You might not think about it, but even professional race car drivers need to brush up on technique from time to time. Or they aren’t well-acquainted with certain tracks, so they need to be brought up to speed a little (pun intended). Especially if it’s going from rocketing around circle and oval tracks, to something with right turns and braking zones. That’s why NASCAR drivers sometimes end up behind the wheel of modest Mazda2s!
It’s true – NASCAR drivers often drive road-racing-type cars for circuit practice. What better way to do that than throwing them in slow, grippy momentum cars, and have them explore the limits of grip on a fast, world-renowned circuit like Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas?
Recently, two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith, enlisted the help of Chris Taylor Racing Services to play around with a couple of Mazda2s on this fine track. Their goal was to learn the track for their race this weekend, figure out where to make the most of it (as in, where the grip is), and most importantly figure out its passing zones.
Utilizing B-Spec race cars is by far one of the best ways to do this. They’re high-grip, high-fun, and naturally make for door-to-door racing due to their equal power-to-weight ratios. Though, this wasn’t necessarily the original plan to bring these guys up to speed.
“Originally, it was just going to be slow laps in rental muscle cars” Chris Taylor, proprietor of Chris Taylor Racing Services, explained to me over Facebook messenger. “But it turned out the B-Specs were better because they were able to learn passing zones, what off-line characteristics of the track were, and let’s be honest, (it’s) a hell of a lot more fun than a Hertz Challenger with no brakes.”
It sure was a hell of a lot more fun, too. “Zane Smith, who was driving my #34 in the video, had to come in early on a run because he said he was laughing so hard” added Taylor.
Additionally, learning where this tricky track’s bumps and blind spots were was paramount.
This Wasn’t a One-Off, So the Value Is Clear
This was all a sort of “it takes a village” thing in racing. Chevrolet and JR Motorsports are a part of Drivers Edge Development, a program that essentially coaches and trains young drivers for both on and off-track duties.
They enlisted Taylor’s help to show these young kids the ropes at COTA, and it wasn’t the first time he’s been called up for this sort of thing, either. Previously, Taylor’s put NASCAR driver Spencer Boyd and Trans Am driver William Cox behind the wheel of his B-Spec cars for the very same purpose.
During this particular Circuit of the Americas preview, a total of six drivers were out there throughout the day getting acclimated in significantly different-than-NASCAR platforms: B-Spec Mazda2s, Ford Fiestas, Mini Coopers, etc.
Apparently, NASCAR testing rules are pretty stringent. Rolling up to the track the week before with their tube-frame trucks and full crewd wasn’t an option, as the sanctioning body has limits on testing days, such as how many or when they can take place.
So, drivers use these little cars to stay fresh and competitive in another, albeit slower form of close-contact racing!