Texas Motor Speedway underwent a necessary evil this offseason by repaving its racing surface.
Drivers prefer the older surfaces.
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota, made his preferences known at Martinsville Speedway. Yes, the same — and only — driver who blamed Goodyear tires for his disappointing run at the season-opening Daytona 500 in February.
“I hate repaves,” said Busch, a two-time winner at Texas. “But it’s part of our schedule, it’s a part of our sport. Five years from now, six years from now, it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to that aspect of it. Right out of the gate, going there, trying to put rubber down, it’s slick, man.
“I don’t necessarily look forward to repaves, but we got one coming up, so got to do what we know. There’s really no homework to do.”
Despite Busch and other drivers complaints about next weekend’s race, TMS had no choice.
Lengthy rain delays that wrecked every race weekend last year forced TMS’ hand. Along with repaving the surface, the track also reconfigured it by lowering the banking in Turns 1 and 2 by four degrees and widening it.
The only NASCAR driver who has driven on the new surface is Prosper native Chris Buescher, and just about every driver in the garage watched that video. None of them, though, know what to make of it.
“I don’t think anyone knows what to expect,” said Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet.
“I’m shocked that we didn’t get a whole day of testing to try to get the car set up … not even setting up the cars, but getting some rubber on the track and having a lot of cars out there. So I don’t really know what to expect.”
TMS has tried to work as much rubber into the new surface as possible with the “Texas Tire Monster,” as well as the “Tire Dragon” sent by sister track Kentucky Speedway.
But, as McMurray said, that isn’t the same as having actual race cars working rubber into it. NASCAR opted to keep its normal racing schedule despite the repave.
The Cup cars will hit the new pavement for the first time at 11 a.m. Friday for its first practice with qualifying later that day at 5:15 p.m.
There will be two additional practices on Saturday before the green flag drops for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Clock for Bruton
Jimmie Johnson didn’t win his 10th grandfather clock on Sunday as the Martinsville winner, but he spoke earlier in the week about why he opted to give his ninth to Bruton Smith, executive chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., TMS’ parent company.
Johnson recalled trick-or-treating with some of Smith’s family, and spoke with him on the phone. During that conversation, Johnson could tell Smith coveted Martinsville’s grandfather clock and offered to give him his ninth.
“I said, ‘It would be an honor to give you that trophy,’ ” Johnson said. “I’m just very appreciative for what he has done for our sport, all of us know, but I think when we look back at the history of our sport he is mentioned later in the conversation. But he is very much one of the reasons why our sport is where it is today.”
TMS president Eddie Gossage loved seeing a driver of Johnson’s magnitude recognize his boss in that fashion.
“It just shows you the regard in which Bruton is held,” Gossage said. “I wish all the drivers would show their appreciation for what he’s done for them because he single-handedly has raised the bar for the sport with the venues. Bruton’s tracks have always, always led the charge.”
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
12:30 p.m. Sunday, Texas Motor Speedway
TV: KDFW/4 (Fox)