By: Ashley McCubbin
With eyes on wanting to put on the best Championship weekend they could, Phoenix Raceway began looking at ways to improve the racing at their facility.
Enter the traction compound.
Utilized at different tracks across the schedule, the black PJ1 put down allows for a groove to form on the track where otherwise it would not, whether due to new asphalt or other factors. Acting almost like grip tape, it allows a driver to be able to make a move there and take advantage of possibly someone running the conventional groove.
Now a couple years since the first application, and NASCAR has not looked back with the track growing a reputation of putting on stellar shows .
“I think they did a good job with the PJ1 of putting it where it needed to be,” Ryan Blaney told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “We worked on it for a couple races of, ‘OK, maybe it needs to be a little lower here. It needs to start here and here,’ to try to make the lanes even, but it just gives you options. That’s what you need. When you have a track that is limited on options, whether it’s the shape, the asphalt on it, the VHT stuff is good because it gives you those options if you do it right.
“I think they’ve been doing a good job of getting it right and getting it better throughout the years, for sure. But I think it’s helped the racing. It gives you multiple lanes to run in and that’s what people want to see, and not only the fans, but the drivers. The drivers don’t want single-file around the bottom either. That’s not fun for anybody, so I think they did a good job of opening that up and putting it down where it needs to be and I think it’s in a good spot.”
Although Blaney crashed out of the event last Spring, he has seen success at Phoenix since the beginning of the PJ1 application, scoring a top-six finish in his other four stars over the past two years.
His Team Penske teammate Austin Cindric has been able to do even better since the applications began, scoring the victory last year en route to being the crowned NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion.
“I definitely think it’s changed more than we realize,” Cindric commented. “It’s still somewhat of a track position race. It’s difficult to pass. You’re pretty handling limited at those racetracks, but if you go back and watch past Phoenix races and the lines that we use and the speed that we’re carrying into the corners, especially later in a run or side-by-side, a lot of normal laps with the traction compound we would have spun out and hit the wall, like especially in turns one and two with as flat as that is and there’s no grip.
“It’s pretty incredible, honestly. It would be bad if they took it away and you tried to do a lap immediately because you kind of have to reel it back in and get reacclimated because it makes a huge difference and you’re able to actually do some slide jobs and make moves if you have speed.”
Knowing how to use the PJ1 traction compound to your advantage, and when the lane is at its best has just become one of factors to being successful at Phoenix. CIndric says you also have to manage your tires, knowing how they fall off over the course of a run, as well as the handling of the car whether it be a short or long run.
“There are probably more factors at Phoenix than what there was a couple years ago,” he added. “I will say I’ve done more NASCAR races at Phoenix than any other racetrack, so there’s a certain comfort level with that knowing where you’re at. Obviously, I’ve been to enough of these places enough times in my career, but it’s definitely somewhere where I feel really comfortable.”