The staff of the Gateway Dirt Nationals are attempting to talk management of The Dome into allowing more banking for 2018
The first year of the Gateway Dirt Nationals saw a track that was hooked up and full of moisture. Holes in the surface sent cars flying through the air down the front straight while still on the throttle. It was a tight track which forced a lot of brake to get the cars to rotate.
The second year was very different. First, the track was widened by about 10 feet on each side. A lip was installed on the inside of both turns which mostly prevented cars from using the concrete to circle the track. In addition, the track was slick as ice.
I like both versions, don’t get me wrong. It’s still my favorite race track. It’s just…
I didn’t know you could take a track that looked so similar and make it drive so differently.
“We learned a lot last year [in 2016],” Kevin Gundaker told RacingNews.co . “We went into that building the first year, we had no notebook. We didn’t have any game plan. We didn’t have anything. We opened the door and started moving dirt. We kinda winged it, through the whole thing and it turned out good.”
“This year, going in we had a game plan. We had a notebook of things we should do, things we shouldn’t do. How much water we can and can’t put on.”
“We had something we could go back to and say, yep that worked. Oh, this one didn’t work. Oh, this other one really didn’t work at all, throw that one out completely. We need to tweak on this other one a little.”
“We were able to make it better this year. From the start of this year, we had a bare floor. We could make our turns and our radiuses. We could lay our concrete barriers down and start working.”
“Last year, there was some dirt already in there and we had to work around everything. It was a lot harder. The Monster Truck dirt was already in there.”
“This year, we could lay the barriers down and put dirt directly to the barriers.”
With how slick it was… Was that the goal?
“Did we want it slick? Yes, to a point. Cause we can pack it tighter. The other thing you don’t think about was no element. No wind, no sun, no humidity, no mother nature to deal with. So, it doesn’t draw moisture up. Humidity draws moisture to the surface.”
“We’re in a confined environment. It maintained a certain level of temperature, the whole time we’re in there. It’s very hard to figure out how much you do and how much you don’t do without overdoing it.”
“At Tri-City Speedway [An outdoor track], if we water it a little too much, we can wait on it and it will go away. There if you overwater it, just a little bit, you’ve got a lot of problems.”
And you can’t really get it back at that point?
“No. We need a water vac so to speak,” Gundaker says with a laugh.
What about the size? Did you like the size better?
“This year it was just a little bigger than last year. We were able to do that because after last year they gave us a little bit more [room] after they saw what went on. So, they gave us a little bit more room to work with.”
“So, we got 10 feet on either side to bring the straight-away’s out further. So, we were able to make the corners just a little bit more sweeping. It helped on entry and exit, where you weren’t pinched off.”
“Last year, especially coming off turn 2, a lot of guys got in that rail. This year, you didn’t see that. One, we moved that opening forward a bit. Two, we’re 20 feet wider.”
I like both of those tracks. I still see them as two completely different race tracks. I liked elements of each. But, I’m not thinking I liked the wider version. I think it turned into a bit of a circle and took out the braking zone at the same time.
“You say a circle. We’ve already sat down and talked about things for year three. To change the way it races.”
“One of the things, we had kind of a tall berm on the inside.”
I loved that.
“Yeah. But, the downfall to that was guys were able to hook their left front on there and it pulls them around. Now, everybody wants to run there because it’s like a slot car track in a way.”
“We don’t want that. We want them to venture out a lane or a lane and a half.”
I thought that was one of the coolest and most unique aspects. Because, every once in awhile they’d mess it up completely. They’d take too much of the berm or skip over it and have to get out of the gas. I think that’s a good thing when drivers mess up and make mistakes.
“Oh yeah. If you noticed, we really didn’t have the tire issue we had either. Where guys were really filleting the tires like they did last year.”
“There’s pro’s and con’s to everything we do. We’ve sat down and talked about it while it was fresh in our minds. We’re going to make it better yet for year three.”
What direction are you thinking?
“Little tweaks, it’s nothing huge. We’re trying to get them to allow us to put a little more banking in. They only allow us so much banking. They don’t wanna make a ramp to the grandstands. I understand their point.”
“So, we’re working within the confines of the building. People don’t understand, in turns 3-4, we can’t go any longer because theres a tunnel underneath the floor. We are allowed to drive on that tunnel. But, we are not allowed to put anything permanent over that tunnel.”
“It looks like there’s a lot of room there, and there is. But, we’re up to 1″ of being on top of the tunnel. So, in order for us to be longer on the straight-away, we need to be on that tunnel. But, we can’t put anything permanent on the tunnel.”
“Then, on the turns 1-2 end, the city fire marshal requires us to leave X amount of feet incase they have to bring an emergency vehicle in there. Which is understandable, the safety aspect.”
“That tunnel deal, we could go 20 feet longer if it wasn’t for that tunnel aspect.”
What about the braking zone? I feel like the wider version took out the braking zone which is another way of saying a passing zone.
“It did and it didn’t. The braking zone was still there. We flirted with a couple different aspects on Friday night. We had one race track in the first feature and we had another race track in the second one.”
“The second one was a little drier. It was a little drier than I wanted it. Cody wanted to get going. He didn’t want to waste anymore time on the second feature’s track prep. He wanted to get it in and still be out at a good time frame.”
“I understand that and I think we were done before 10pm. Which I thought was very respectable for the amount of stuff we ran through there.”
When you drive those tractors over there do you have to get some kind of permit or something?
“Well, we just drive them over. We do it on a Sunday. On Sunday, there’s no traffic. The biggest part of the problem is the bridge. We go across the East bridge here. We just gotta be careful.”
Is that legal? I’m from the city. So, I’m not sure about farming laws.
“You can drive farm machinery. That’s why we stay off the interstates though too. We go down Highway 3 and cut across. We go all backroads.”
For 2018, the Gateway Dirt Nationals is now a bigger show. In addition to the Late Model / Modified program. They have also added dirt midgets to ticket.
The race inside The Dome will run from Thursday (Nov 29) – Saturday (Dec 1).
Related: Kevin Gundaker talks the risk of hosting a national touring series
Related: Midgets added to the 2019 Gateway Dirt Nationals
Related: Dirt Sprint Car and Midget test at the Gateway Dirt Nationals (VIDEOS)
Related: Cody Sommer’s thoughts after the open wheel test at Gateway
Related: Driver Landon Simon comments after his Gateway open wheel test
Related: St. Louis wasn’t the first choice for the Gateway Dirt Nationals
Related: Discussing marketing of the Gateway Dirt Nationals
Related: The economic impact of the Gateway Dirt Nationals
Related: Gateway Dirt Nationals Results – December 16, 2017 (Late Models)
Related: Gateway Dirt Nationals Results – December 17, 2016 (Late Models)