Tony Stewart Says Repaved Daytona Will Feature Even Closer Racing
Although the project is still only about 75 percent complete, Stewart had a chance to run a production car through turns three and four before a ceremonial appearance at the 2.5-mile speedway Thursday to help paint the new start-finish line.
"I got to rip through three and four and it's not the same race track, I can promise you," Stewart said before taking a roller in hand and joining track president Joie Chitwood III to paint the first few black-and-white squares of the start-finish line. "This place is going to have a totally new look to the drivers and the teams. We're going to fill every square inch of the race track because the surface is so even now."
"tt's going to have a ton of grip," he said. "Before, you had to really work on your handling" because it was so bumpy. "Now, handling is not going to be as crucial. You're going to have more cars in a tighter pack, as wide as they can get, and literally you'll be able to use every inch of the track. And guys will be comfortable doing it, knowing how smooth this surface is now.
"It's going to allow us to go places we've not been able to go and run a lot closer width-wise."
While turns three and four are complete and the interior and exterior barriers have been replaced, paving continues in turns one and two, with the final layers of asphalt going down now. In the next week or so, four layers of asphalt will be laid down on pit road.
The project is still on track to be finished before the end of the year.
Chitwood said although he knows the drivers are itching to get out on the track as soon as possible after the job is finished to test tires for Goodyear, he can't predict when that will be.
"We want cars on the track as soon as possible as well," he said. "If there's a possibility of getting cars on the track in December, we'll do that."
When that happens, Stewart said, it will be controlled chaos because "everybody is gonna try to figure out exactly what the limit it."
Although open testing at Daytona in January was discontinued several years ago to cut costs, NASCAR has scheduled a special open test on Jan. 20-22 so the teams can get used to the new surface.