Texas Motor Speedway’s capital project, including repaving and re-profiling the racing surface, is ahead of schedule.
TMS President Eddie Gossage is excited about the progress being made and is eager to see how drivers handle the new layout.
The repaving portion of the project isn’t “sexy,” much like getting pipes repaired at a home, but the re-profiling should add subtle racing nuances when the NASCAR circuit returns in April for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 doubleheader April 7-9.
The track is reducing banking from 24 to 20 degrees in Turns 1 and 2, and expanding the racing surface from 60 to 80 feet. That should make for better racing that fans will notice more so than the repaved surface, which will make it easier to dry the track and avoid lengthy rain delays that were far too common in recent years.
“Obviously the main goal in mind was to be able to dry the track quickly, but give our company president, [Speedway Motorsports Inc.] Marcus Smith, credit for the re-profile,” Gossage said. “By changing the banking in Turns 1 and 2, we’ve made this course even more challenging. If you can get your car to run well in Turns 1 and 2, you’re going to have your hands full in Turns 3 and 4 and vice versa.
“It’s a challenge and we love watching these drivers challenged.”
The project has entered its final stage and the goal is to have it completed by the end of the month. After that, TMS will use what it calls the “Texas Tire Monster” and a similar device — the “Tire Dragon” — shipped in from its sister track, Kentucky Speedway, to work rubber into the surface.
The desired effect is to essentially “age” the track and create multiple grooves for drivers. Additionally, TMS will apply hydrated lime to help draw out the oils from the asphalt to take away some of the grip that drivers dislike.
“It makes the track slicker, which drivers like,” Gossage said.
Most drivers are on board with the project even though they tend to prefer older racing surfaces. Just like fans, they don’t want to wait out lengthy rain delays after minimal showers.
And TMS even expanded its budget to repave pit road early on during the project, something that will please IndyCar drivers more than anyone.
“I was glad [about TMS’ project],” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet. “If you are going to do it, go on and get it done. They are going to reconfigure Turns 1 and 2, which will be fun to have something a little bit new to try out.”
Added seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet: “It’s going to be fast and maybe a little more single-file than we want to get started, but Texas has a lot of banking and it’s a very fast track.”