(Original story from Speed51, posted with permission from Speed51)
The sound of race cars graced the Gresham Motorsports Park for the first time since 2014 during a successful tire test on Wednesday in advance of the May 17 return to the Georgia track. Super Late Model stars Stephen Nasse and Bubba Pollard were on hand with race promoters Tim Bryant and Bob Dillner for the session to get an idea of how the track had changed in the years it sat dormant.
Nasse was the first driver to make a lap around the track in six years. One of the key characteristics of the half-mile was always the level of grip it had since the track underwent a transformation as the Peach State Speedway. He was surprised with what he found after his first run.
Having competed in the final race at Gresham to date, Nasse was excited to turn laps once again.
“It felt really good, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I’ve been here,” Nasse told Speed51.com. “It feels just about the same, but just a lot more grip. The rocks I feel like are a little bit more in the track, there’s no rubber out there. I feel like it’ll eat away at the tires right away. Once you get some of the rubber on it the track will lose some of its grip unfortunately, but it has tons of it. It’s fun to be out there and to be able to do this deal. The car felt really good and I’m looking forward to May.
“I was fairly surprised, I thought it would take me a couple practices to get my bearings back underneath me, but right away the car felt pretty good and the track felt good to me,” he continued. “The track had tons of grip, that’s always fun to be on. I think it’s going to race really well, it’s just going to be on the bottom that’s the fastest way around the track for the first race.”
Pollard echoed the same sentiment after completing his first laps on-track, expecting a surface more similar to the abrasiveness of Five Flags Speedway. An eight-time winner at Gresham, he left the test satisfied overall with how it went.
“It was a lot different than what I expected, really. I thought we were going to come here and it was going to be something similar to Pensacola, worn out and rough. It really does have a lot of grip, right back to its old self really,” Pollard said. “The color’s faded just a little bit but that’s really the only thing that’s different. It’s still got some of the bumps, some of the character is still in the racetrack, but there’s still a lot of grip. Still fast, still fun.
“I feel like we have a pretty good combination of what we need. The tire still generated a lot of heat like it used to. We really don’t know what to expect,” he added. “Just trying to get the heat down in them, make sure they didn’t blister or wear too much and I think we found a pretty good combination of where we need to be when we come back race time.”
Both drivers are looking forward to the May 16-17 weekend when the Southern Super Series and CARS Super Late Model Tour return to Gresham.
“This facility was ahead of its time when they were really racing here. I think it’ll be good to get the fans back out here. That was really the only struggle we ever had,” said Nasse. “I think people are really serious about it and know something like this can just disappear. It was gone for seven years and that really disappointed a lot of people. Hopefully people put more effort into coming out here, they need people in the stands to pay the bills and we can’t just do it all. It would be really cool to see it and I think they’re going to pack the place.”
Living only a hundred miles away in Senoia, Pollard looks forward to reopening another racetrack in the Peach State, giving his friends and family the opportunity to see him compete.
“This is a place where I kind of grew up racing and it’s still close enough to where a lot of friends and family can come and watch a race normally don’t get to. We have to travel four or five hours to go race so it’s going to be cool for us,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of people, the fans around here has got a lot of friends in this area that’s coming out and I think it’s going to be big for short track racing. Hopefully we’ll get Mr. Gresham excited about going back racing and open this place up, we need more racetracks in Georgia. Lanier opened up a couple months ago and that was awesome, it was what we needed. The more racing in Georgia is better, so I’m excited for what’s to come into 2020 and into the future.”
Race promoters Tim Bryant and Bob Dillner were satisfied with how the day went, garnering up much-needed information in advance of the race weekend.
“We got some good information, that’s what we came for today. We tried a couple different combinations, this racetrack is unique in that it always yielded a lot of grip,” Bryant stated. “That puts more heat in the tires and we wanted to make sure when we come here to race in May, we don’t have any tire issues and I don’t believe we will. We learned a lot and we’ll be making some decisions.
“We’re going to dissect all the information that we got today and come up with the right combination. The last thing we want to do is have racers come here and worry about tires,” he added. “Hoosier is a great company that takes their data and analyzes it, they’ll make a recommendation that’ll create good, safe racing.”
For both, an opportunity to see a lost racetrack come back to life had them feeling like kids in a candy store.
“Just to see a car and hear that sound again at Gresham Motorsports Park was pretty unbelievable,” remarked Dillner. “I actually texted a video to Jim Gresham, his family is giving us a blessing to bring this track back to life, and he was all pumped up. I think the drivers are excited. Stephen and Bubba did a good job, we accomplished everything we needed to today, and based on what we learned and how this track is now it’s going to be one heck of an event.”
“We literally all dropped what we were doing and watched [Nasse] cruise down the frontstretch the first lap. It was the beginning of something special, I believe,” Bryant echoed. “There’s been a lot of buzz about this race, we’ll have a good field of cars here and ultimately on May 17 I think we’ll see a heck of a race.”
For more information on the rebirth of Gresham Motorsports Park, visit www.speed51.com/gresham.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com