The Blade/Lori King
When it comes to week-to-week preparation for the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit, Elliott Sadler takes copious notes through the course of the season on each track.
Then, in the days before each race, he and his team embark on a cram session of sorts.
“I’ve looked at all my notes from last year and I say, ‘OK, my car did this in practice,’ ” Sadler said. “ ‘This is what we fought in the race, this was how good my car was in the race, these are the things I need to do better, and these are the things I feel like I’m pretty good at.’ ”
Sadler will bone up this week on the nuances of Michigan International Speedway, which hosts its first full-fledged auto racing weekend of the summer.
The superspeedway will host the Michigan ARCA 200 and qualifying for the Quicken Loans 400 on Friday. It will host the Nationwide Alliance Truck Parts 250 on Saturday before Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event, the Quicken Loans 400.
Like Sadler, many drivers have a pattern they and their teams take into account as they prepare for each track and each race on the circuit.
“It’s not that difficult, especially once you’ve been in the Sprint Cup Series,” said Martin Truex, Jr., who will drive a Toyota this weekend at MIS. “You get used to it. After you leave the race track on Sunday, you switch your focus to the next race. With my team, we go over the previous race weekend on a Monday, but then you switch your focus to the upcoming race after that. It’s repetition, and you get used to it really quickly.”
Sadler will go from the close quarters of the 0.88-mile oval at Iowa Speedway to the two-mile track at MIS. The superspeedway underwent a repave prior to the 2012 season and produced track-record speeds during testing sessions and qualifying for last year’s Quicken Loans 400.
Marcos Ambrose won last year’s pole for the Quicken Loans 400. His qualifying lap speed of 203.241 miles per hour shattered Ryan Newman’s seven-year-old record of 194.232. Ambrose, however, did it on a day when drivers had issues with tire blistering because of heat, and NASCAR officials switched to more durable tires for last June’s race.
Sadler pointed out the particulars of the Brooklyn, Mich., track: an oval with a lot of grip but few grooves, where track position, fuel mileage, and drafting are key.
Those are the physical challenges of the superspeedway. Sadler also considers the mental aspect of racing.
“When I make the first lap at Michigan, I mentally already know what I need to be feeling, what I fought here in the past, the feeling I need to have here to be successful, so [I’m] not really caught off guard,” said Sadler, who raced Sunday in the Dupont Pioneer 250 in Newton, Iowa.
“I think a lot of guys do that, to get themselves mentally prepared.”
After this week’s Quicken Loans 400 at MIS, the 1.99-mile Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway road course hosts the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup race. The Nationwide Series and ARCA will compete at the four-mile Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
“The more different race tracks we race on, the better for us,” Sadler said. “The way we’re switching it up in the meaty part of the schedule, with road courses in there, super speedways, this means the driver has to bring your best, week in and week out.
“I think it’s a great part of the schedule. Certain drivers get hot in the summertime trying to make moves, and there are so many different racetracks we’ll be on. That makes it fun and makes it hard. That’s a big part of the racing schedule.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.