Phoenix surface has drivers concernced

Updated: November 10, 2011, 7:35 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Elliott Sadler didn't mince words when asked if he'd tried to make a pass on the new surface at Phoenix International Raceway.

"Heck no," Sadler said during Thursday's test session at the one-mile facility. "I actually got to the 82 (Reed Sorenson) that was about a half a second of a lap slower than I was. I really couldn't do anything with him.

"I didn't want to make a move, definitely on the outside, to make a pass."

With the Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series championships up for grabs with two races remaining, there is growing concern with how the surface will impact the racing and title runs this weekend at PIR.

Sadler, who is 17 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Nationwide Series, said the track as it is with only one groove may be a bigger wild card than Talladega.

"We have been fearing this race for the last three months," he said.

Brad Keselowski, who is fifth in the Cup standings where Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart are separated by only three points, said "we're all worried about what's going to happen."

He, too, was afraid to get out of the groove to pass. The few times he got into the high lane wasn't by choice.

"It found me and I found it," the defending Nationwide champion said. "We weren't looking for each other. It's just very, very slick. There's just a lack of stability."

NASCAR and the track have done what it can to rubber in the track since it was repaved and reconfigured after the February race. Sadler is hoping a few hot days will help bring in at least another half a lane "to create the kind of racing these guys want to see."

There is, however, a chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday that could change that.

Keselowski said it might take a year to make the track race-able.

"I don't think any of us know," he said. "I hate to make a guess because I've never been in this situation."

Aric Almirola said the track got better as Thursday's test went along, noting he picked up two seconds a lap from his early runs. But when asked if he tried to pass, the JR Motorsports drivers said, "No! Outside that one lane, it's pretty slick."

Drivers are hoping after two Cup practices and a Nationwide practice on Friday conditions will improve.

"At some point we've all got to man up and get out there and race, make it happen," Keselowski said. "There are obstacles every weekend. This is just a new set of obstacles."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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