NASCAR Repaves and Track Ages

Mar 9, 2017 by Nascar Wagers

NASCAR Repaves and Track Ages
by Jay Horne of NASCARWagers.com, NASCAR Handicapping

In the wake of last week’s exciting race in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there has been a lot of discussion surrounding Atlanta Motor Speedway’s plans to repave the racing surface which has grown rugged and rigid since it’s last repave job back in 1997. However, the racing that has been produced at Atlanta has been some of the best in NASCAR and easily the best among any of the other 1.5 mile race tracks that dominate the Monster Energy Cup Series schedule each year. Drivers from Matt Crafton to Dale Earnhardt Jr openly expressed their hopes that Atlanta officials would hold off on the repaving plans that are scheduled to start in the upcoming months. In the aftermath of the repaving discussion, Atlanta officials are now reconsidering their plans to repave the track. Whether Atlanta gets a new facelift remains to be determined but I thought this would be a good time to look at all of NASCAR’s repaves over the years. One of the biggest unspoken handicapping tools available is understanding the drivers that perform well on certain surfaces, banking, and track types. Therefore let’s kick off the discussion surrounding the age of some of NASCAR’s tracks to keep in mind for the future.

If you happened to miss last week’s race, you may be asking how does an old racing surface produce great racing? After all the rigid surfaces and bumps on the track appear to be a nuisance especially for drivers. On the contrary, it is the bumps and surface that give a track “character.” In some cases, specific bumps on a race track may alter the preferred driver’s line around the track. In most other cases, the jagged surface eats away at the Goodyear racing tires which causes the cars handling to change significantly over the course of a single green flag run between pit stops. Last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there was a 3 second differential in lap speeds between new and old tires. When you have that type of drop off in lap speed, it opens up a plethora of variables that result in great racing caused by pit road strategy, tire management, drivers searching for grip on the track, and back and forth racing from the variance in the way cars handle throughout a green flag run. In essence, it is old school racing renewed in front of our eyes and that is something needed in NASCAR today.

From our vantage point, we are not here to discuss which tracks need to be repaved and the tracks that do not need to be repaved. We have seen good and bad results in recent years from repaves therefore let’s refrain from that side of the debate. However, I do believe that understanding track surface in general is one of the biggest handicapping secrets alive in NASCAR. Therefore having an idea of a track’s surface age, overall grip level, and other surface characteristics is a huge benefactor towards predicting drivers that should perform well. For example, I warned last week that Kyle Larson was a driver that had to be considered at Atlanta Motor Speedway due to his great car control and ability to continuous search for grip on the track. When tires wear off, driver’s that have great car control and are not afraid to test different lines around the track in search of grip will typically outshine others. Meanwhile, guys like Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are notorious for having the ability to save tires to make the best of long green flag runs. All 3 drivers performed very well last week despite mediocre practice speeds leading up to the start of the race. Therefore, knowing that type of information going into a race is unprecedented in the handicapping or fantasy world.

Also be aware of track types and layouts. There are not any track surfaces that are going to be exactly like another track. There will be some similarities but every track is different because of the “character” previously mentioned. Also despite a track’s surface age, understand that the overall layout and banking will greatly effect how the surface impacts the car. Charlotte Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway were last repaved just a year apart in 2005 and 2006. However, New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a relatively flat track that does not put a lot of load or front travel on the right front tire. Whereas Charlotte Motor Speedway is a bigger track with faster speeds and higher banking that causes more load speed on the right side tires along with negative camber that will stress inner tire wear. Therefore, track age is just one aspect along with many others that must be considered when considering this handicapping angle.

The importance of grouping these characteristics are important for predicting what drivers will prevail on a weekly basis. Obviously some drivers perform particularly better on surfaces with more grip (newly repaved) as compared to other drivers that may prevail on surfaces with less grip. Lastly, do your research on the track surfaces that compare closely to others. Obviously concrete tracks do not have the same type of wear as asphalt surfaces which should be fairly obvious. However, tracks with similar surface ages may have a completely different type of grip level due to their own weathering conditions and amount of race activity they experience on a yearly basis. Therefore, it is important to know the overall grip levels at each track because that effects everything from the setup on the racecar to the driver that is steering the racecar. NASCAR teams will run similar suspension and setups between tracks that have relatable track surfaces in hopes for optimal grip and tire preservation. For example, many people may not know that Chicagoland Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway have very similar track surfaces despite their overall disposition differing significantly for 1.5 mile race tracks. However, once that information is learned then it is a great tool to have in your back pocket when predicting the potential outcome of a race. It takes some time to research this angle but the rewards outweigh the work every time! Take a look at all of NASCAR’s track ages so you will have a better understanding of some baseline surface ages as this season progresses!

NASCAR Tracks – Last repave by the numbers:

Dover International Speedway – 1994 (concrete surface)
Atlanta Motor Speedway – 1997
Auto Club Speedway – Opened in 1997 (never repaved)
Texas Motor Speedway – 2001 (Scheduled repave prior to April 9th race)
Sonoma Raceway – 2003
Homestead-Miami Speedway – 2003
Indianapolis Motor Speedway – 2004
Martinsville Speedway – 2004 (concrete corners)
Richmond International Raceway – 2004
New Hampshire Motor Speedway – 2005
Charlotte Motor Speedway – 2006
Las Vegas Motor Speedway – 2006
Talladega Superspeedway – 2006
Darlington Raceway – 2008
Daytona International Speedway – Fall of 2010
Phoenix International Raceway – Summer 2011
Bristol Motor Speedway – 2012 (concrete)
Pocono Raceway – 2012
Michigan International Speedway – 2012
Kansas Speedway – 2012
Watkins Glen International – 2015
Kentucky Speedway – 2016

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