by: STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer Updated:FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Texas Motor Speedway is going to completely repave its 1 1/2-mile track and reduce the high banking in the first and second turns.
The project announced Friday comes after both NASCAR weekends and the IndyCar race at Texas last year were hampered by rain. TMS President Eddie Gossage said the old asphalt has become porous, almost like sponge, making it difficult to dry in a timely matter.
"The initial response you're going to get from some drivers is an immediate no," Gossage said. "But they were all here, whether it was the NASCAR guys in the two races in 2016, or the IndyCar drivers that had to come back a couple of months later. They all experienced it and I think once they all think about it, will realize that there really wasn't a choice. We needed to do this."
Extensive drainage improvements will also be made on the frontstretch and backstretch of the track that opened in 1997. The track was last completely repaved in 2001, and this project will add a new layer of asphalt. Work is scheduled to begin Monday and be completed by early March. The next Cup race in Texas is April 9, part of a NASCAR doubleheader weekend.
The changes at Texas will include a re-profiling of Turns 1 and 2, where the banking will be reduced from 24 degrees to 20 degrees and the racing surface will be widened from 60 to 80 feet in that area.
Gossage, who wouldn't disclose the cost, said the project was necessary after "thousands of cars, millions of laps."
"It was just an opportunity. The track is torn up, so why not do something?" Gossage said. "This once and for all clearly will make Texas unlike any other race track, and can't be charged with being a 'cookie cutter.' It's an opportunity for us to be unique and be special."
With the lower banking, the speeds should be reduced in that area and set up passing opportunities in those turns and onto the back straightaway. Gossage said there could be passing opportunities on the front stretch as well since drivers will be carrying different speeds through Turns 3 and 4, which will be unchanged at 24 degrees.
Atlanta Motor Speedway, another 1 1/2-mile track owned by Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc., announced plans earlier this week for its first repaving in 20 years, making it the second-oldest NASCAR Cup racing surface. That project will begin after the Cup race there March 5.
The start of the Cup race in Texas last November was delayed nearly six hours and eventually shortened 41 laps because of more rain. That was seven months after the spring race was delayed more than two hours because of rain and didn't end until after midnight.
In June, the IndyCar Series race was initially postponed a day because of the wet track even after drying attempts for several hours after the rain had stopped. After starting late the following day, the race didn't get to the halfway point before there was more rain, and then wasn't completed until 2 1/2 months later.
Cup drivers lost their two scheduled practice sessions the day before the November 2015 race while officials tried to dry the track following overnight rain, though the Xfinity Series race was run later that day. The Cup race in April 2014 was postponed a day by rain.
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