Chances are if you have ever been to Daytona International Speedway then you know that it is the one track that may have the strongest history of resistance to change. Over the last couple of years, International Speedway Corporation, the owner of the track, has spent some money in upgrades for the infield and a new coat of paint here and there, but the one thing it did not touch was the old, worn-out racing surface.
Unlike most tracks that you walk into that host Sprint Cup races, the first thing to jump out at you when you go through the hallowed gates of Daytona is the huge 2.5-mile tri-oval of asphalt that is the centerpiece of the most famous venue in all of NASCAR. This is the home of the biggest race on the entire NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule and this is the one track that can make a driver’s career by just making one trip to its victory lane after taking the checkered flag for the Daytona 500.
This year when the track opens its gates in preparation for the 500, there will be something different. The track that awaits the drivers wanting to make a little history of their own will be newly paved. The track began a repaving project immediately following the July 4 weekend running of the Coke Zero 400.
The repaving was only the second since the track was built and the first since 1978. Unlike many repaving projects that we see at other tracks that host Sprint Cup races, this repaving project didn’t change the original layout of the track. Those famous high-banked turns will still await both the teams and fans when the track opens its gates for the beginning of Speedweeks in February.
The speedway also repaved pit road and in the process widened it. That is good news for the drivers as slowing down to come in for a pit stop during green flag racing has always been a problem. The added grip and more room should make pit road much safer for both drivers and crews.
The first laps on the newly repaved surface have already been turned as NASCAR and Goodyear held a tire test back in December to help the tire manufacturer in its production of the tire compound that would be used when the teams came back to run the 500 in February. Eighteen drivers from six teams took part in the test and every driver came away praising the resurfacing job, saying the track was not only smoother but had plenty of grip.
Some teams tested with the cars and engines that they used last year while others opted to bring new cars. Speeds reached 197.5 mph on the newly resurfaced track, but that was with the teams using a slightly smaller restrictor plate than the one used last year.
The test was a success for all involved as Goodyear was satisfi ed with the tire it brought and the drivers liked the feel of the track. The drivers will be coming back to the track on the 20th of the month for the traditional Daytona test that gives every team planning on competing in the 500 the opportunity to shake down their cars before they come back in February to start the season.
The track will once again turn the January test period into what it calls the Preseason Thunder Fan Fest. The event gives the fans the opportunity to purchase a ticket to watch all of the testing from the infield Sprint FANZONE or they can watch free from a section of the frontstretch grandstands. In addition to having the tests open to the fans, the track will also be organizing autograph sessions that will include the 12 Chase drivers from last season.
PIT NOTES: If you need a quick fix for the off-season, head to Charlotte and its NASCAR Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame now has free admission beginning at 4 p.m. each day now through Friday, Jan. 14. You will be able to take in the Hall’s newest exhibit, “Short Careers, Lasting Legacy”, that features the cars of the late Tim Richmond, Alan Kulwicki and Davey Allison. Also included will be items commemorating the all too short career of Adam Petty.