Track Prep Tech: Talking Static Drag vs Rotator With Prep Guru Kurt Johnson
Over the past few years, probably a decade or so to be generous, track prep methods ...
Over the past few years, probably a decade or so to be generous, track prep methods have changed drastically. From the time I was a kid up until the last few years, I never saw any of my local tracks “prep”. Even when I was racing myself, the only real work that went into the track was all done before the race and if there was an oil down during the event.
These days, you’ll see the prep tractors come out and prep as many as 3 times during a single round of qualifying or racing. Depending on the type of racing going on – slicks vs radials and heads up vs bracket/index – and the weather conditions, the prep team will use a static drag, with flattened strips made from old slicks, or a rotator that has 2 to 4 fully inflated slicks mounted to a mechanism that spins them backward in relation to the direction the travel is going,
Track prep guru Kurt Johnson of Total Venue Concepts took a few moments to explain the difference between the two, and when each type of drag is the better choice for creating ideal track conditions. Kurt is certainly one of the most knowledgeable and experienced tracks prep guys in the game, so if you’re going to learn this info from anybody, he’s one of the top guys.
According to Kurt, the static, or flat, drag is great for smoothing out the rubber layer on the track surface. It knocks down tall spots and moves that rubber to areas where the rubber is thinner. I imagine it sort of like a knife spreading peanut butter if that makes it easier to understand.
The rotator, Johnson continues, also smooths out the rubber, but adds a small layer of fresh rubber while doing so. This keeps some new rubber on the track during the day when bald spots might develop otherwise due to certain tire types actually ripping the rubber up as the cars go down the track.
Johnson also adds that, in general, the flat drag is better in the cool, while the rotator does better in the heat, but as you can imagine, those are not hard and fast rules. If you watch the prep routine during any race, there are several factors that go into deciding which drag to use, how often to use them, and how many laps to make during a prep session.