Daytona resurfacing to follow July race
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Daytona International Speedway, the subject of much scrutiny after a hole between Turns 1 and 2 caused more than 2½ hours in delays during the Daytona 500, will be repaved shortly after the July 3 Sprint Cup race.
Track president Robin Braig said the decision was made two weeks ago after a study from International Speedway Corp. engineers, in conjunction with Lane Construction, was completed.
It will be the first repaving for the 52-year-old track since 1978.
"We just can't risk it,'' Braig said of another incident like this year's 500, in which a substance called Bondo was used to patch the hole. "We owe it to NASCAR and our television partners. We can't risk it again.''
Braig, who said the project would cost about $20 million, made it clear the surface will not be a risk for the July weekend, saying studies found no other areas on the track were at risk of coming up. He added the steel-reinforced patch on the 9-by-18-inch hole that was more than 3 inches deep is more than sufficient.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who called for the track to be repaved several years ago, applauded Daytona for moving forward with the project.
"The old surface was a lot of fun,'' Earnhardt said Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. "[But] it's kind of getting past its prime. As soon as we get a new surface down and get weather on it, the quicker we'll get to a track everybody wants.''
Many drivers were opposed to repaving after the 500, saying it would ruin the style of racing they have become accustomed to on the rough surface. They feared a new smooth surface would turn Daytona into more of a Talladega race where handling isn't much of an issue.
Earnhardt and Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray believe handling will remain a factor with the characteristics of the Daytona banking differing from that of Talladega. They also believe there will be more three-wide racing for longer periods because tires won't wear as fast.
Both agreed there is no need to change the configuration.
"They just need to put a new coat of paint on it and it'll be pretty cool,'' Earnhardt said. "I don't think there is anything you can do to that track to improve it. It would kind of be foolish to fool with it.''
A temporary asphalt facility, similar to the one built at Talladega when it was resurfaced several years ago, will be constructed behind the back straightaway before the July race so pavement can begin immediately.
Lane Construction, which repaved Darlington, Talladega and Richmond, has been contracted for the job. The process is expected to take several months and be ready to turn over to Goodyear for tire tests before the end of the year.
Goodyear's Stu Grant expects to hold a tire test with 14 to 17 teams, similar to those held at Indianapolis. He said there is a possibility the test will be open to all teams.
Braig said fans who renew their Daytona 500 tickets will receive a piece of the old surface.
"This is a historic moment for NASCAR's most storied track,'' Braig said.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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