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Texas Motor Speedway set for repave to be done by mid-March

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Texas Motor Speedway endured a challenging 2016 season with rainouts and weepers delaying both its NASCAR and INDYCAR weekends.

INDYCAR added a touch of humor with a new title sponsor for its 2017 race, with Rainguard Water Sealers confirmed in December on a multiyear deal.

Now, hopefully the need for said sealers – or other track drying elements – won’t be required as Texas has today announced a new, major repaving project that the speedway plans to complete about a month before the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend in April.

IndyCar will be back in its usual June date – June 10 – this year after the remainder of the 248-lap race from Lap 72 onwards was postponed from June 12 until August 27 this year.

Track president Eddie Gossage said even though drivers love the old track surface, with it being 20 years since the Speedway first hosted NASCAR Cup and IndyCar races in 1997, the inconvenience to fans was worth the fresh round of investment.

“The fans are why we are doing this,” Gossage said in a release. “The old pavement no longer dried as quickly because through the years of use and weather, the asphalt became porous, kind of like a sponge. Even if we only had a brief shower it was taking us far too long to get the track dried in order to get on to the racing. We owe it to the fans to present the best possible race track so they will be assured of seeing NASCAR and INDYCAR races even if we face some brief inclement weather. This will accomplish that goal.”

Of note, NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan hinted in November that a repave at Texas was all but inevitable, and an idea stemmed from NASCAR on NBC reporter and part-time Camping World Truck Series driver Parker Kligerman to not just repave the track, but reconfigure it as well.

The key details of the repave are below, via the release:

  • It will be a complete repave, construction of an extensive drainage system and a re-profiling of the 1.5-mile oval configuration.
  • Lane Construction Corp., with offices in neighboring Justin, Texas, will handle the repaving project and is known as the preeminent paving company for NASCAR speedways.
  • The repave will feature an asphalt mix similar to the surfaces at SMI sister tracks, Kentucky Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The mix used in conjunction with the construction method will aid in the track’s properties of an “aged” track.
  • For the installation of the French drainage system, trenches will be cut in numerous locations on the frontstretch and backstretch to provide multiple points for water to drain away from the facility more quickly and efficiently than the current system. The drainable mat installation that will tie into a continuous toe drain will aid in the drainage of the track as well.
  • In addition to the repaving and drainage system, Texas Motor Speedway will undergo a re-profiling in Turns 1 and 2 to give the venue a more unique layout from its currently symmetrical 24-degree banking in all four turns. While Turns 3 and 4 will remain unchanged, the banking of Turns 1 and 2 will be decreased to 20 degrees with the racing surface width expanding from 60 to 80 feet in that section of the track.

Here’s the repave details in infographic form (infographic courtesy of Texas Motor Speedway):


F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.