News & Media

Atlanta likely to be repaved within a few years

August 31, 2012, Mark Aumann,

HAMPTON, Ga -- The Atlanta Motor Speedway asphalt is coarser than a sailor's language, has more cracks than Humpty Dumpty after he fell from the wall and is almost old enough to vote. And despite its flaws, it gets a nearly unanimous seal of approval from the drivers in the garage area.

Unfortunately, the asphalt is nearing the end of its useful life. AMS track president Ed Clark said Friday he expects the track will have to be repaved within the next three to four years.

"I've told people we'll drive on it until we have dirt coming up through the surface because the drivers love it so much," Clark said. "But we will eventually have to.

"I've told people we'll drive on it until we have dirt coming up through the surface because the drivers love it so much. But we will eventually have to [repave]."


"We know the time's coming. ... We talk with Goodyear, we talk with NASCAR, and as long as they think we aren't having any issues, we're just going to keep going on. But I'd say within three to four years, we'll have to."

The last time Atlanta was repaved was in 1997, when the track was reconfigured. Since then, Clark said speedway officials have done everything they can to protect the asphalt from the elements.

"Since we repaved 16 years ago, every October we walk the track and we hand seal every little crack before the moisture can get in and it freezes and heaves," Clark said.

"Moisture gets under [the surface] and it freezes and it literally pops the surface, and you get bumps and humps. We've done that every year and I think that's why the surface has lived as long as it has.

"The lateral cracks -- the seams between asphalt -- are easy to seal. But now we're starting to get fingers where the cracks are going in every direction. And you almost have to seal the entire track when that starts to happen. And you know repaving is imminent."

Clark said the track's surface was measured with lasers in the past, so if and when the repaving must be done, he's hoping the unique, multi-groove racing that Atlanta now provides will be preserved.

With Pocono, Michigan and Kansas having been repaved in the past year, Atlanta is one of the few tracks left on the Cup schedule that hasn't undergone major modifications.

And while that's "awesome" to guys like Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart, it's a constant concern to a track promoter, particularly in light of the pothole that created major issues for the 2010 Daytona 500.

"Nobody can afford that," Clark said. "There's too much on the line, with television and everything else, the commitment of the fans to have delays -- or heaven forbid, not be able to finish a race and have to come back the next day."

But as long as everyone -- from the sanctioning body to the tire manufacturer to the teams in the garage -- is satisfied, Clark said Atlanta's racing surface will remain the way it is right now, because some things do get better with age.

"We're going to put it off as long as possible," Clark said. "Tony Stewart told me personally after last year's race that he'd shoot me if we repaved. And every time I see Carl, no matter where it is, he tells me, 'Don't touch the track.'

"There's one [bump] in Turn 1 that was in the track when it was paved," Clark said. "That's what kind of fans the guys out as they go into Turn 1. ... We know we're going to have to [repave], sooner or later. I just hope we can leave that bump in Turn 1 and all the characteristics that make the racetrack what it is."