Drivers on possible Kentucky repave: 'Hell no'
June 26, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
Track bumpy, but that's what competitors prefer
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SPARTA, Ky. -- There are several "dirty words" in the world of NASCAR.
Rain. Debris. Monday.
However, there are few that rile up drivers more than "repave."
One track NASCAR's finest will defend to the death is Kentucky Speedway, site of this weekend's tripleheader.
"If you say the word repave, I'm going to kick your ..." said NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and last week's winner Brendan Gaughan before trailing off. "As far as it comes to the resurfacing of Kentucky Speedway, I believe Carl Edwards said that he would lay in front of the paver. I would be there handcuffed to him."
Pretty drastic for a 1.5-mile stretch of bumpy asphalt, no? Actually, that's it. No.
Drivers love racing at Kentucky because of the bumps. Because it takes a toll on tires. Because it hasn't been resurfaced in nearly 15 year.
Kentucky lends itself to side-by-side racing full of passing, with rubber on the track contributing to the overall character.
"Goodyear has to build these tires that are as fast on Lap 120 as they are on Lap 20, and growing up racing in the 90s that was never the case, so that's what's fun about Kentucky," Gaughan said. "Goodyear brought a good tire here. It wears out, you see a drop-off in speed and time, and that's what a tire, when you have a track like this, it's still 180-plus miles an hour; it's still super fast. It's still all the things that the fans want to see, but it's better because we can go side-by-side on a track like this. The tires do wear out, so you see guys pass."
Gaughan isn't alone either. Elliott Sadler said that if we were to ask every driver here this weekend, 95 percent would say to never resurface a venue unless dirt and grass are starting to sprout on the track.
Unsurprisingly, "repave" isn't one of his favorite words, either.
"Hell no. Please don't, guys. Don't bring up that word -- that's a bad word in racing," Sadler said. "As a track gains character and it loses grip and it creates bumps and it creates grooves, it creates better racing for the fans. Anytime you have to come in and repave a track -- I understand that you have to do it to keep the asphalt going when it's falling apart and stuff like that, but wait until the last possible minute if you can. We've seen the Michigan race track (repaved in 2011) definitely has changed a lot from a racing perspective, (the) Kansas race track (repaved in 2012) has definitely changed a lot -- Daytona (2010) is definitely a lot different.
"Right now Kentucky is rough, we know it is and everybody has to battle through that. It's lost a lot of grip and everybody has to battle through that, but that’s what makes Kentucky different than Texas, Charlotte, Chicago, Kansas and other mile-and-a-halves that we race at. I definitely agree with Brendan -- no repave anytime soon, hopefully."
So while both drivers acknowledge that tracks eventually reach a point where most would deem a repave necessary, here's where their points of view differ.
"There is a point where race tracks need to be resurfaced. That's just a fact of life," Gaughan said. "Things get old and we have the ability to rejuvenate them. But right now, it seems that everybody rejuvenated at once. So many tracks did all in the same time period. We need at least a few more years out of Kentucky so we have this really nice track that is bumpy … and Goodyear can go back and make a tire that they don't have to make go 250 miles an hour and try to be safe. I hope they don't (repave) yet. There is going to be a point though, where Kentucky has to. Is it getting to that point? I'm sure it's getting to that point, but man I would hate to do it right now."
For Sadler, a 39-year-old veteran with starts in all three NASCAR national series who is often viewed as "old-school," not so much.
"If you're asking my opinion as a driver, never," said Sadler, currently second in Nationwide Series points. "Patch it up. Patch it up like Pocono did a couple years ago -- remember they did Turn 3 on the outside lane. That was awesome. That created awesome racing. If you're a race fan I think you would want to keep it old and slick and everybody sliding around. That creates, in my opinion, really good racing.
"When you repave something, technology is so good in everything right now and when you repave something and you're spending millions and millions of dollars, you want to put the best stuff down that's going to last. Now with all the technology, the asphalt that they're putting down really sticks together very well and it stays smooth. It creates a ton of grip, which creates pretty much single file racing because you're running so fast. … Maybe I'm old-school, but leave it slick and let's run around and everybody has to race on it."