Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge teams return to the track this weekend at the new, 2.37-mile Kansas Speedway road course. The test – Saturday and Sunday – is the first of three sessions leading up to January's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Both series will be in action this week while a test limited to the Rolex Series only is scheduled at Daytona International Speedway on Nov. 13-14.
The inaugural Kansas race is set for Aug. 17, and is the 10th of 12 events on the 2013 Rolex Series schedule.
Among teams testing at Kansas is Michael Shank Racing, winner of the 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona and driver Ozz Negri.
"It's always a fun trip for the drivers to go learn a new track so I'm looking forward to the test," said Negri. "We were going to have AJ (Allmendinger) here with us but he's busy this weekend (at Martinsville Speedway's NASCAR Sprint Cup race). It's good for him, I'm happy to see him back racing well like he has.
"Obviously, we will be working to be ready for the Grand-Am race in Kansas but this test is also a big step in terms of focusing on the 24 and just doing the same kind of preparation that this team has always had so we can be ready to go on day one."
Team owner Shank says the test days are welcome after the wear and tear of the season.
"There are a lot of things we worked on through the season that we didn't get a chance to test, so this will be a good opportunity for us to keep working on this package and of course to learn what the cars like on this new track," said Shank.
Action Express Racing will work on driver-engineer communications as well as testing its Corvette DP. The organization pairs returning veteran Joao Barbosa with newcomer Burt Frisselle.
"That's our goal. Joao has a lot of experience and Burt worked with him in the past with the Rolex 24," said Elton Sawyer, AXR's director of race team operations. "We'll get him in a sprint (race) package and see how the guys interact, see how they all communicate."
Action Express participated in the Kansas tire test last month leading to high praise for the facility from Sawyer. "International Speedway Corp. has done a tremendous job," he said. "It's going to be a marquee event for our series."
Ted Marsh, owner of the No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette, will bring his two drivers – Eric Curran and Boris Said – to Kansas to test his GT car. Marsh plans to enter his first Rolex 24 with a third driver, Lawson Aschenbach.
"The layout is somewhat unique," said Marsh of the Kansas circuit, having watched the recent NASCAR Sprint Cup event at the track. "My crew was a bit worried after watching Sunday's race (with a record number of cautions) but we won't be even close to the limits of adhesion in the corners."
Roush Performance will send its No. 61 Mustang GS to the test along with drivers Billy Johnson, Joey Atterbury and Shelby Blackstock. Jack Roush Jr. had hoped to be part of the team but isn't sufficiently recovered from injuries suffered in a roll-over accident at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
"It's unfortunate he won't be able to make it," said Johnson. "I'll be calling him, keeping him up to date."
Johnson called next year's event a step forward for Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competitors. "It's great when Grand-Am can take us to a new facility and to a part of the country we haven't been to," he said.
Johnson also said the circuit appears to make significantly more use of the oval track – 90 % – than either Daytona or Indianapolis. "We'll have to drive it as an oval, line-wise," he said.
Fans will have access to the Kansas Speedway infield for both days of the test and should enter the speedway at Phoenix Drive off of State Avenue. Parking will be available in the Blue and White paved lots that are normally used for RV parking on race weekends. Fans will board a tram from those lots for access into the infield.