Although it’s early, this past weekend’s Colorado NAPA 150 at Colorado National Speedway is atop the leaderboard for “race of the year” candidate.
Most of the side-by-side, three (and sometimes four) wide racing and beating and banging can be attributed to a new racing surface around the 0.375-mile Dacono oval, the first time a total repave had been executed since the original surface was laid down in 1989.
Jim Nordhougen, owner/operator and promoter of CNS, said it may have been the best K&N Pro Series race he had seen in the 15 years he’d been at the track.
“As far as the talent and ability to run in a pack of five to six cars, shuffle positions and keep it all together, wow, very exciting,” he said. “Very good race, man.”
The K&N Pro Series has been visiting the Rocky Mountain track since 2007 every season, with trips from 1995-1996 as well as 2001 and 2004.
“It‘s probably one of the best (races) I‘ve seen,” Nordhougen said. “Sometimes all you need is 10-12 cars that are really making it happen with a few others to make it interesting.”
Nordhougen and the sanctioning body discussed competition cautions at laps 75 and 125 beforehand to attempt to avoid something that happened in the past at Colorado.
“We were at the point where we were concerned with-in the past, over eight years ago-we‘d prep the track and they did a record time finish,” he said. “Went green for 150 laps. Zero yellows. That was a good race, but restarts and bunching ’em back up to see who‘s really positioned where is really exciting. That took it to a little different outcome and pretty exciting to the fans throughout.”
The repave, which has been “overwhelmingly positive,” didn’t even take place in the offseason. Four races into their season, they got to work and finished in a jiffy.
“We started on a Sunday morning (preparing) the surface to level and were done by Thursday, racing on it the next Saturday,” he said reflecting in amazement at how quick the process wound up being. “It was really, really exciting for us. Re-inspired a lot of racers in the area. They‘re just so happy to run on a surface like that in this area. It‘s just great for everybody.”
The corners were repaved in 2004, but the front and backstretch were 30 years old. It was time for a change, and it’s seeming to have worked out. Kody Vanderwal set a track record and earned his first K&N pole and super late models have picked up 1.2 seconds from last year’s lap times.
Most importantly, though, Nordhougen has received feedback from fans that the racing is some of the best they’ve seen at CNS.
“It was overdue,” he admitted. “We‘re not down South and we freeze throughout the winter. The freeze and thaw in the water moves the asphalt quite a bit and we had some significant bumps in (Turns) one and two from heaving of the ground underneath. Boy, it was a great outcome. We‘re really happy with it.”