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Driver Complaints Tarnish Debut Of Texas Track Narrow Course, Lack Of Rubber On Surface Lead To Most Of The Grousing

Jaime Aron Associated Press

After one wet, wrecked-filled weekend at the new Texas Motor Speedway, Rusty Wallace thinks they should tear up the track and start over.

Jeff Burton likes it just the way it is. His car owner, Jack Roush, really likes it.

Burton avoided mistakes and made Sunday’s Interstate Batteries 500 his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory, giving Roush a sweep of the first two races at the $130 million superspeedway. Teammate Mark Martin won Saturday’s Busch Grand National Coca-Cola 300 and led briefly Sunday.

“There were a lot of people talking very negatively about the track,” said Burton. “There were some things about it we didn’t particularly like, but we sure didn’t dislike it as much as everybody else for some reason.

“When we were down here testing, Rusty loved it. I guess he had a bad day.”

Now that you mention it, he did. Wallace smashed into a wall and knocked himself out midway through the race. That wreck spawned another one that ended Ernie Irvan’s day and crushed Jeff Gordon’s chance of winning. Seventy-three of Sunday’s 334 laps were run under 10 caution flags.

Since testing last month, drivers feared the fourth turn, which they said was too narrow. But most of the damage came on the first turn and the backstretch.

The drivers’ biggest complaint was lack of rubber on the 1-mile oval, a problem typical to all new tracks. Here, however, the track is so narrow it’s risky to try to go around other cars.

“The race track is difficult, there’s no question about it,” Burton said. “Certainly, if you were going to start over you might change some things. But this is the race track we have.”

Wallace offered a suggestion:

“I really believe they are going to have to do a total reconstruction to get it right,” he said. “I don’t think there’s no way in the world we will come back here with the track in its current condition.”

TMS general manager Eddie Gossage said he’s willing to consider any changes.

“You have to weed out fact from frustration,” Gossage said. “Right now, I don’t know which is which.”

Overall, NASCAR’s first visit to Texas in 16 years was an overwhelming success as they filled the second-largest sporting facility in the country.

For many of the 258,141 fans, traffic was the biggest obstacle. Only one interstate and a few country roads lead to this place 20 miles north of Fort Worth.

The roads were extra clogged because the cars didn’t have anywhere else to go. About 550 acres of grass fields that were supposed to be parking lots instead turned into useless swamps because of recent rains. Heavy showers all year prevented the lots from being paved.

The rain, though, may be a permanent problem. TMS is basically locked into the first weekend of April on NASCAR’s schedule, and history shows that to be a wet time of year.

Considering this massive facility was built in 18 months, organizers had a fine debut weekend. The longterm success, however, will depend on how - and how quickly - they fix the problems that are more than just a driver’s frustration.

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