MIS set for face-lift after August race weekend

Dale Earnhardt Jr. practices at Michigan International Speedway on Friday.
Speedway officials announced the track will be repaved after the August
Sprint Cup race. Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
After its August race weekend, Michigan International Speedway will be repaved, but the track’s configuration will remain unchanged, speedway officials said Friday.

“This is just a resurface - the geometry of the track itself will not change,” track president Roger Curtis said.

"All those things that have made this a fan and driver favorite," including the three- and four-wide racing and multiple grooves for drivers to race on, will stay intact, Curtis said.

The repave will be the fourth in the track’s 43-year history. The last time the 2-mile speedway was resurfaced was in 1995.

Michigan’s aging surface presents a potential safety issue. As a racetrack ages, the asphalt becomes brittle and more prone to cracking, said Bill Braniff, senior director of construction for International Speedway Corp., which owns the Brooklyn, Mich., track.

“With a historic track like MIS, we want to maintain the existing geometry, yet smooth out the dips and bumps that have occurred over the years,” Braniff said.

The first step of the resurfacing process was to conduct a laser survey, in which a van was fitted with laser survey equipment and driven around the track. About 100 million points of data were collected, Braniff said. The survey’s findings will allow for the track’s characteristics and finer details to be replicated in the repave.

During the repaving process, about 2 inches of the track’s surface, where dirt and fluids have built up through the years, will be shaved off to eliminate those dips and bumps, Braniff said. Then two layers of asphalt will be poured on top.

“When both are done, then we will have a much smoother track than we have right now,” Braniff said.

The face-lift will cost approximately $7 million. The repave will be executed by Ajax Paving Industries, a Michigan-based company that has assisted with some of the recent improvements made at the speedway. The company also handled this year's repave of Phoenix International Raceway.

Over the last five years, MIS has spent $60 million on upgrades to the track.

With the spring weather in Michigan a concern, part of the speedway’s face-lift will begin with the repaving of pit road after Sunday’s race. Work will start on resurfacing the track itself immediately following the Aug. 19 Sprint Cup race.

“Right after the August race, we’ll hit the ground running … to get as much work done as we can before fall, before Thanksgiving frankly,” Curtis said. On this timetable, Curtis expects the new asphalt will have enough time to set by the spring.

With MIS a favorite among drivers, Curtis said track officials sought the feedback of several drivers regarding their plans, including Tony Stewart. Curtis said Stewart “was happy to hear we’re not reconfiguring.”

Stewart himself said, “I’m good with the repaving."

“A lot of it is off of what happened with Daytona,” Stewart said, referring to the hole that opened up on the track during the 2010 Daytona 500, interrupting NASCAR’s premier event for over two hours. Daytona was repaved before the start of the 2011 season. “They don’t want that situation happening here, and you’ve got to pat them on the back for being proactive and not reactive on that.”

Most drivers weren’t happy to hear of the repave on Friday, but understood the need for a face-lift in the wake of safety concerns.

“The sad thing is it’s time to repave a few of them,” Clint Bowyer said. “When it’s time it’s time, you got to repave it.

“It’s (Michigan) been a good racetrack over the years, it’s been a lot of fun to be able to race on it. It’s going to provide good racing no matter what the surface is,” Bowyer said.

Kyle Busch said he was not one of the drivers whom track officials consulted, but hoped they could learn from Homestead’s repave and apply it to Michigan.

“Homestead, I feel like they did the best at it when they repaved it. You could go right to the racetrack and you could run the bottom, move to the middle and go right to the top. It was a racetrack that you could move all over the place instead of just being stuck to one lane. Hopefully they can take a little bit of information from Homestead and do that here, progressively bank it a little bit to help the drivers out,” Busch said.

Kevin Harvick, Michigan’s most recent winner in the Sprint Cup Series, said, “Not a big fan of repaving anywhere, to be honest with you. But I understand that obviously, you get to a point with the asphalt where it becomes kind of a safety concern.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who got his last Sprint Cup win at the track three years ago, was surprised to hear MIS was being repaved, calling it an “awesome track.” But Earnhardt Jr. found some humor in the situation.

“They ought to send the asphalt over to Pocono,” he said, taking a playful shot at the Pennsylvania track’s brittle surface.
MIS set for face-lift after August race weekend MIS set for face-lift after August race weekend Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Friday, June 17, 2011 Rating: 5