Texas Motor Speedway, which had to postpone its 2016 IndyCar race -- as well as delay NASCAR races because of difficulty in drying the track -- will repave the surface and add a new drainage system prior to its April NASCAR weekend.
As part of the project, TMS will reduce the banking in Turns 1-2 from 24 to 20 degrees and widen the surface from 60 to 80 feet while keeping Turns 3-4 at 24 degrees and 60 feet. That will give drivers and teams an additional challenge because they likely won't have the perfect setup for both turns.
The change in configuration could help mitigate the impact of the repave on the racing. Repaves by nature create more grip, which makes the preferred line consistently the fastest and limits the opportunity to have a car good enough to pass.
"It sets up passing opportunities in the turns, on the back straightaway and now you'll be carrying a different speed through Turns 3 and 4 [than 1 and 2], and hopefully that creates some passing opportunities on the front straight as well," TMS president Eddie Gossage said.
Gossage said the target for completion is March 1 in order to give NASCAR time to have a tire test to help determine the best compound for the April 7-9 race weekend, but Goodyear issued a statement later Friday afternoon that it would need to determine the tire compound earlier and instead it would use its best judgment from past racetrack repaving projects.
Gossage said he didn't want to change the surface during the year and have the NASCAR drivers compete on one configuration in April and then come back to a new configuration for their Chase race in November.
TMS will be the second NASCAR track to have a new surface this year as Kentucky Speedway was repaved to correct some deficiencies from the asphalt put down in 2016. Atlanta Motor Speedway will be repaved after its March NASCAR weekend.
Speedway Motorsports Inc. will use the same asphalt mix at Atlanta as it will at Texas. The drainage system is the same as it installed at Kentucky Speedway last year, and it showed significant improvement in drying the track. Gossage hopes the new surface and system will do the same. He said the current surface put down in 2001 has gotten so porous that it acts like a sponge, making it difficult to dry.
"There are a whole lot of different things going on here, but the big thing that you're not seeing is underneath it: this drainage system," Gossage said. "We want to make sure we don't struggle with the issues we struggled with last year. It's not fair to the fans."
Gossage wouldn't say how much the repave will cost. He also wouldn't comment on how much the IndyCar postponement from June to August as well as the NASCAR delays cost the track in staffing, jet fuel for the driers and impact on ticket renewals.