ThatsRacin

To repave or not is the question at Atlanta’s NASCAR track

Atlanta Motor Speedway was last repaved in 1997.
Atlanta Motor Speedway was last repaved in 1997. AP

A repave of Atlanta Motor Speedway, originally scheduled to begin later this month, could be put on hold.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Marcus Smith apparently has been listening as drivers urged NASCAR and Atlanta track officials over the weekend to hold off on resurfacing the 1.54-mile track.

“I can’t really say that the status has changed, but it definitely has caused us to think about what we’re doing,” Smith told reporters Sunday before the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500. “We’ve looked at the track a lot over the years, and we feel we’ve gotten about three more years out of the life of the track right now. The challenges are still there on keeping the track raceable and making it something we can have a race on [Sunday] and make sure we have a quality race.

“But [we] definitely have heard from the drivers saying they like this gritty surface. So we’ll look at it after the race [Sunday] and be able to make better determination on what we have to do going forward.”

[We] definitely have heard from the drivers saying they like this gritty surface.

Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. president

The resurfacing of the track in the Atlanta suburbs – which was last repaved in 1997 – was announced in January. The aging asphalt surface is bumpy and striped with repair marks. But drivers enjoy racing on the surface because of the grip and different racing grooves it provides, allowing them to pass more easily.

It is not uncommon for drivers to not want tracks to be repaved. But they were more vocal than usual over the weekend about not wanting to see Atlanta resurfaced. Even Truck series driver Matt Crafton made a pitch to not repave after Saturday’s race.

“I think the way it is now is better than the alternative,” said Cup driver Chase Elliott. “It depends on how they redo it and how the process would work. I like it the way it is, the character that it has.

Another SMI track, Texas Motor Speedway, is being repaved, with the project expected to be finished in time for its April race.

We want to come out the first race with a track that races like an older track.

Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. president

“We’ve looked at the surface quite a lot with our engineers and our paving experts,” Smith said. “They already have pushed it what they feel is three years beyond normal. One of the things we’re really doing is this hard and coarse and rough surface ... something that drivers like.

“That’s what we’re trying to achieve in Texas. We want to come out the first race with a track that races like an older track. Which is not something the world of paving technology really works on. Everybody else around the world that paves something, you want a nice, smooth surface. Our goal for Texas is a surface that races much more like Atlanta.”

After Sunday’s race, winner Brad Keselowski’s sentiments sounded like it echoed most of his competitors.

“… I have to go find Marcus Smith and [track president] Ed Clark and beg them not to repave it,” Keselowski said, laughing. “I don’t think that I’ll win that battle.”

Keselowski said he would not have been able to pass Kyle Larson late in the race if the track had been repaved.

“They’re really in a no-win spot,” Keselowski said. “You have to trust them to know their business. I hope they can get another year or two out of it. But I understand if they can’t.”

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