Carl Edwards joked that he would lay in front of the bulldozer whenever Texas Motor Speedway decides to repave its track. Jimmie Johnson would also hate to see new asphalt.
Drivers love older racing surfaces because it’s slicker and bumpier, allowing for better racing conditions.
As Johnson put it, “The smoother it is [as with newer racing surfaces], the more single-file racing there is. It’s harder to put the right tire on the car. So that’s why we love the older asphalt and the challenge it brings. And it’s just more fun to race on.
“It opens up the window to make the car go faster from a crew chief standpoint. From a driver standpoint, it opens up the window for what we do in the car. It’s just better.”
The downside to an older track is that it doesn’t drain as well. And Mother Nature hasn’t been kind to TMS of late, forcing rain delays and postponements that burden fans.
Much of it is because the racing surface — which was repaved 15 years ago — stays damp whenever it rains.
This is a catch-22 facing TMS president Eddie Gossage. He doesn’t want to upset drivers who can be a fickle bunch, but he also has to do what’s best for fans in limiting rain delays and postponements whenever possible.
The good news for Gossage and race fans is that rain isn’t in the forecast for this weekend’s races, headlined by the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.
“It’s something that you want to put off as long as you can,” Gossage said. “If we can avoid it, we’re going to avoid it. But we all work for the fans. They’re first and our ability to run a race is paramount. So if it rains yesterday and is causing problems today? We can’t have that.
“That’s not going to work.”
1 hour, 50 minutes Length of rain delay for the Sprint Cup race at Texas in April
Weather issues have become a headache for the track in recent years.
The IndyCar race in June was pushed back a day after an afternoon rain storm. But rains came during the action the following day, and the race was postponed until August.
In April, the Sprint Cup race ended after midnight following a two-hour rain delay.
Last fall, two Cup practice sessions were canceled the day before the race because of overnight rain.
And the Sprint Cup race in April 2014 was postponed a day because of rain.
“There is nothing you can do about Mother Nature. It’s very frustrating,” Gossage said. “Nobody is more dejected than I am when we have bad weather, so we just had a tough run but that’s how it goes.
“Never say, ‘Woe is me.’ Just deal with it. We’re due some really good weather.”
Gossage said there is no plan to repave the track anytime soon, and reiterated that the porous asphalt is favored by drivers.
The track has added drains, but the bigger issue is that the surface stays damp after it rains because of the high humidity.
“Conditions are never optimum for you to dry the track,” Gossage said. “We’ve studied some various ways to do this without affecting the surface. That’s a very tedious process.
“But we are near the end of the lifespan of this asphalt. We’re just wanting to stretch it as far as we can, not from an expense standpoint but a competition standpoint. We want to put on good races.”
There’s no easy solution to the looming problem. At some point the dependability of the surface drying during weather-plagued weekends will outweigh the competitive reasons to keep it.
“At that point, we’ll make a change,” Gossage said.
AAA Texas 500
1 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5