Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage couldn’t have been more pleased with how his repaved and reconfigured track behaved in the opening race weekend.
After all, a common knock on new asphalt is that it breeds single-file racing with minimal movement among drivers. Well, on Sunday, Jimmie Johnson charged from the back of the field to win his record seventh Cup race at Texas.
“No one can criticize and say you can’t pass, ’cause the guy who started last finished first,” Gossage said. “He had to pass everybody at some point or another, so I think that alone speaks volumes for the success of it. And it’ll only get better with time.”
Yes, there were moments early when the surface showed its newness, particularly with four Cup cars having issues Friday during the first practice. During qualifying later that day, Johnson spun out on his second lap.
In the end, though, the track aged throughout the weekend with the more action it saw. And, as Gossage said, it should only improve.
Much like a new golf course, the surface takes time to mature. But the first impression shows the makings are there for something special.
Several drivers complimented the surface and see it becoming one of the better tracks. The lower banking and widened track through Turns 1 and 2 made for better racing too.
“I think it’s going to be really fun when it widens out,” Johnson said. “It was drivable finally, kind of midway point of the race on, but I’m really excited for when we come back and we actually run the middle to the high side in 1 and 2. The way we turn into Turn 1 right now, it’s so different than it’s ever been here.
“I think the track will change a lot in the next four to six trips that we come here, and it’s only going to get better.”
Added Kevin Harvick, who finished fourth: “The racing was better than it could have been. The track did a great job getting the race track ready.”
The track worked as much rubber into the surface as possible throughout the weekend. They even ran the “Texas Tire Monster” and the “Tire Dragon” late Saturday and early Sunday before the race.
It did enough to create lanes for Johnson to charge from the back to the front. The record book shows Johnson “started” 24th, but he had to start at the back because he had to change tires after the spin Friday.
So Matt Kenseth will still hold the record for farthest starting position of a race winner, 31st in the 2002 race.
All in all, Gossage and the track couldn’t have asked for a better race weekend to show off the new surface. Mother Nature even did the track a favor with clear skies after rain plagued every race weekend a year ago.
“Last year … that was tough stuff,” Gossage said. “There’s nothing you can do about the weather, but really relieved we had these cloudless skies all weekend. It was perfect.”
With time, the same will be said about the reconfigured track.
“Drivers are tweeting congratulations on the paving job and the re-profiling and you never hear that kind of thing,” Gossage said. “So you’ve got to be proud and it’s only going to get better. It is special and unique — unlike anything else on the circuit. So you’ve got to be ecstatic moving forward.”