For improving traction at Rockford Speedway, Coke is it

Doug Goodman

Things go better with Coke, including race cars.

Rockford Speedway proved that last Saturday night when Coke syrup was sprayed on the inside lane in the corners to improve traction.

The result was positive.

“I was very pleased,” said Gregg McKarns, the track’s general manager. “I don’t think you could have asked for much better racing than what we had Saturday night.”

Maintaining adequate grip on the inside lane in the turns is always tough on the tight, quarter-mile track. But it became more difficult after the World Famous Trailer Race on Aug. 2.

The track used a heavy-duty sweeper to clean debris from the racing surface after the trailer race. The sweeper also removed much of the built-up rubber than provides traction for the race cars.

“It took it right back down to bare pavement,” McKarns said.

The drivers had a hard time running the inside groove in the turns the next Saturday night.

McKarns decided it was time for some super-sticky Coke syrup.

“I just felt the on-track product needed a little bit of help,” he said of the racing Aug. 9.  “The drivers wanted to race and weren’t able to pull to the inside and pass. We wanted to make sure they were able to do that.”

A proven method

The idea of applying Coke syrup is nothing new. Dave Gough Sr. applied it to an indoor track built for midget and go-kart races in Rockford’s MetroCentre in 1987. He later did it for indoor races elsewhere in the Midwest.

“It really works good,” Gough said.

Gough doesn’t know who came up with the idea. He learned about it from midget racer Duke Cook, who saw it used at an Ohio track.

McKarns sought out Gough’s expertise, as well as advice from other Midwest tracks that have used syrup in the past.

“So it was an educated application. I didn’t just go into it blind, by any sense,” McKarns said, noting that syrup hadn’t been used on the track at the Speedway in its 61-year history.

The experience was a bit scary for the general manager.

“I haven’t been that nervous since my daughter was born,” he said. “When you put it down it is kind of gooey right off the bat, and there are definitely some slick spots.

“All I’m thinking was, ‘Oh, man. This isn’t going to be good. Guys are going to go inside and be spinning out all night.’ ”

His fears were unwarranted.

“It took a few laps to get heat in the tires before you could tell the difference,” said Late Model driver Matt Berger, who started ninth and passed a couple of cars on the inside before finishing fifth.

“It seemed a little more greasy at first, but when you got heat in the tires, I think it definitely got better.”

Sprayed on track

Track staff finished spraying five gallons of syrup, which costs $52, in the turns by 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Forty minutes later, it was ready for racing.

The spraying ended 30 feet from the exit of the turns. McKarns thought the next application would likely be extended to 80 feet out of the turns.

“We’re still fine-tuning it,” he said. “We’ll do it again next time, and then we’ll see what the rubber buildup is like after that.”

But for at least a couple of weeks, Coke syrup has come to the rescue of racing at Rockford Speedway.

“You could still see the sparkle under the lights of the Coke syrup after the last feature of the evening,” McKarns said.

Doug Goodman can be reached at (815) 987-1386 ordgoodman@rrstar.com.