Originally created 07/23/02

Owner defends speedway against harsh driver criticism



CONCORD, N.H. -- The owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway plans no changes to his course for another race in September despite harsh criticism of drivers, who called Sunday's Winston Cup race unsafe.

"I'm not going to change anything," Bob Bahre said Monday. "I think the thing is in good shape. I talked to NASCAR Sunday night after the race and they said don't do anything before the September race. We'll see how it comes out."

The track, where Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin were killed in crashes two years ago, has had its share of criticism, but perhaps none as harsh as Sunday.

At one point during the race, Jeff Gordon told his crew chief he wanted NASCAR to stop the race until conditions improved.

Jerry Nadeau called the track "absolute junk ... The sealer was coming up." He said balls of rubber were causing drivers to slide.

Tony Stewart's crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, said, "It's like being on ice out there."

Even winner Ward Burton called it treacherous.

Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of communications, agreed things will be ready in two months.

"I don't think there will be a problem when they get back there in September," he said.

Bahre, who has made changes in recent years to make the flat, one-mile oval safer and better for racing, defended the asphalt resurfacing, though he noted the paving in April had to be redone in June.

The repaving in June was three weeks before the race. It typically it takes four to six weeks to cure a surface.

"I'm not denying it wouldn't have been better if cured longer," Bahre said. "The track wasn't that bad. It's new to these guys. They just weren't set up for it. They've raced here before and it was different than before."

Hunter noted that many of the same drivers had criticized the track because it had only one groove that made passing difficult.

Bahre widened the turns to make passing easier, and it apparently paid off because there were 22 lead changes, one short of the record for a race, Hunter said.

However, there also were 14 caution flags for 77 laps, also both highs for the season.



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