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Texas Repave Hits The Pits

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 3 2017

The repave at Texas Motor Speedway now includes the pits and is on schedule. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

FORT WORTH, Texas – A complete repaving of pit road has been added to Texas Motor Speedway’s major offseason capital improvements project, which is entering its final phase on-schedule.

Announced on Jan. 6 and begun three days later, repaving of the entire 1.5-mile racing surface of “The Great American Speedway” will complete a four-stage process. “Paving equipment will be on the track within the week and the project should be complete and ready to roll by March 1,” TMS President Eddie Gossage said Thursday in a statement. “We are moving ahead wide-open and right on target.”

TMS annually plays host to two separate NASCAR-headlined and one INDYCAR/NASCAR event weekend. The new configuration/racing surface is scheduled to debut April 7-9 with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader.

Construction crews already have completed installation of the French drainage system along the backstretch and frontstretch as well as the unique grade changes in Turns 1 and 2. Re-profiling of that segment of track has reduced the banking from its original 24 degrees to 20 degrees and expanded the racing surface from 60 to 80-feet. Turns 3 and 4 remain unchanged from the current 24-degree configuration of banking and 60-feet of racing surface.

“We didn’t initially mention we were going to pave pit road, but over the years it has gotten a little rough and this was an opportune time to add it to the project,” Gossage said. “It’s been re-patched where needed over the years, but a new layer of pavement will make it nice and smooth for both the NASCAR and INDYCAR competitors.”

The paving phase is expected to take 28 days, barring delays. Lane Construction Corp., with offices in neighboring Justin, Texas, will direct the repaving project. Lane Construction is recognized as the pre-eminent paving company for NASCAR speedways, having paved several prominent facilities since 2003 including Charlotte Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Darlington Raceway and Talladega Superspeedway.

The repave will feature an asphalt mix similar to the surfaces at Speedway Motorsports, Inc., sister 1.5-mile tracks Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The mix used in conjunction with the construction method adds lime to accelerate the properties of an “aged” track.

Installation of the French drainage system features trenches cut in numerous locations on the frontstretch and backstretch to provide multiple points for water to drain away from the facility more quickly and efficiently than the current system. A drainable mat installation now ties into a continuous toe drain to aid in the process.

Following a 2016 season during which rain and subsequent track-drying efforts tested the patience of sanctioning officials, competitors and fans during its three major race weekends, Gossage outlined a project that dramatically will change the racing surface.

“The real reason we’re doing this, of course, is because of the fans and given our recent issues with having difficulty in getting the track to dry,” Gossage said during a national teleconference last month.  ”We felt like it was something we had to do to insure that when fans come to the racetrack they know that the track is going be able to dry quickly so we can get back to racing and they can get what they came for.

“The old surface, which went down in 2001, the top level of it was very porous…kind of like a sponge. It came through age and it came through use and it came through the use also of the jet trucks and the Air Titans and things like that simply open up the surface. Anytime we even got a brief shower it just soaked into the upper level of asphalt and it was difficult _ no matter how many jet trucks we put on it _ to get the water out.”

Case in point, the AAA Texas 500 Cup race on Nov. 6 won by Carl Edwards following a six-hour rain-delay and track-drying effort. Scheduled for 334 laps/501 miles, Chase Race No. 8 was red-flagged on Lap 293 when rain returned. Edwards won the race parked on pit road.

Gossage has declined to put a price tag on the project. “We don’t typically talk in terms of dollars-and-cents,” Gossage said. “Just suffice it to say we’re doing what’s right and what needs to be done and the dollars-and-cents isn’t what’s important to us. We’re trying to do what’s right for the fans and make it work for them and these teams as well.”

The track’s lone Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend took the biggest weather-related hit in 2016. Scheduled for June 11, the 20th annual Firestone 600 _ billed as “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” _ was postponed because of rain and rescheduled for the following afternoon. A total of 71 of the scheduled 248 laps were run June 12 before the race was suspended due to a return of inclement weather.

In a first for TMS, INDYCAR and track officials opted to reschedule “The Resumption” for Saturday night, Aug. 27. The event re-started on Lap 72 and produced three-wide and four-wide racing before Graham Rahal completed a dramatic, last-lap pass of leader James Hinchcliffe to win by a miniscule 0.0080-seconds. It was the closest race in TMS history and fifth-closest in Indy car history. But the event was poorly attended on a typically hot North Texas summer night.

In what proved to be a preview of the season’s weather woes, Kyle Busch overcame an early pit road mishap to win the rain-delayed Duck Commander 500 Cup race on Saturday night, April 9. Busch finished 3.904-seconds ahead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. following a rain delay of 1 hour, 50 minutes. The race started under caution, with NASCAR mandating a competition caution after 29 laps to check Goodyear tire wear on a green track.

In addition to the repaving and drainage system, TMS has undergone a re-profiling in Turns 1 and 2 to give the venue a unique layout from its currently symmetrical 24-degree banking in all four turns. While Turns 3 and 4 remain unchanged, the banking of Turns 1 and 2 has been decreased to 20 degrees with the racing surface width expanding from 60 to 80-feet. The reduced banking _ which will decrease lap speeds and potentially open up additional passing opportunities in Turns 1 and 2 _ will provide TMS with a distinctive layout.

“Just an opportunity for us to be unique and be special,” Gossage said. “That’s the way we like it here in No Limits, Texas.”

Gossage said NASCAR will coordinate with tire supplier Goodyear and INDYCAR will do likewise with Firestone on compound testing once the repaving is completed.

This project marks the second full repave since Texas Motor Speedway opened in 1997. That project occurred in the summer of 2001 as the racing surface was repaved with a granite-based asphalt compound from the original limestone-based asphalt.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader will open the 2017 Texas Motor Speedway season April 7-9. The weekend features SportsDay Qualifying Day Powered by The Dallas Morning News for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Friday, April 7; SportsDay Qualifying Day Powered by The Dallas Morning News for the Xfinity Series and Cowboy 300 race on Saturday, April 8; and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, April 9.

The Rainguard Water Sealers 600 INDYCAR/NASCAR Camping World Truck Series doubleheader is set for June 8-10. The speedway’s season will conclude with the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR playoff tripleheader weekend Nov. 2-5.

Tickets are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 3 2017
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