The roar of racing engines recently replaced the growl of working diesels as Lane Construction Company finished repaving the famous track several weeks before a Jan. 1, 2011 deadline and Goodyear Tire Company quickly set up a tire test for the new surface.
Eighteen NASCAR drivers were the first to feel changes on the track—Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Kurt Busch, Casey Mears, Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Bobby Labonte, Todd Bodine, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson and Brian Keselowski.
Five top drivers had much to share with fans as they described the new surface—Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch and Bobby Labonte.
“It’s amazing the job that they did here,” Gordon said. “It’s really smooth. It’s got a lot of grip. I think we learned a tremendous amount by being here. Not only did we get a chance to really see what we’re going to be dealing with here in February for the Daytona 500, but it gets us prepared for the test coming up in January.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. envisioned tighter races at DIS.
“They smoothed out all the bumps,” Earnhardt Jr. said, “The track is real smooth. It’s got a lot of grip. The track reminds me a lot like Talladega was like when they first finished it.
“The racing during the drafting was exciting and I think it is going to be a good show, a more exciting show for the fans because the cars are going to stay real tight on each other throughout entire runs.”
Jeff Burton pointed out a big change coming.
“I think it's going to be a helluva race,” Burton said. “We've had some great Daytona 500 finishes the last several years. The end of the race has been great. We've seen separation of cars because of the handling issues during the race. You're not going to see that this time. There's going to be a constant pack. I don't know how you could get separated.”
Kurt Busch was impressed also.
“It's an impressive surface, Busch said. “There's been a lot of hard work done. Everybody should be proud of what they've accomplished to resurface it, give it a new look.
“It's just a new attitude. This is what 2011 will bring to start off our Sprint Cup season—big, exciting time. I'm proud to be able to say I got a chance to race on the surface when it was redone.”
Bobby Labonte pointed out a problem fixed with a new wider pit road.
“Pit road is awesome,” Labonte said. “I always said this is one of the hardest pit roads we would come through at any race because it was too narrow, never any grip with the concrete.”
DIS President, Joie Chitwood III, chimed in with his take.
"The sound of cars on the racetrack today was music to my ears," Chitwood said. "We are glad to have this project completed ahead of schedule so Goodyear can have a good opportunity to develop a tire for our events in 2011.
Testing and driver availability will be the focus during Fan Fest days in late January.
Details and racing information available on www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled and condensed by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com.
Six major NASCAR tracks are within a day's drive of Tampa. They aren’t exactly local tracks until race speed, good times and fan enthusiasm are measured too. Great destinations justify journeys.
Here the NASCAR venue is considered local if they are within a 10 hour drive from Tampa—Daytona International Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Photo credit: Daytona International Speedway