Friday, November 20, 2009

NASCAR Tracks: Homestead-Miami Speedway

This is another post in a series on the NASCAR Sprint Cup tracks. I started this series when the 2008 season began, and planned to feature each track as it came up on the schedule. Due to a couple of unscheduled absences from the Internet, I still haven't quite finished the whole list two full seasons later. I'm planning to profile the few remaining tracks before the start of the 2010 season. Here's the list thus far.

Green flag for the 2008 Miami 100 at the Homes...Image via Wikipedia

Homestead-Miami Speedway is located in Homestead, Florida, southwest of Miami. Florida developer and promoter Ralph Sanchez proposed building the track to help the area recover from Hurricane Andrew.  With financial backing from H. Wayne Huizenga, groundbreaking began on August 24, 1993, exactly one year after the hurricane. The first race, the Jiffy Lube Miami 300, a Busch (Nationwide) Series race, was held on November 5, 1995, and was won by Dale Jarrett.

When the track first opened it was a four-turn, rectangular oval, a smaller 1.5-mile version of Indianapolis Motor Speedway with long 1760-ft. straightaways, flat turns and short chutes.  The racing was not good.  The flat, almost 90° turns made passing difficult, and the geometry of the track created severe crash angles.  In 1997, the track was reconfigured -- the turns were still a rather flat 6°, but the aprons were widened and the ends of the track were rounded off.  The track went from a rectangle to more of a traditional oval.

After a massive expansion that saw the seating capacity almost double, the NASCAR Winston (Sprint) Cup series made its debut at the track on November 14, 1999.  Tony Stewart won the inaugural Pennzoil 400.  2002 was the year of the first Ford Championship Weekend, with each of NASCAR's three national series all crowning their champions for the first time on the same weekend at the same track.

In 2003 Homestead-Miami Speedway was configured yet again.  The track's website describes this as "the most technologically advanced track-reconfiguration project in the history of motorsports: a $12 million re-banking project that transforms the track from a flat 6-degrees to a computer-designed 18-to-20-degree variable banking system in the turns."  Lights were added a short time later.  The racing is a lot better now.  There is much more side-by-side racing and you'll see drivers moving up and down the track to find the perfect line and the fastest way around.

The track is one of the most beautiful on the NASCAR schedule with soft pastels that evoke the art deco decor of Miami.  1005 palm trees line the track.  Four lakes were created in the construction of the banking.  Three of the lakes are on the speedway property, two are in the infield.  The largest lake covers 18 acres and is stocked with Peacock Bass.  HMS also has a 14-turn 2.2-mile infield road course that utilizes both oval straightaways.

Greg Biffle leads all drivers with three wins at HMS.  Jamie McMurray holds the Sprint Cup qualifying record, 181.111 mph, set in 2003.

In 2009, Homestead-Miami Speedway became the first track ever to host the championship races of six different racing series.  In addition to the season-enders for NASCAR's Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Truck Series on November 20-22, HMS also hosted the season-enders for the Indy Racing League, the Firestone Indy Light Series, and the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series on October 9-10.

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