Drivers testing at Rockingham Speedway ahead of ‘Rock the Roval’ race

Robert Stremiska swings front at the Rockingham Speedway during the June 1 test for the upcoming summer Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge in July. Photography by William R. Tulare – Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM – Four drivers got a feel for the fantastic Rockingham Speedway on Wednesday afternoon in preparation for next month’s race.

The Carolina Ministock Summer Challenge, scheduled for July 2-3, is set to be the biggest race on the track in nearly a decade.

Chain manager Travis Provost said they expect to sell 25-30 cars for $5,000.

The purpose of the test, according to the program’s head, was to get a limited number of drivers to learn gears and other specs to share with other drivers “…so they could have a good base setup.”

All four cars on the track were rear-wheel drive, but Provost said he hopes there will be some front-wheel-drive cars during open testing before the race.

Three drivers – Michael Tucker, Shane Kanip and Robert Strmska – were behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang while Lee Koczykowski drove a Toyota.

“These are some of the best players in our series,” Provost said. “They want everyone to come in and be their best.
According to the CMSC website, Strmiska holds the series records in Myrtle Beach, Dillon Speedway, and Goodyear’s All American Speedway in Jacksonville.

Gears “really are key to everything when it comes to racing,” Canep said.

“We think we have a real good gear ratio here,” Canep said. “We’ve learned a lot for sure, so far. Every time we go out, we meet up, so that’s a good sign.”

During an earlier test on the full oval, Provost said one driver hit about 150 mph in a Honda Civic.

“This is cooking in a 4-cylinder car,” Provost said. “We feel more confident on the oval because these guys don’t carry as much speed across the track as they do on the circuit.”

Also during the elliptical test, the brigadier general said drivers found they needed to lift the cars up to keep them off the ground.

He put Canipe under car #1 and bend the chassis and rear end into Turn 1.

“It’s just about showing how much of the acceleration force is going off at these corners,” Provost said.

During the highway open house in March, Allison Legacy series drivers competed in a race around the bus.

This configuration drove drivers down the front extension of the track, rounding Turns 1 and 2 into the back extension, then briefly onto the main oval at Turn 3 and back onto the playing field between Turns 3 and 4.

The Summer Showdown’s itinerary design takes drivers around Turns 1 and 2 of the oval, then down along Thunder Alley and onto the field road course before Turn 3. From there, they’ll drive the road down the back and turn around the front extension of the road track, back to the oval At turn 4.

“These guys are having a blast,” Provost added. “A lot of these guys have never taken a road trip, so they come back with their jaws dropped, their eyes wide open and smiling like Cheshire cats.”

One of the biggest challenges on the road, Kaneby said, is that most drivers don’t have braking experience.

“When you go through Turn 1 and 2 there and you’re wide open, that’s definitely an adrenaline rush,” Canep said. “You just have to be careful to slow down because … we don’t have good brakes on these cars.

“We’ll take what we’ve learned and go from there.”

Canipe was previously at Rockingham a test run for the ill-fated CARS Tour.

This event was originally scheduled for March 6, 2021 but was postponed to November 6. However, promoters announced a delay in September, due to a tire shortage at Hoosier.

While Wednesday’s drivers were using Hoosiers, Provost said the summer show will have the open tire base.

The test cars were equipped with street tread tires, which Provost said reduce some speed and produce different heat transfer, but are “designed to turn into circles.”

“It’s interesting to see what happens after about 15, 20 laps on the track…turning left and right,” Provost said.

Kaneby said the junior stock drivers are a tight-knit group.

“We help each other out, and if it wasn’t for each other’s help, it wouldn’t be as fun as it is,” Canep said.

After the round, CMSC will head to another recently revived state track, North Wilkesboro Speedway. Both of these races will be pointless events.

“It’s such a pleasure to come here and ride on these tracks that these drivers went full speed,” Kaneby said of the two legendary detours. “It’s hard to fathom this trophy (cars) and trucks with all that horsepower…Rockingham has always been a show.

“We’re excited to get some racing cars back here, hear the engines… and have some fun.”

According to the event description, 20 fans will be paired up with drivers and the individual participating with the winner will receive $500.

“If we can do a good race at the end of the day and put on a show for the fans, that’s it,” Provost said.

Click here to see more photos from the test.

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