Daytona International Speedway has a fresh, clean surface, and at least 18 drivers have been taking advantage of a two-day Goodyear tire test at the track held Wednesday and Thursday. This marks the first time race cars will run laps on the repaved surface. (They're farther along than pictured above.)
Drivers scheduled to participate include Chasers Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya and many others. In addition to the tires, Busch and Brad Keselowski will be testing Dodge's new front bumper.
The track hadn't been repaved since 1978, and you'll recall the debacle that ensued in 2010 when a pothole cropped up and completely torpedoed the entire race. Nearly three hours' worth of delays set an ugly tone for the 2010 season, and while the racing was just fine the rest of the year, the viewers didn't tune in. Can we blame the pothole for that? Sure we can.
The repaving effort began shortly after the July Daytona race, and came in ahead of schedule. As a result, drivers have a slick new surface that could open up the race and make the 2011 Daytona 500 a landmark event.
"Everybody used to dread Daytona testing," 2009 Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth said recently. "I’m really looking forward to getting on the track and seeing how they did on the paving job and how smooth it is ... That surface was so incredibly worn out before, and now it’s going to be more like a Talladega race. It’s going to be wide open. Handling is going to matter more than [at] Talladega but probably not very much. Everybody is going to be wide open. It is going to be a big draft the whole time."