Texas repave reaction: Gene Stefanyshyn discusses with NASCAR … – Nascar
The days of a newly repaved race track requiring numerous seasons of curing, along with several years of competition on its surface before it lends itself to multiple lanes for racing, appear to be over.
The action Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway was not an aberration. It’s more of an evolution.
Track officials replaced the aging asphalt earlier this year at the 1.5-mile facility and improved the drainage system underneath its surface. The first and second turns were significantly altered as well, with the banking changed from 24 to 20 degrees and widening that portion of the track by 20 feet. Thanks to the work that went into the repaving project, and continued efforts by track officials during the weekend to put rubber down on the racing surface with the use of specially designed equipment, Sunday’s race proved to be a competitive one.
The changes were similar to those done last season at Kentucky Speedway. Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Senior Vice President Innovation and Racing Development, said much of what was learned during the Kentucky project was applied at Texas.
“That was kind of the first step forward in trying to make sure the racing surface is created in a way to optimize racing as opposed to optimizing durability,” Stefanyshyn told NASCAR.com. “In the past it’s been … ‘put down pavement that lasts a long time’ … not necessarily the best for racing.
“Kentucky was the first installation of really going to coarser aggregate and trying to put our best foot forward in a new repave to make the racing as best as possible. So we took that and applied that to Texas.”
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With what was learned from Kentucky’s repaving project, and now Texas, officials have much more information from which they can draw and apply going forward in a continued innovative — and collaborative — effort; NASCAR, track officials and Goodyear all work concurrently to produce the best racing as quickly into a repave as possible.
“We know that repaves can take you back a bit,” Stefanyshyn said. “Hopefully we can get to a point where when we repave, we can have very good racing right from the beginning and at the same time we can get to a point that we can begin to tie the tires to that repave right from day one without having to go through some learning.”
As part of the process, once a repave is complete workers treat the surface with lime, which extracts the oils out of the pavement to make it less slick. The lime then is removed by cleaning with nothing more than soap and water and heavy rotary brushes.
“And then there’s a process of putting some rubber down and we use several things there,” Stefanyshyn said. “We’ll use a ‘tire dragon’ or ‘tire monster,’ (and) also use racing schools for them to put down rubber.
“So there’s the putting down the asphalt, then there’s prepping it and cleaning it and then putting down rubber. That’s kind of the process; we learned that through Kentucky, through other tracks, and brought that to bear at Texas.”
A surface that takes on rubber allows drivers to search out additional racing grooves. “It gives drivers another place to go, another option,” Stefanyshyn explained.
Chad Knaus, crew chief for Sunday’s winner Jimmie Johnson, said he was “very impressed with the way the race track began to take rubber; very impressed with the way NASCAR and everybody here at Texas Motor Speedway worked throughout the course of the night to get the groove widened out, and the track really got pretty racy there at the end.
“I think we saw some guys on the outside be able to maintain their position or even take the lead on restarts there toward the middle portion of the race and then to the end,” Knaus said. ” … It was a lot of fun to be able to come out here and race with this new race track.”
MORE: Thumbs-up from Knaus
Johnson, a seven-time series champion, said he is looking forward to returning to the track with his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.
“I think the track will change a lot in the next four to six trips that we come here,” he said, “and it’s only going to get better.”
Texas, Kentucky and Watkins Glen are the three most recent facilities to undergo repaving projects.
Goodyear officials did not conduct a tire test at Texas following the repave due to time constraints. Because the Texas and Kentucky projects were similar, officials elected to use the same tread compounds this past weekend at Texas.
“We understand there are many items that go to create great racing,” Stefanyshyn said. “It’s the tire, it’s the track, it’s the driver, it’s the rules package, it’s the weather, it’s the format. There are a lot of pieces.”
No two tracks are the same, he cautioned, so “it’s not a one fits all” when it comes to repaving a track.
“But there is kind of a center point that we use to … drive the whole thing and then we work from there for different, specific applications.”