Owing to an early completion of Daytona International Speedway’s repaving by Lane Construction, NASCAR guys invaded the venerated track for a two-day Goodyear tire test. Quick arrangements from the staff at DIS also put Grand-Am sports cars, ARCA stock cars and AMA Superbikes on the new asphalt.
Comments from the highly skilled drivers and riders tell a gripping story of the new track.
NASCAR drivers were first on and off and had much to say.
Jeff Gordon summed up the result in a few words.
“It’s amazing the job that they did here,” Gordon said. “It’s really smooth. It’s got a lot of grip.
For Dale Earnhardt Jr. the new track tapped his memory.
“They smoothed out all the bumps,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “The track reminds me a lot like Talladega was like when they first finished it.
Jeff Burton has solid anticipation for the first Daytona race in 2011.
“I think it's going to be a helluva race,” Burton said. “There's going to be a constant pack. I don't know how you could get separated.”
Kurt Busch was impacted also.
“It's an impressive surface, Busch said. “There's been a lot of hard work done.”
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.”
Only days after the NASCAR packed up for the holidays, Rolex Sports Car Series and ARCA Racing Series added their tire tracks to the new racing surface. The unique test had Grand-Am cars on track in a morning session while ARCA cars participated in an afternoon session.
Five-time Rolex 24 champion, Hurley Haywood, has vast experience bouncing around Daytona.
“I’ve been battering around these bankings for over 40 years,” Haywood said. “You get used to every single bump and ripple out there. It’s now completely free of bumps. It’s absolutely smooth as silk. There’s no bump in (Turn) 4. There are no bumps out of (Turn) 2.
“A big plus is that they made the transitions going from the infield back out to the banking really smooth so there’s not an abruptness in doing that. It’s a huge improvement.”
ARCA Racing drivers, Steve Arpin and Hal Martin, from Venturini Motorsports look forward to their first race of the year on the super surface.
Steve Arpin sees excitement coming.
“There’s a lot more grip,” Arpin said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how it races when we get 40 cars out there. I think you’re going to see a lot more three-wide racing here than what you have seen in the past.
“Those Grand-Am cars get going. It’s pretty cool to be here testing the same day with a series that’s as distinguished as them. For us just to be here, it’s pretty cool.”
Hal Martin saw changes and the future.
“It’s a night day and difference,” Martin said. “The old surface, you had the big bump in (Turns) 1 and 2 and you had the big bump in (Turn) 4 that really upset the cars. Right now, this surface is smooth as ice. There are no bumps out there. The grip level is up and it’s going to lend for some nice racing come February. We’re going to be three wide most of the race.”
With December days hurdling toward Christmas, there was still time for two-wheel testing.
SuperBike and Daytona SportBike classes of AMA Pro Racing participated in a two-day Dunlop tire test for March’s Daytona 200 Week. Yamaha’s Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin and Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden defined the changes they felt.
The 2010 AMA Pro SuperBike champion, Josh Hayes, saw strategy.
“We are all going around the race track having fun and have nothing but good things to say so far,” Hayes said. “Quite honestly, it’s so smooth that it’s kind of changed the gameplan.
“Honestly the track feels smaller to me. It feels like it’s about 80 percent of the size that it use to be because we get around there a little bit quicker, a little bit smoother and a little more time to relax.
The 2010 Daytona 200 champion, Josh Herrin, found benefits.
“It’s nice and smooth,” Herrin said. “It’s easy to see now. There’s no bumps and it’s going to be make the 200 miles a lot easier up on the banking not being so bumpy. The chest isn’t sore today. It’s usually sore from all the bumps but it’s been really good.”
Veteran motorcycle racer Tommy Hayden felt changes too.
“It’s definitely different,” Hayden said. “It’s way smoother, the bike moves around a lot less and it has a lot more grip.”
Daytona KartWeek is next on Dec.28-30, 2010. It’s suspected that kart racers will have good words about Daytona’s new surface also.
Photo credit: Daytona International Speedway