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Bulldozers Replace Cars At DIS

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 6 2010

Not long after the cars left Daytona on Saturday, the construction crews arrived. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The high-banked racing surface at “The World Center of Racing” is undergoing its first major facelift in over three decades.

Construction crews at Daytona International Speedway began the process Monday by removing light poles, the track’s SAFER Barrier system and safety fencing. The safety fence and 57 light poles at both ends of the famed 2.5-mile trioval are being dismantled as well 8,300 linear feet of SAFER Barrier throughout the facility.

Asphalt removal is expected to begin either later this week or early next week.

“It’s an historic moment for this facility, and we’re excited to see the work on this project begin,” said Robin Braig, president of the Daytona Beach, Fla., track that is the epicenter of NASCAR’s empire.

DIS’ entire layout _ featuring its signature turns banked at 31 degrees _ will be repaved as well as the skid pads, apron and pit road. Concrete will be used for the pit stalls. All of the existing asphalt will be removed down to the original 52-year-old lime rock base, which will be leveled before repaving begins.

An estimated 50,000 tons of asphalt will be used on a project that will pave 1,435,000 square feet, or about 33 acres. The facility occupies 480 acres, including an infield portion of 180 acres.

The repaving of DIS will remain true to NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.’s original vision, layout and geometry of a project that broke ground on Nov. 25, 1957 on land adjacent to the city’s airport. At the time, Big Bill’s plans were regarded as blueprints for a marvel of engineering and construction. On cue, DIS played host to a field of 59 cars for the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.

Amazingly, the racing surface has not been repaved since August 1978, a project that took several months and was finished in time for the 1979 Daytona 500.

The track is 40-feet wide, with an apron ranging from 12- to 30-feet. The track’s frontstretch measures 3,800 feet, including a 1,900-foot “chute” section from Turn 4 to the middle of the trioval, which is banked at 18 degrees. DIS’ “Superstretch” backstretch measures 3,000 feet.

Pit road measures 1,600 feet and has room for 43 stalls, each measuring 50 feet.

DIS’ 3.56-mile road course incorporates the trioval and a non-banked infield section.

A $20 million repaving originally was scheduled for 2012 but moved up following a problem with a pothole that forced two lengthy red flag stoppages during the Sprint Cup Series’ season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.

The pothole between Turns 1 and 2, in the preferred bottom racing groove, prompted a pair of stoppages during NASCAR’s “Super Bowl” totaling 2 hours, 24 minutes.

The initial fix took 1 hour, 40 minutes. Drivers then completed 36 laps on the repaired superspeedway before the patchwork broke up. The second repair lasted 44 minutes. During that stoppage, workers gathered up polyester resin products from teams, mixed it with a hardener and then heated it with blowtorches and jet dryers to turn the putty mixture into a hardened substance.

The race’s final 32 laps were run without any noticeable issues, albeit with considerable post-event criticism for an annoying, embarrassing and potentially dangerous situation. The race lasted 3 hours, 47 minutes and 16 seconds but the stoppages pushed the Fox Network’s telecast past the six-hour mark.

NASCAR’s Cup and Nationwide series returned to DIS last weekend, along with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, for their traditional midseason summertime events.

On Thursday night, Speedway officials repaired a one-foot by four-and-a-half-foot section of track surface between Turns 1 and 2 as a precautionary measure to prevent another in-race pothole. The repair was made with a high-strength epoxy material.

Braig said the repair was made three yards from the patch which repaired the Daytona 500 pothole, on the side closer to Turn 1. All three series competed without further incident during their Friday-Saturday events.

The parent International Speedway Corp. has contracted Lane Construction to repave DIS. The company has repaved several other ISC racetracks, including Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Target date for completion is Jan. 1, 2011. Speedweeks 2011 will kick off with the 49th annual Rolex 24 at Daytona Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race on Jan. 29-30 and conclude with the 53rd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20.

Fans will be able to view progress of the project from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands, which will open free to the public. Track tours also will be available through attraction admission to the Daytona 500 Experience.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jstrubin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 6 2010
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • ed says:

    Too bad they won’t drop about 15 degrees of corner banking so they could get rid of the restrictor plates. But God forbid changing anything St. Bill came up with.

    Might as well draw names out of a hat to determine the finishing order at that crappy track. Pure luck selects the “winner” most of the time anyway.

    • John says:

      Interestingly, I haven’t seen much sentiment expressed by NASCAR drivers to reduce those 31-degree banked turns during this project. But I’m sure O. Bruton Smith would beg to differ.