AVONDALE, Ariz. – Maintaining side-by-side racing, that is the challenge in the upcoming repaving of Phoenix International Raceway.
Following Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500, PIR will undergo a complete makeover. According to track president Bryan Sperber, the current track has “used up its life expectancy.”
But as was witnessed in last week’s Daytona 500, laying down new pavement on a track can change the racing dramatically. So when looking at PIR, Marty Flugger, the same engineer charged with the repaving of Daytona International Speedway, determined that simply digging up the old asphalt and laying down a new track over the current configuration would have generated a single racing groove and thus single-file racing.
To ensure side-by-side racing, Flugger’s design calls for a slight decrease in variable banking in both corners and kicking out the backstretch about 200 feet.
Fear of another pothole debacle like in last year’s Daytona 500 was not the impetus for the repaving. In fact, Sperber had brought this initiative to the board of International Speedway Corporation, which owns the track, prior to last year’s Daytona 500.
“I told [Kevin] Harvick, we’re holding it together with duct tape and bubble gum,” Sperber said.
The repaving project is expected to last five to six months, and should be completed by September – two months before the Cup series returns in November for the penultimate race in the Chase.
Kurt Busch likened the planned configuration to New Hampshire International Speedway and Richmond International Raceway.
“With variable banking, you’re going to see the low line, going to see the high line, but what is going to be the preferred?” Busch wondered.
Goodyear will hold a tire test at PIR prior to the November race. Exactly who will be invited will be of great interest considering what will be at stake when the Cup Series returns.
“[That’s] really going to throw in a wild card, so to speak,” Busch said of the new configuration. He then proceeded to lobby Sperber several times to be a part of the Goodyear test. “I hope it’s someone helping them with this press announcement.”