Texas Motor Speedway

Texas Motor Speedway needs to fix track for sake of fans

A few fans stuck around until the end of the rain-delayed and rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.
A few fans stuck around until the end of the rain-delayed and rain-shortened AAA Texas 500 on Sunday. Star-Telegram

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage should immediately call his boss, Speedway Motorsports Inc. executive chairman Bruton Smith, with a simple message: It’s time to repave Texas Motor Speedway.

Not in two or three years. Now.

Fifteen years is about the lifespan for asphalt on a racetrack, and Texas has unequivocally reached that point. Gossage and Smith both know this. Or should know this. The track was last repaved in 2001.

Who cares if drivers like older asphalt? Fans don’t like sitting in rain delays when it hasn’t rained for hours. They don’t want to watch the Dallas Cowboys on Big Hoss TV when they’re at the site of the world’s largest TV for racing.

The spring NASCAR Sprint Cup race ended past midnight because of overnight rainfall. The IndyCar race scheduled for June was hit with about 30 minutes of steady downfall and had to finish in August.

And Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 also had about 30 minutes of rain just before the scheduled 1 p.m. start and didn’t go green-flag racing until more than six hours later.

That’s unacceptable.

It’s one thing to blame Mother Nature, but we’re not talking about torrential rain rolling through. This has been minimal stuff in the big picture.

“It rains,” Gossage said, shaking his head afterward. “We’re going to have to talk it over. This is not just a decision to be made in Texas; it’s a decision to be made in corporate. I’m sure we’ll talk to drivers, talk to NASCAR. I can’t tell you yes or no. We’ll see.”

A new top layer would go a long way in helping the track dry in a more timely fashion. Over time, as Gossage has explained in-depth, the asphalt has created small spaces and holes for water to penetrate.

That means the best way to dry the track is with heat, a time-consuming endeavor. Gossage also blamed the humidity levels Sunday, saying new asphalt may have taken just as long to dry.

But nobody seemed to buy that as the reason for the long delay. It’s the old surface more than anything.

As driver Joey Logano said after his runner-up finish Sunday: “You can’t have a racetrack that takes that long to dry. You can’t have that.”

Yes, being in the North Texas climate doesn’t help matters, and Gossage has explained multiple times about the track’s “porous asphalt.”

But most racing fans don’t care about how asphalt ages or the multiple layers as to why the track struggles to dry and drain. They only care about enjoying the event they paid to see, preferably at the scheduled time.

No other venue in the area would require hours — or months — to get the playing conditions ready after only 30 minutes of rainfall.

A repave job costs about $5 million. But the time has come.

TMS shouldn’t want to be known as a venue that needs perfect weather conditions to run. Weather issues and delays happen with all sports, but 30 minutes of rain shouldn’t lead to a six-hour delay. Much less a two-month postponement.

Yes, drivers love the older asphalt because it’s slicker and bumpier and makes for “better racing.” Gossage has taken this into consideration long enough, and still isn’t willing to give it up even after the hand Mother Nature dealt him in 2016.

“You’ve got these drivers saying, ‘Don’t repave. Don’t repave. Don’t repave,’ ” Gossage said. “So we’ll have to think about it for a while.”

Why?

This isn’t the PGA Tour where the top names may skip a tournament if they don’t like the course or playing conditions. NASCAR and IndyCar drivers are obligated to come to Texas.

Sure, the track goes out of its way to make them as comfortable as possible and fulfill their “needs,” but the speedway doesn’t owe them anything more than making sure the track is as safe as possible.

Who cares if a fickle minority in that bunch moans about new asphalt? Isn’t racing in front of more fans better?

As Gossage always says, everyone works for the fans. Fans are the lifeblood of the sport, and TMS and the sanctioning bodies haven’t done themselves any favors of late in keeping or attracting them.

The IndyCar race wasn’t called until 10:30 p.m. on its scheduled day in June and there were minimal updates during the delay Sunday. Holding fans hostage in that manner isn’t a way to entice them to come back, or getting some positive word-of-mouth around town.

The track has a terrific refund policy in case of weather delays or postponements, but the goal should be that fans never have to use it. When they take off work or schedule a vacation around the race they should … well, see the race.

With all three race weekends being wrecked by rain in 2016 and multiple other weather-plagued weekends in recent years, there’s no reason to contemplate it any more for Gossage.

The time has come. Repave the track. Beg Bruton for the money to do it.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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