When is asphalt big news?

When it’s the new surface at Daytona International Raceway.

What NASCAR fan does not remember the cracked pavement debacle at this year’s Daytona 500? From a drivers standpoint it wasn’t much different than driving in Chicago rush hour, dodging potholes, except these guys were doing it at 190 mph. A small crater developed along the low line of turn two and after at least two competitors suffered damaged race cars as a result, NASCAR officials red flagged the race (parked the competitors) so track crews could figure out how to repair the dangerous fissure along the racing surface.

After nearly a two hour delay the race resumed. Then, with only 39 laps left to finish, the patch no longer patched and the problem was worse than ever. With another red flag, another delay, a mass exodus from the grandstands, and Daytona Speedway had a full blown PR nightmare on their hands. Imagine the net coming unraveled during the last set of the last match at Wimbleton, or the green catching fire at the 18th Hole at the Masters in Augusta, or the starting gates collapsing at the Kentucky Derby — with the horses in them. That’s how bad this was. In the end it took over six hours to run a three hour race — a nightmare with a capitol NIGHT!

You have to applaud the Daytona for grabbing the tires by the asphalt and making the quick decision to repave the speedway. Work would begin immediately after the July race.  Considering the size of the job, the amount of pavement to lay down and the six months to do it, the window of opportunity was very narrow, but the contractor came in under the checkered flag.

The twenty million dollar paving job was officially christened by a host of NASCAR drivers this week to test tire compounds for Goodyear.  Based on the tests, many drivers believe the new Daytona will drive very much like Talladega. Two and three wide racing virtually anywhere on the track will be the norm. It’s been thirty-two years since the jewel of NASCAR has seen new asphalt. The dangerous bumps in turns two and four are gone.

The speedway will be fast, the racing will be close, and the fans will love it. What more can I say… It’s Daytona, baby!

The Daytona 500 runs on February 20th. 2010.

I woke up this morning, and I still don’t believe I won the Daytona 500. ~Dale Earnhardt

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