Drivers lament need to repave old asphalt tracks
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
When Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark talks to Sprint Cup drivers, it’s a common occurrence for those drivers to implore him to leave his track as is. Although the pavement at AMS is 20 years old, abrasive and bumpy, the drivers say that’s the way they like it.
But those drivers will have to deal with plenty of new pavement this year as Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Pocono Raceway will be repaved, and there apparently will be changes made to the track at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Denny Hamlin told reporters at Martinsville that he’d like to see some dialogue between track owners and drivers before the paving crews go to work.
“I don’t know who they talk to, honestly,” Hamlin said of the track owners planning to repave. “I don’t know of any driver in my opinion that would choose to repave any race track that we have over the old surface, even Phoenix.”
He said the racing eventually will be better on Phoenix’s new pavement, but only after the racing surface ages.
“Phoenix is going to be a great race track down the road, and in five years it’s going to have great racing,” he said. “You’re going to have two-wide and three-wide racing, it’s going to be great.”
Hamlin and most of his peers say old asphalt gives drivers and teams more options.
“Drivers have more in their hands when it’s an old surface; you can make up more,” he said. “It’s not about track position.”
He said new pavement forces Goodyear to provide a harder tire, and that means lots of speed but little passing. “The tires that we have to run on a new surface are so hard that it’s all about track position,” he said. “It’s all about who stays out [during caution periods] and gets the track position … just takes off because he’s got the clean air.
“Nobody can pass him because everyone just chatters tires right behind him because he has no air …
“Really, I don’t know who ever would want to repave any track at any time. Unless it’s absolutely falling apart should you ever repave a track.”
He said the repave at Pocono could produce some really high speeds.
“Whether it’s a softer tire or whether it’s a harder tire, ultimately, how fast you get through Turn Three is how fast you’re going to go down the front straightaway.
“If it’s a grippy tire, we could be running 215 [miles per hour] going into [Turn One].”
On the subject of paving, Matt Kenseth suggested that to get back to really old-school racing at Bristol, as fans have demanded, the racing surface should be put back to asphalt, like it was before it was changed to concrete, because of the loads placed on the surface by the high corner speeds.
“It seemed like way back in the old days everybody used to run the top there, and some guys would be on the bottom, and it seemed like it would make multiple grooves,” he said. “We certainly have multiple grooves right now, although the preferred groove is on the top, but there are certainly multiple grooves that we never used to have, but I always thought the old pictures, and all that stuff from a blacktop Bristol, was pretty cool.”