No sooner had Denny Hamlin pulled off the track and into Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway on Sunday than did a tank and an earth mover from the National Guard rumble back onto the asphalt.
It was the ceremonial start to a repaving and reconfiguring of the 1.5-mile oval, where large chunks of pavement had come loose over the weekend. One piece, about 5 inches long and a couple inches deep, wound up in the infield media center after a routine inspection Friday night.
Brad Keselowski waved a green flag from the M1A1 Abrams tank to start the project, which will be completed in time for tire testing in September and the Chase for the Sprint Cup race in October.
”Well, I’ve been tearing it up for a long time, but now I get to officially do it, with approval, in a tank,” Keselowski said, smiling.
The repaving process has been met with mixed reviews by drivers concerned that the process will take some of the character out of the track. After all, the 11-year-old surface provided an exciting finish Sunday, with Hamlin holding off Martin Truex Jr. down the stretch.
”I’m not a fan of tearing up any racetrack,” said Kevin Harvick, who ran out of gas early Sunday but rebounded to finish sixth. ”I don’t think they’ve done a good job with any of the asphalt they have put down at any of the racetracks since they have repaved.”
Harvick’s main issue with the new surfaces is that they don’t wear out the tires.
”With the new-style racetracks, there are no rocks in it,” Harvick said, the result of which is often less exciting racing. ”Any racetrack tear-up is bad news, in my opinion.”
The new asphalt surface is only one aspect of construction.
Kansas Speedway will also add variable banking – 17 degrees on the low side up to 20 degrees along the wall – to replace the original, uniform 15-degree banking. There will also be a road course built through the infield, which is expected to host a Grand-Am race next year.