Home Local Sports Drivers test at Rockingham Speedway ahead of ‘Rock the Roval’ race

Drivers test at Rockingham Speedway ahead of ‘Rock the Roval’ race

Robert Strmiska roars down the frontstretch of Rockingham Speedway's road course during a June 1 test for the upcoming Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge Summer Showdown in July. Photo by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — Four drivers got a feel for the Rockingham Speedway roval course Wednesday afternoon in preparation for next month’s race.

The Carolina Mini-Stock Challenge Summer Showdown, slated for July 2-3, is expected to be the largest race at the track in nearly a decade.

Series Director Travis Provost said they’re expecting to field 25-30 cars for a shot at a $5,000 purse.

The purpose of the test, according to Provost, was to have a limited number of drivers to figure out the gearing and other specs to share with the other drivers “…so they can have a good baseline setup.”

All four cars on the track were rear-wheel drive, but Provost said he’s hoping there will be some front-wheel drive cars during the open test prior to the race.

Three of the drivers — Michael Tucker, Shane Canipe and Robert Strmiska — were each behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang while Lee Kozikowski was driving a Toyota.

“These are some of the best guys in our series,” Provost said. “They want everybody to come and be as good as they can be.
According to the CMSC website, Strmiska holds the series track record at Myrtle Beach Speedway, Dillon Speedway and Goodyear All American Speedway in Jacksonville.

Canipe said gearing “is really the key to everything when it comes to racing.”

“We think we’ve got a real good gear ratio here,” Canipe said. “We’ve definitely learned a lot, so far. Every time we went out, we picked up, so that’s a good sign.”

During a previous test on the full oval, Provost said one of the drivers hit about 150 mph in a Honda Civic.

“That’s cookin’ in a 4-cylinder car,” Provost said. “We feel a little more confident on the roval course because these guys aren’t carrying the amount of speed through the track as they would doing the round track.”

Also during the oval test, Provost said drivers found they needed to raise the cars up to keep them off the ground.

Canipe bottomed out in the No. 1 car and bent the chassis and rear end going into Turn 1.

“It’s just a matter of showing you how much g-forces are going off in these corners,” Provost said.

During the speedway’s open house in March, the drivers of Allison Legacy Series competed in a race around the roval.

That configuration took drivers down the front stretch of the road course, rounding Turns 1 and 2 into the backstretch, then briefly onto the main oval at turn 3 and back to the infield between turns 3 and 4.

The roval layout for the Summer Showdown takes drivers around Turns 1 and 2 of the oval, then down the Thunder Alley backstretch and onto the infield road course just before Turn 3. From there, they’ll drive down the backstretch and loop around to the frontstretch of the road course, reentering the oval at Turn 4.

“These guys are having a blast,” Provost added. “A lot of these guys have never been on a road course, so they’re coming back with their jaws dropped, their eyes wide open and grinning like Cheshire cats.”

Canipe said one of the biggest challenges of the roval is that most of the drivers don’t have experience with braking.


“When you go through that Turn 1 and 2 over there and you’re wide open, it’s an adrenaline rush, for sure,” Canipe said. “You’ve just got to be careful getting slowed down because … we don’t have good brakes on these cars.

“We’re going to take what we learn and go from there.”

Canipe was previously at Rockingham testing for the ill-fated CARS Tour race.

That event had originally been scheduled for March 6, 2021 but was pushed back to Nov. 6. However, promoters announced a postponement in September, citing a Hoosier tire shortage.

While the drivers on Wednesday were using Hoosiers, Provost said the Summer Showdown will have an open-tire rule.

The cars for the test were outfitted with street-tread tires, which Provost said cuts some speed and produces a different heat transfer, but are “built to go in circles.”

“It’s interesting to see what’s going to happen about 15, 20 laps on a road course …turning left and right,” Provost said.

Canipe said the mini-stock drivers are a tight-knit group.

“We help each other and if it weren’t for us helping each other, it wouldn’t be as fun as it is,” Canipe said.

Following the roval, CMSC will head to the state’s other recently resurrected track, North Wilkesboro Speedway. Both of those races will be non-points events.

“It’s really fulfilling to come out here and get on these tracks that these drivers went full speed,” Canipe said about turning laps at the two legendary raceways. “It’s hard to fathom these Cup (cars) and trucks with all that horsepower … Rockingham was always a show.

“We’re just glad to get some race cars back out here and hear the engines roar … and just have some fun.”

According to the event description, 20 fans will be paired up with drivers and the individual partnered with the winner will receive $500.

“If we can have a good race at the end of the day and give the fans a show,” Provost said, “that’s what it’s all about.”

Click here to see more photos from the testing.

Previous articleLPGA stars come out ‘fore’ a worthy cause
Next articlePost 49 slides past Mocksville for second win of season
Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.