KANSAS CITY, Kan. — With the track changes at Bristol Motor Speedway underway and the imminent repaving of Kansas Speedway scheduled to start moments after the conclusion of Sunday's STP 400, repaving and track surface discussion dominated Friday's driver media sessions at Kansas Speedway.
Here are the comments from some drivers about repaving. And spoiler alert: old pavement is preferred, though Jimmie Johnson says that he views track repaves as an opportunity for he and his team to gain an advantage.
"No, it might be that mindset for some drivers, but for me I look at it as an opportunity," Johnson said. "The tracks are going to change, and it's going to be different. Whoever figures it out first will have the advantage and win. So, I'm excited about the new surfaces that go down. Some of them are very challenging, and I hope people pay attention to the tracks that have instant success and the others that take a long time to come around, and we can learn from that as well. I'm excited for the opportunity, and I love to test. I love to be at the race track learning, and am excited to have testing at tracks we race at. We can really get data files on tracks other than Milwaukee or Nashville, and these tracks that we don't race at anymore. I'm happy we have some testing at the real tracks on the correct tire."
Jeff Gordon says that the track surface looks good from a driver's perspective. However, track officials and engineers say that the repave at Kansas is absolutely necessary because of a combination of weather and environmental factors.
"I don't really understand why they are paving this race track," Gordon said. "It looks great out there. This place is awesome. I wish they wouldn't touch it. I'm not the business person. I'm not an engineer that looks at the construction, foundation, all the things that they feel like why they need to do it. Whatever they put in front of us we will just go about it the best way that we can. I feel like ISC has gotten enough information and experience paving race tracks that I have faith they can do the right thing. I think Homestead is a perfect example. They did a great job at Homestead. That was one of the only race tracks I can remember being repaved where we came there and raced the first race and it was a fun race. Of course, what they had before was so bad, it was easy to improve. What they have here is going to be hard to improve."
Carl Edwards said he'd love to race on a track that would never be repaved.
"I would not resurface this track ever. I wouldn't resurface tracks ever if it were up to me," Edwards said. "I'd patch the holes and keep on running."
Kansas Speedway is moving to progressive banking, which is it what is currently installed at Homestead, Bristol and Las Vegas. Bristol is concrete, a surface that Dale Earnhardt Jr. says doesn't respond as well to progressive banking as asphalt does.
"When you're using concrete, concrete has a lot of limitations for our cars," Junior said. "We only have a few tracks that are concrete or have been concrete in the series or the sport. None of them truly became multi-groove race tracks. Dover is the closest thing that we have to a multi-groove track, but to be honest with you, the majority of the racing is done on the bottom of that race track as ell. In a perfect world, in m opinion, if I owned the race track and had all the money that [SMI president Bruton Smith] has or the technology that we have today, I would pave the track with the configuration that they currently have with the progressive banking with asphalt. But its not my decision and I think what they're doing is going to be fun and I like that they're making a change. Even though when you pave a race track, it typically doesn't put on the best races after a few years of weather and wear on the surface, it tends to work out okay and the track really comes into its own again. As much as we'd like to have a lot of the tracks stay with the older asphalt, it's just some of them are deteriorating so bad that it's just not an option.
"I think progressive banking has done wonders at a lot of race tracks and been a real plus at a lot of places. It's just the combination of progressive banking and the limitations of that concrete is what's challenging to Bristol."