After a season in which every race had weather-related delays, Texas Motor Speedway has been forced to do the inevitable — repave its track.
Drivers prefer the aging asphalt, but the track couldn’t continue to hold fans hostage when minimal rainfall caused hours-long delays.
“The real reason we’re doing this is the fans,” TMS President Eddie Gossage said on a conference call Friday. “We felt like it was something we had to do to ensure when the fans come to the racetrack that the track is going to dry quickly and we can get back to racing and they can get what they came for.
“It really isn’t a difficult decision because you always want to please the fans. The initial response you’re going to get from drivers is an immediate, ‘No, don’t do it.’ … But there really wasn’t a choice. We needed to do this.”
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Gossage wouldn’t discuss the estimated cost of the project, but the typical price tag for these types of things is around $5 million. The goal is to have it completed by March 1, Gossage said, a little more than a month before the 2017 season opens April 7-9 with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend.
TMS last repaved its track in the summer of 2001, and its age has shown in recent years. The 2016 season couldn’t have been more evident that it was time to repave it.
The spring NASCAR race ended past midnight because of rainfall. In June, a weekend of light rain forced IndyCar drivers to return and finish their race in August. November’s NASCAR race was delayed more than six hours and finished as rain began falling.
The project will also include construction of an extensive drainage system and a re-profiling of the 1.5-mile track that reduces the banking in Turns 1 and 2 by four degrees and widens the racing surface from 60 to 80 feet.
The reduced banking should decrease lap speeds and open up additional passing opportunities for drivers, something that is aimed at providing more action for fans.
“For years, I’ve heard the absurd comments about 1.5-mile tracks being tagged as ‘cookie-cutter’ tracks,” Gossage said. “While nothing could be further from the truth — all 1.5-mile tracks are different — this assures once and for all that Texas Motor Speedway is unique, unlike any other track in the sport.”
TMS announced that Justin-based Lane Construction Corp. will handle the repaving project. The company has paved several tracks around the country since 2003, including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.
Lane will use an asphalt mix similar to the surfaces at other Speedway Motorsports Inc. tracks such as Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
TMS will also implement ways to “age” the new asphalt, which the drivers should like. Gossage mentioned the “Texas Tire Monster,” a device used in 2001 to lay rubber in the track.
“We’ve learned ways to prep asphalt,” Gossage said. “Is it new asphalt? Yes, but we’re going to do everything we can to make it feel like it has a lot of years under it before they race on it.”