EAST COUNTY — On a cool, sunny day at Bradenton Motorsports Park, a cloud of smoke fills the air as a racecar engine revs and sends the vehicle’s wheels spinning wildly in place.
Pro stock car racers, including Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin, make regular visits to the track, located off State Road 64 next to DeSoto Speedway, during their offseason, from now through April.
The visits are crucial to racers’ performances in the coming months because they use the facility as a testing ground for new equipment — motors, tires and other parts — and technology.
In a racing class in which hundredths of a second — or even thousandths of a second — can mean the difference between first and second place, testing the viscosity of oil, the rubber of tires and other components of racing is critical for a driver’s success.
“Fine-tuning what you have is (critical),” said Coughlin, who has posted 71 career wins. “Once we start our season, we try (not to make too many changes).”
Johnson, who won his first National Hot Rod Association Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championship in 2012, agreed, noting his team tests parts at its engine shop in Tennessee, before coming to Bradenton Motorsports Park.
“We come here and we beat on these parts even more,” he said, smiling. “We (perform about) 200 test runs a year. The people who test the hardest are usually the best.”
Both racers said the park’s track is top-notch, with a good, consistent race-track surface. Florida’s climate in the winter, with high barometric pressure and low humidity, makes it an ideal training ground.
Bradenton Motorsports Track Manager Jeff Miller said the public can watch pro racers practice for free, if they are onsite, but he also encourages the public to attend regular racing events, which cost $14. Races are scheduled 50 of 52 weeks per year. Locals also can participate in various drag races for $20, which includes the cost of admission.
For more information about Bradenton Motorsports Park, visit bradentonmotorsports.com.
About pro stock car racing:
• Pro stock racecars can travel 60 feet in less than 1 second.
• Pro stock racecars can travel one-quarter mile in less than 6.5 seconds.
• Pro racers use the offseason to prepare tires for the upcoming race season. They perform up to four burnouts on each tire, before the tires are ready to be used in races. Race-team members measure each tire, which expands and contracts differently following burnouts, so the tires can be matched exactly. Having tires of different sizes on the racecars can cause safety hazards or slower race times.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].