Kevin Gundaker: “Between, Thursday-Friday, we’ll use around 80,000 gallons of water.”
I think some people think you open up the gates at a dirt track, roll out the water truck once or twice on race day and throw the green flag. Oh man is that incorrect.
Tri-City Speedway is getting ready to host the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series tonight in Pontoon Beach, IL just outside of St. Louis. Track prep for the Friday night show began 6 days ago.
When I went over to the track on Thursday, track owner Kevin Gundaker was nowhere in sight. Why? At 5pm, he was driving across town to find a replacement tire for the water truck and a battery for one of the push trucks. He was getting prepared to turn some leisurely laps around the 3/8-mile in a high powered water truck later that evening.
When he was done changing out that battery I had some questions…
If you’re getting ready for a show on Friday. When does the track prep start?
“It starts on Saturday after our last show,” Kevin Gundaker tells RacingNews.co .
That’s what I figured you’d say. But why?
“It generally takes all week to do what you wanna do. One, we pull the cushion back down. If we have any issues with the track itself then we turn the whole track up. You know, if we get a hole or something, we try to fill it back in. Sheeps foot it back in.”
Then, constantly work it all week. By Tuesday or Wednesday, we’ve got a good finished surface again.”
“Thursday, I’ll start putting water back on it about 8PM.”
So, you spend Saturday-Tuesday just shaping it back to the way it’s suppose to be shaped?
“It depends really on what we have on a race night too. If we have extreme conditions — If it gets real hard, real black then it takes a little bit more time to re-prep it so to speak. Just because you have to turn more up and it’s harder to turn back up.”
“So, if it’s really hard or really black slick, what you have to do is water it first. Then, you let it sit for 4-5 hours. It’ll soak into the track some, then it’s soft enough for you to turn it back up.”
Why do you have to start watering it a couple days ahead of time?
“It takes time for moisture to get into the ground. This time of the year, not so much because there’s been a lot of moisture from the wintertime. You have to have soak time because if you don’t — If you go out there and water it and try to race on it within an hour or two of putting the water down. All you’ve done is you’ve watered the top layer and not the hard pack.”
So, you water the top layer, then flip it and water the layer that was below that?
“We don’t actually flip it. Right now, the track is what we call ‘Open’ which is tilled up. The water will actually take and seep into the ground. We’ll get it 2-3-4 inches deep and we’ll be happy for race day.”
“Then, we’ll water it all day, race day. Between, Thursday-Friday, we’ll use around 80,000 gallons of water.”
Weather plays a role
“You use different kinds of equipment. In the middle of July when it gets really hot, we’ll use what’s called an aerator. We’ll use a spike hoe to poke holes in it. So, the water gets deeper in the ground. When it’s 90 degree’s outside, you’re gonna chase it all day.”
Are you trying to accomplish the same track each night come feature time? Or do you mix it up?
“We can mix it up. We try to duplicate a lot of the things we do because we have pretty good racing. We’re 2-3 wide racing, most the time.”
“Then, there’s times that mother nature deals us a fit. We’ll have a 95 degree day where you can’t put enough water on it. You know it’s going to be hard and slick that night. Just because you can’t get moisture in the ground.”
Do you have a rainfall gauge?
“We do. But, still you gotta go by what happens on Thursday and Friday, not what happened on Monday or Tuesday.”
“We were hard last week. We really didn’t get much rainfall at all this week, very little. So, we didn’t get very much help from mother nature this week. Granted, I’m very thankful for the weather that’s coming.”
The middle of the summer is the hardest time on the track prep workers across the country. Those are the elements that cause constant attention.
“If it’s 95 and windy, it’s hard to keep up with the racetrack.”
Today’s forecast has a high of 71 degree’s. There’s also a 0% chance of rain, which is fantastic, given the six recent rainouts for the Lucas Oil Late Models.