An Open Letter to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage
I believe we have met. I’ve walked across the driver introduction stage for numerous races at your track (including my Sprint Cup debut in 2013). Your racetrack always will have a soft spot in my heart. I love it. Therefore, I am sorry about the unfortunate way Mother Nature has treated your racetrack this year.
It was a herculean effort by your team and NASCAR to get in the race Sunday. Kudos! The track’s porous, worn-out surface has become as stubborn as the damage mercilessly pounded upon it by Father Time. Through those efforts the other night, there were whispers through the garage of a dreaded word whose very utterance can cause consternation amongst drivers.
I know you understand this, as you told reporters, “I know they are going to hate it.” Which is true.
Another repaved, “D”-shaped, 1.5-mile race track doesn’t leave much to mystery. No downforce package, tire compound or tire dragger will deliver some surprise improvement to the racing. We’ll be complaining nonstop about running around the track on a knife’s edge. The racing will be an aero fest, and the winner will get out in victory lane and remark, “Phew, that was a handful, but we survived those crazy restarts and were able to get that crucial bottom line.” It will be the most expensive re-air of a show we have seen too many times.
But why does it have to be this way? I have an idea.
One of my favorite sayings lately is, “In uncertainty, there is opportunity.” Its origin is unknown, but it’s probably my overly optimistic-to-a-fault attitude. If the world was burning, my mom is convinced I’d be saying, “Well I was feeling a bit cold, this is nice.”
But I believe there is serious opportunity here. For a long time, I’ve wondered why racetracks and racing series developed figurative boxes for competition – whether it’s the designs of cars or the shapes and sizes of racetracks. Try as I might, though, I haven’t found any rules for building a racetrack.
The fact is racing isn’t curing disease, or solving third-world debt. Its sole purpose now is to entertain.
Entertainment knows no bounds, and the only constant is that it isn’t. It comes in billions of different forms. There are 7 billion people in this world and just as many definitions of what entertains them. As an incredible and very entertaining promoter, you already know this, Eddie. From crazy advertisements to elaborate prerace shows to an HDTV so large, it could double as apartment housing in New York.
Entertainment never has been more readily available, either. People have it in the palms of their hands on a 6.5-inch screen.
So why do we need to repeat the obvious when we inevitably repave Texas Motor Speedway?
Let’s what the catchy No Limits” slogan suggests and break the boundaries. If “everything is bigger in Texas,” the track that bears that great state’s name should be no different.
Let’s stop Jimmie Johnson from getting out of his car and saying “With the same tire, we were able to learn a lot for Miami” (as he did this past weekend). Let’s avoid the comparisons with recent repaves at Las Vegas, Kentucky and Kansas.
This is Texas, let’s build a racetrack and that will apply only here!
Three years ago, I wrote a piece on “How not to design a great racetrack” that criticized the current crop of tracks built around the world. All are designed on computers under the watchful eyes of engineers who spend their lives staring at computer screens. The results are boring, lifeless and unusually expensive parking lots.
The greatest tracks were built by a man and a bulldozer (Mosport in Canada) or in the interests of avoiding a minnow pond (Darlington Raceway). We might have moved past this era, but it doesn’t mean we should be any less imaginative with track design.
Let’s use the Internet, engineers and social media to our advantage.
I always have wondered why we couldn’t get crazy and unique with track design, so let’s start with Texas. Take the sweeping, wide-open third and fourth turns and reshape them narrowly like Martinsville (while keeping Turns 1 and 2 the same). Imagine cars that brake and downshift three gears every lap and then accelerate through the gears on the frontstretch. The drivers truly will earn their money, and fans will get something you can’t see anywhere else.
OK, maybe you don’t like that. So how about a right-hander on the backstretch? Similar to the old Trenton racetrack in New Jersey, though this right- hander would be severe enough that the engineers would have to compromise on the setup of the race car for rights and lefts.
You want to get rid of “rear-end skew” and aero? There is your answer.
Or have a track where the top line next to the wall has a half– groove that is banked 8 degrees more than anywhere on the track. That would create a super treacherous line, but it would offer a sizable advantage in speed — if you dare risk hitting the wall!
There is no reason to re-create the past. Let’s be creative!
So which do we choose?
Here is where we get so very Texas and 21st century all at once. We use modern technology to create five simulations of the new track. It would take iRacing roughly less than two weeks, and their versions would be incredibly lifelike.
We offer a free demo with a Sprint Cup car and five proposed versions of the new track. Fans around the world would be able to download all of them. They test it, and we do a series of votes to determine which they love most.
We will do races involving NASAR drivers, too — Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and others will race fans on the different versions. Eventually, a winner will be chosen, and in a nationally televised special, we will announce the winner of the first track built by the fans and NASCAR industry in the history of the sport.
It’ll be the first track built with one goal: To entertain.
By truly embracing “No Limits,” Texas will usher in a new era of race-tracks. And I’ll look forward to walking across that introduction stage to offer you my congratulations on a track built by the fans … for the fans..