The cries of drivers have been heard. Atlanta Motor Speedway will not repave its track as previously scheduled. Instead, track officials will evaluate the surface following the 2018 race there.
Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns the track, had planned to have the track surface repaved beginning in late March. It would have been the first repave there since 1997.
Engineers examined the track after the March 5 race to determine if the track surface could last another year with modest repairs. Track officials also consulted with Goodyear and others.
“There’s no question that the surface is worn out, but probably the most powerful lobby this side of Washington, D.C., was the biggest influence,” Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, told NBC Sports of the drivers. “They kind of put the pressure on. I understand.”
After winning there, Brad Keselowski made his pitch not to repave the track.
“Drivers hate repaves,” he said. “We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can. But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.
“My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can’t, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.”
Clark said that work will need to be done to the track before next year’s race.
“The worst part is down the frontstretch in front of the grandstands,” Clark told NBC Sports. “There’s a lot of issues there. We’re actually going to have to cut a few areas and patch … to make it last through 2018. We consulted with Goodyear on that. They don’t think, as long as it is on the straightaway, it is a big issue from a tire standpoint.”
Clark said the track surface will be sealed in October and should have the patching done before then.
“Let them go ahead and slip and slide one more time in 2018,” Clark said.
Clark said that while anything can change, he doesn’t foresee being talked out of a repave job too many more times.
“You have to see how the weekend goes and what happens,” Clark told NBC Sports. “We had to patch some places after the Saturday events this year, small places. Hey, if we could go two more, great. All you’ve got to do is walk out there and look at it. It is absolutely worn out. But if the drivers say, hey our choice is to race on this surface as it is.
“There comes a point (when a repave is needed). We do have a few drainage issues we do need to correct, some other things when the time comes. Right now, we’re going to get through 2018 and evaluate and see if that is the time or when is it.”
Clark said that when the track is repaved, Goodyear has expressed interest in having two test sessions to determine the proper tire for that 1.5-mile track instead of the customary one because of the track’s challenging surface.
Clark warns that with the excitement of Tuesday’s news, the day is still coming when the track will have to be repaved.
“I can’t see this going two more seasons, maybe only one,” Clark said.