Phoenix International Raceway to be repaved

Phoenix International Raceway as it was last week.
(Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
For the first time in 21 years, Phoenix International Raceway will be repaved and reconfigured. PIR held a press conference before the Subway Fresh Fit 500 to formally announce the changes that are to take place during the reconfiguration and repaving of the track. The new surface will have a new four-layer asphalt and aggregate surface.

Other notable changes include:
  • The frontstretch will be widened from 52 to 62 feet.
  • Pit road will be reconfigured and concrete pit stalls will be installed.
  • The dogleg curve will be pushed out between turns 2 and 3 by 95 feet.
  • The turn radius of the dog-leg will be tightened from 800 to 500 feet.
  • Variable, or progressive, banking will be implemented to ensure the immediate use of two racing grooves. This will include 10-11 degree banking between turns 1 and 2; 10-11 degree banking in the apex of the dogleg; and 8-9 degree banking in turn 4.
All of these changes, including an entirely new racing surface, are sure to change the face of racing at PIR.  But why was the decision made to do this now? Track president Bryan R. Sperber talks about the decision to repave the track.
A rendering of the planned adjustments for the track, courtesy of Phoenix International Racewayrepave
“When the time to repave PIR approached due to the life expectancy of our current racing surface, we wanted to make sure to take advantage of the opportunity to make a good thing even better for our fans,” Sperber said. “Our goal for this project was to not radically change a track that’s celebrated by fans and drivers alike, but to utilize new technology to ensure great moments in the next chapter of racing history at PIR.”
So what about the men who race on this track twice a year? Some of the drivers were asked about their reactions to the project. The reactions and feelings about the planned adjustment varied greatly.

“I really hate to see the ‘old’ Phoenix leave. This is one of my favorite race tracks. I’ve come to do a lot of laps around this track. We will see what they do, if they make it better or worse. We’ll come back next year to find out,” said Ron Hornaday, driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, in a post-race press conference last Friday. “The track is worn out. I don’t know if the new surface is going to help, but I know we will be wide open. A little more grip and it will definitely be fast.”

Local driver J.J. Yeley, who drives the Whitney Motorsports No. 46 Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series, says that he’s interested to see how the changes will affect the racing.

“To come and make improvements, they've done a lot to this racetrack over the years. Especially from when I was a kid playing in the infield and there used to be cactus and desert in here. But the new pavement could make the racetrack super fast. There's not a question that the racetrack is already one of the fastest 1-mile ovals that we get to go to, but it's just worn out. That new grip is going to make the racetrack lightning fast. It's going to be interesting to see what actually happens with the changes that they're planning on doing to the dogleg. I've read that they're going to move it back 95 feet, make the dogleg more prominent. Hopefully we'll still be able to run two and three across, just like we do now. It's going to be interesting to see how all those changes unfold,” said Yeley, in an interview on Saturday.

“At the end of the day, it's still going to be PIR, it's still going to be my home, and I'm always going to look forward to coming back here.”

Veteran driver Mark Martin, who drives the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, is wide open to the change. “I’m really excited about it on one hand, and on the other hand, I think it’s great now. Anything new is exciting. We’ll have to wait and see. Their plans are to make it even better. I think we’ll find out here in several months just how it turns out. It’s exciting, it’s a change.”

There are some drivers, however, who are not quite as enthusiastic about the changes. Tony Stewart drives the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing and is one of the drivers who believes the changes to the track are not necessarily for the better.

“I said it a long time ago when they took the Goodyear bridge away and they took the exit of turn 2 away and changed it that they screwed it up at that point. Anything they do in the future is not really going to matter to me anymore. They already kind of messed it up,” Stewart said in a press conference on Friday.

“This has been a historic, famed racetrack out in the West for a long time and like I said, they already took away that mystique of it once and it looks like they are going to do it again.”

The repaving project is set to begin Monday, with the old surface being taken out. When the drivers return here in November, there will be an entirely new surface and different configuration to race on.
Phoenix International Raceway to be repaved Phoenix International Raceway to be repaved Reviewed by Genna on Thursday, March 03, 2011 Rating: 5