Atlanta’s Surface Is ‘Worn Out’ But Drivers Don’t Want It Repaved

Photo by Jerry Jordan/Kickin' The Tires

By Jerry Jordan, Editor
HAMPTON, Ga. – It looks like Speedway Motorsports Inc. will hold off on repaving Atlanta Motor Speedway, at least, for a little so they can see if the experiment at Texas Motor Speedway designed to make new asphalt race like old asphalt works out.

Speaking with a small group of reporters after the drivers’ meeting at AMS, Marcus Smith, the president and chief operating officer of SMI, said he has been listening to drivers begging for the track not to be repaved. However, SMI’s engineers and paving experts say the Atlanta repave is long overdue.

“Our engineers, our paving experts; they’ve already pushed about three years what’s beyond normal,” Smith said. “It’s been great to have feedback from drivers saying how much they like the surface and it definitely has caused us to say, ‘well, maybe we should look at the surface again.’ But I’ll tell you we have looked at the surface quite a lot. They like this gritty surface so we will look at it after the race and be able to make a better determination of what we have to do going forward.”

Smith conceded that with Texas also undergoing a repave, it might be best to wait for the results of the Texas race and see if it achieves the results sought by the company.

“One of the things that we are really doing is keeping in mind that this hard surface, this rough surface, something that drivers like and that the racing tends to prefer,” he said. “That is what we are trying to achieve at Texas with the repave there. The repave and reprofile there at Texas Motor Speedway, we want to come out for the first race with a track that races like an older track.”

The reconsideration of how, when or if Atlanta Motor Speedway is repaved raised a lot of eyebrows as some fans immediately began speculating that Atlanta could lose its only race date. That rational came from reports this past week that the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority was meeting to discuss a $2.5 million incentive per year for seven years to help bring a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

If Las Vegas is successful in wooing NASCAR and SMI into bringing a second Cup date to Sin City, that race date would have to come from somewhere – and some predicted Atlanta.

Ed Clark, the president Atlanta Motor Speedway, was confident that his track wasn’t losing its race. In fact, he had heard nothing of the kind and is entering into negotiations in the coming weeks for an entitlement sponsor for next year’s race weekend.

“I have absolutely no concern about Atlanta Motor Speedway losing their one date,” Clark said. “To my knowledge, we are fine.”

Clark also weighed-in on the repave, saying emphatically that despite drivers’ desire to keep the track the same, it’s time to repave.

“Have you ever seen a racetrack that was repaved that they ever did want you to repave,” Clark said. “It is just a matter of at some point this place has got to be repaved with the issues we have with it. Whether that impacts the racing and whether we have to do it now, I think we will probably look at that based on the feedback we’ve got but we had to do some patching last night. It’s worn out.”

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