NASCAR Test at Sears Point
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Half a dozen Winston Cup teams and a few Winston West teams
tested at Sears Point International Raceway on May 3-5. The Cup
guys had just come from a race at Fontana in Southern California.
Rain fell on Monday but Wally Dallenbach and Rusty Wallace
moved cones around at Turn 7 trying to come up with a configuration
that would provide another passing zone.
The view from the hill above Turn 2 is spectacular. Looking
a little south of east you can see the East Bay Hills through
the haze. In the middle distance are the wetlands that border
the north end of San Francisco Bay. The rainy season had just
ended and the grass at the track was lush. Red-winged Blackbirds
Wally Dallenbach driving the Hendrick Motorsports 25-car in
The track map shows the new course as a darker line. At the
top right corner is what used to be Turn 4 but now starts The
Chute, built last year. The old course was a challenge and provided
two passing opportunities, Turn 7 and Turn 11. Those were both
hard braking areas. The Chute eliminated the Turn 7 passing area.
The 1998 configuration was full throttle in third gear. Now they've
squared-off the turn trying to make another passing area.
The approach to Old Turn 7 came from the left. Now The Chute
comes down the hill from the top left. That's Rusty Wallace accelerating
out of the turn.
Rusty Wallace locked up the inside front tire trail braking
into The Chute. You can see the smoke. These cones and stacks
of tires define the new, more square turn. I hope they put in
a curb before the race so the tires don't get punted out into
Elliot Sadler, Wally Dallenbach, Tony Stewart, and Rusty Wallace
at the press conference noon on Tuesday. Both Rusty and Wally
talked about trying to make a new braking area at the end of
The Chute, but both said it didn't work. With the old course
the cars disappeared from view in Turns 5 and 6. Sears Point
people wanted to make the cars visible more of the time for more
spectators. Unfortunately they have to deal with the reality
of the terrain. At the end of this season more extensive changes
will be made. Turns 9 and 10 will be more square and Turn 11
will be closer to the scoring tower eliminating Turn 12 and making
the front straight longer and straighter.
Tony Stewart has prepared well for his first road-course race.
The week before Fontana he drove at the Bondurant School in Phoenix.
He also drove Russell School cars at Sears Point. Tom Hubert,
Northern California native and 10th-place qualifier in the Cup
race at Sears Point last year, coached Stewart at this test.
One of the more interesting stories of the '99 race will be how
Stewart adapts to road-course racing.
This is Tom in Stewart's No. 20 car.
Tony Stewart is feisty in press conferences. Last year at
Indy and in this press conference at Sears Point he exhibited
little patience with dumb questions from writers. Good for him.
If more people snapped back at the dummy press, maybe they'd
Cars are viewed as a Bad Thing in the Bay Area. Motorsports
is covered rarely and poorly by the big San Francisco and San
Jose newspapers. The hundred-thousand plus fans who come to the
Sears Point race are mainly from the Central Valley, towns like
Sacramento, Fresno, Chico, and Modesto.
Sears Test Page 2