The improvements to Phoenix International Raceway got approval from NASCAR's minor league drivers. All that awaits is the Winston Cup drivers Oct. 30-Nov. 2.
"Everybody seems to be very pleased, which any time you make an adjustment to the track I think everybody approaches it with a little bit of trepidation on what to expect," PIR track president Bryan Sperber said. "NASCAR officials have been very pleased and we have been very pleased. I think we passed the test."
The drivers in the Featherlite Southwest and Winston West Series didn't complain either, except for early on during practice and qualifying when the track was said to have been dirty from the construction in Turns 2 and 4.
"I have to be honest, it was a little bit shaky for the first test session," said Scott Lynch who won Sunday's Subway 150 Winston West race. "But once (the track) got some rubber on it, it was unbelievable."
The changes in Turn 2 — moving the wall out 12 feet — increased speed and lessened the chance of crashing into the wall when passing.
"It gives you more room to pass if your car is good," said David Gilliland, who won the Featherlite race. "There is a lot of grip down there, before it was narrow and you were taking a chance unless your car was way better. Now if cars are kind of close or a little bit better you can do a little bit more passing . . . a little bit more race here."
Turn 4 underwent cosmetic changes as a tunnel was added and the Goodyear bridge was removed.
"It opens up the vision a lot sooner," said Featherlite driver Burney Lamar. "The shadow of the bridge is gone."
Everyone agrees that the Winston drivers will love the adjustments.
"When the Cup guys come out I think they are really going to like the track," Lynch said.
HINES MAKES MOVE
Chandler's Chris Hines had his best race of the season in the Featherlite Southwest Series on Sunday, starting 28th and finishing seventh, to earn the Powerade Power Move of the Race award.
"We had a really good car in traffic, when I got out by myself it wasn't as good," he said. "When you can run on the bottom here, on Turns 3 and 4, you can be pretty successful."
Hines was pleased with his effort, especially in front of the home crowd.
"Everybody has been waiting for me to do something, I have been sucking all year," Hines said. "I mean seventh isn't doing something but it is a lot better than we have done all year."
His success has given him incentive for next season.
"I can run with these guys and next year we are going to run for rookie of the year and we will see what happens."
Winston Cup drivers will begin testing at PIR starting Tuesday when Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Sterling Marlin, Rusty Wallace and Jeremy Mayfield come to town. Jeff and Robby Gordon will test at PIR on Oct. 21.
The crowds at PIR weren't as large as expected for last weekend's Subway 150 and Phoenixraceway.com 100, and Winston West driver Steve Portenga noticed.
"It seemed like to me there wasn't that many fans here — was there something else going on? Maybe when you sell the tickets you have sit them all together, don't let them spread out."
Track officials at PIR don't release attendance figures.