line. But that is what makes it fun. The VHT it is always changing. It is similar to dirt-track conditions where it’s wearing out and your car is changing and you need to change what you are doing, so it makes it fun.”.
Throw a wet-weather forecast – there’s a 90 percent chance of rain on Sunday – into the mix, and things might get even stickier.