3 March, 2011 21:34

A Lap of Homestead-Miami Speedway on Continental Tires With Ozz Negri

Starting at the start/finish line, you have to be looking ahead of course because the turn in for turn one I think is the fastest corner that we take, all year long. You carry so much speed going into there–should be close to 180–and when the tires are new and the car is good, you can turn in flat out. From there, you are right on the braking and taking off as much speed as you can, and that gets tricky right there with the transition from the oval to the road course. Good grip is crucial on the surface changes-this can get to be a pretty exciting braking zone!

You have to get slowed all the way down from fifth gear into second for what we call turn two. You want to carry some speed in, but thats not as important in this corner as it is to get the power down again at the exit and get a good shot into turn three.

Turn three feels funny- you feel like you are absolutely crawling, like you can jump out of the car and run faster! But thats just the impression you have because a few seconds before that, you were just turning into turn one going so fast. So turn three always feels BAD slow. It’s very slippery there, even on new tires.

This entire circuit is tough on tires. I’ve lost track of how many different kinds of tires I’ve driven here at Homestead-it’s always the same challenge. I call it a cheese grater for tires! It’s just so abrasive and I think it’s one of the toughest tracks on tires that I’ve ever seen in all my years racing. The tires are just not going to have the full grip the full stint, so you have to be smart and be patient. Which of course is the hardest thing in the world for us drivers!

Going out of three, you have a little chance to squirt some power for just a half a second before the right hander for turn four. It’s kind of the black sheep on this track–it’s the only corner were there is a little bit of camber. So you feel like you should turn in later but you need take advantage of the camber so you turn in early as you go down the hill a little bit.

From there, you have to be patient–so patient–to get back onto the throttle as smoothly as you can to avoid any wheelspin. Full power through the gears up to fourth as you head to turn five. It’s another right hander and your braking point can depend on what way the wind is blowing there and what kind of grip you still have with the tires. If the wind is in your favor and it is early in the stint with the tires, you can go really really deep and it’s a passing zone possibility too.

Slowing all the way down to first gear again, all you want is to get car placed well by apex so you can get back to throttle to get to full speed as fast as possible, first, second, short shift to third just before you get into the kink–which on new tires and no marbles is easy flat. But it gets really exciting when tires start to go away a little bit and you have to work really hard. The car starts to slide a lot and it’s easy to make a mistake here and go off line.

And going off line at Homestead can be a big deal. Because the tires are getting grated by the cheese grater like I was saying, there is always so much pick up (rubber bits) on the track. And when you drive over it, it can be a night mare. There is a reason why they call them marbles–the tires aren’t making full contact with the track. It takes at least two corners to get your tires clean after that.

And this also makes passing traffic that much harder–you want to get by as fast as possible but sometimes if you go off line and run in the pick up to do that, then you are going to suffer for the next few corners. Staying on the throttle up to fourth gear and then we are going to six– the slowest corner on the track–a full 180 degree corner that you just wait until the last possible moment to brake for.

Then, it’s like the other slow corners coming out of it–getting back to full throttle as fast as you can without getting any wheelspin. Patience is key just like the other places. From the slowest corner you go into two of the fastest, what they call NASCAR 3-4.

Early in the run this is another easy, flat out corner. But it’s tricky because unlike Daytona, the banking really creates a lot of compression. You can feel it pushing you in the seat and sometimes, in the middle of the corner, the steering locks up a little bit with the G’s and you just have to trust that the car will stay there. It’s a very exciting corner, and with GT traffic even more so. You have to place the car so you can not get slowed down by the GTs and try to time everything so you can make the pass without losing any momentum.

From there, you are right there back at the start finish line, and checking the speeds again and just getting ready for the turn into turn one again, hoping that you can do it flat out again! The speed differential (between GT’s and DP’s) going into one is pretty big, so that can be the best place to get a pass done.

When we tested at Homestead with the Continental Tires in December, the temps were pretty mild so I think this weekend will be another challenge if it is as warm as it is expected to be. Hopefully we can get back on the podium with Mike Shank and fight back from the disappointment of Daytona.

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