Monday, March 28, 2005
NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series Notes
by Race Author
ROCKFORD, Illinois -- A handful of NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series drivers took advantage of a Rockford (Ill.) Speedway’s recent open practice session as they prepared for the 2005 lid lifter at the northern Illinois .29167-mile oval, April 2-3.
The teams were greeted by sunny skies and temperatures near 50.
"The only bad part to the day was that the track was a little dirty, but we’re getting it cleaned off and getting more rubber laid down," said defending series champion Justin Diercks, midway through the day. "We’re getting to try some things with really no pressure on us."
In previous years, the Midwest Series offered a practice session at Rockford Speedway, under the lights, the night before the Spring Classic weekend.
"This daytime practice is great for us because you assume that the track conditions today will probably be pretty close to what they will be next weekend," said Diercks.
At forty-five years of age, Eddie Hoffman is quietly becoming one of the more seasoned veterans of the Midwest Series. Hoffman, however, can still see the value in extra track time.
"We’re just trying different things to try and catch up with the pack," said Hoffman, the 1997 Midwest Series champion. "We seemed to be a little bit off here last year with the tour car. We’ve got to find a little bit in the car and today is a good time to try some things."
Time To Go
This years Midwest Series Spring Classic race will be 150-laps. In previous years the Rockford Speedway opener had been 250-laps. How will the shorter race distance change the strategy of the teams that make up the 24 car starting field?
"Starting position is going to be big," said Hoffman. "Sometimes it takes 50-laps to pass a car here, but you’re not going to have that luxury next Sunday, so you just have to go."
"It’s pretty much of a sprint race," said Tim Schendel, the 2004 Spring Classic runner-up. "You’re out there on the four tires you started with and make a run for it while the tires are still fresh. But 150-laps goes by really quick here."
Target, What Target?
At the Press Conference portion of Rockford Speedway’s practice day, defending Midwest Series champion Justin Diercks was asked by a television reporter if he felt there was target on his back as he entered the 2005 campaign.
"No, I don’t think so," Diercks responded.
Eddie Hoffman, sitting next to Diercks at the head table, rolled his eyes, obviously disagreeing with the 24-year-old Iowan.
"We’re going to call up (Chip) Ganassi and get one of his targets and tape it to your rear bumper," quipped Hoffman.
Knowing full well that, either rightfully or wrongly, Hoffman often times finds himself in the middle on track controversy, Diercks joked, "That wouldn’t be any different than the target that’s usually on your back."
After Diercks got the last word, the pair shared a good laugh.
Practice Day For The Crews Too
While Midwest Series drivers took to the Rockford oval and worked out the winter rust, the crews were in the pit area doing the same thing.
Justin Diercks and crew forgot jack stands and had to borrow a set from Eddie Hoffman’s TK Racing team.
"When Justin first signed in, he walked past our car and was joking, making a ‘Loser’ sign on his forehead. We got the last laugh though. About 10 minutes later he was over here asking to borrow jack stands," said Hoffman car chief John Signore.
The Diercks team also struggled in the pits with two brand new pit carts, one of which they set up wrong and couldn’t get to the air tank.
Good thing for practice days, right.
The Midwest Series teams will take to the Rockford Speedway for real, April 2 with practice and qualifying. The Spring Classic 150 is scheduled for April 3 with the green flag flying over the field at 2:00 p.m. (CT).