SONOMA, Calif. (March 21, 2000) - Sears Point Raceway has officially begun construction on the modified Chute, which was first introduced in 1998 and connects Turns 4 and 7 on the twisting road course for all NASCAR-sanctioned events.
Construction crews are currently grading the terrain behind turns 4 and 7 and staking the proposed layout of the re-configured Chute. Paving is scheduled for March 30.
Sears Point Raceway will unveil the new Chute for the first time during a two-day NASCAR Winston Cup test session, April 24-25. Among the drivers confirmed for the test are: Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Mike Skinner, Jason Leffler, and Ron Fellows.
The modified Chute will be used for the first time in NASCAR competition June 21-24 for the Dodge/Save Mart 350.
"This change will be dramatic and I expect it will make for some wild racing in this year's Winston Cup event, " said Steve Page, president and general manager at Sears Point Raceway. "We have drivers here who are already itching to be the first ones to run the new Turn 7."
The Chute was originally constructed in 1998 with the intention of giving fans better visibility of the road course. The original move also shortened the course - from 2.52 to 1.95 miles - and would provide fans with 40 additional laps, meaning more opportunities to see the stars. The third objective was to provide better competition. The first two objectives were met, but the third didn't work, which is why officials are now correcting it, with the aid of drivers.
Track officials consulted with more than 15 NASCAR Winston Cup drivers on the re-configured Chute, including three-time defending Sears Point champion Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace, Ken Schrader and Mark Martin.
"What I see with the modified Chute is that it could very well give us the best of both worlds. The fans will continue to get a great area to watch the race and we'll be able to pick up two more passing zones (at Turn 4a and 7). This looks like a good option to me," said Schrader.
The modified Chute will feature the following elements: a. A 300-foot straightaway from Turn 4 to what will become the new Turn 4a. This segment will feature straight-line braking before entering Turn 4a; b. A sharp 70-degree right-hand turn from Turn 4a into the Chute. There will also be 150 feet of runoff room available outside Turn 4a; c. Once out of Turn 4a, drivers will navigate an 870-foot pure straightaway, which will feature speeds in excess of 110 mph. This will be one of the fastest segments of the track; e. Turn 7 will boast a 90-degree right-hand turn placed 100 feet beyond the current Turn 7 apex. The turn will feature 120 feet of runoff; f. The modification will increase the length of the road course from 1.95 to 2 miles. The number of turns remains the same (10).
Drivers say the modification will likely allow for passing in Turn 7, which will become a second-gear turn. They are hopeful it could become similar to the hairpin at Turn 11, where drivers try and out-brake each other to create a passing zone.
The entire segment will span 1,170 feet, nearly 300 feet more than the original Chute (890 feet).
The original 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course will still be used for all road-racing events at Sears Point Raceway that are not NASCAR-sanctioned.