By David Morgan, Associate Editor
FORT WORTH, Texas – To reconfigure or not to reconfigure, that is the question.
With the NASCAR Cup Series in town this weekend for Sunday’s AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, the attention has focused on the 1.5-mile track and what the future of the facility should be.
While the drivers have a myriad of opinions on what they would like to see happen, the consensus is that it should be anything other than what it is now.
Texas first joined the circuit in 1997, but back in 2017 went through a reconfiguration, which has not panned out thus far in its effort to spruce up the racing at the track for not only NASCAR, but also IndyCar.
The reconfiguration dropped the banking in Turns 1 and 2 from 24 degrees to 20 degrees, as well as widening the racing surface from 60 feet to 80 feet. Meanwhile, Turns 3 and 4 remained banked at 24 degrees and 60 feet wide, giving the track two distinct corners that the drivers have to navigate.
Since it’s debut, the reconfigured track has fell well short of expectations, leading us to where we are today and talk of the track getting another facelift. Whether it happens or not still remains to be seen, but the drivers certainly have their opinions on the track and what, if anything, should be done.
“It needs more than a repave,” defending Texas fall race winner Kyle Larson said. “I would like them to demolish this place and then start over from scratch. For one, they did a very poor job with the initial reconfiguration.
“I would like to see them change it from a 1.5-mile track to something shorter. I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever. If I could build a track, it would probably be a three-quarter mile Bristol, basically; pavement, progressive banking, all of that. But I don’t know if that’s even possible here.
“I’m not sure what they have in mind, but anything would be better than what they did.”
Ryan Blaney would simply turn the clock back, resetting the track to it’s original configuration before the construction equipment rolled in five years ago.
“Find a time machine, go back a few years, and just let it live,” Blaney said. “You’ve got to tear up this asphalt and see if the old stuff is still underneath. Get the banking back in [Turn] 1 and 2. I don’t know. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate what happened to this place, but it still puts on a race. It’s just a different kind of race now and you have to live with it.
“Ask anyone in the garage and they’ll tell you the exact same thing. This place used to be amazing, just like Atlanta, and now we’ve lost both of them.”
Chase Briscoe noted that if Texas was reconfigured, he’d like to see a newer version of Homestead’s oval replace the current layout.
“I would love to see a Homestead 2.0,” Briscoe said. “If they’re going to start from scratch, I would love a Homestead-type race track. The problem is anytime you build a new race track, it’s not going to be slick and worn out for a while, right? It’s trying to figure out what’s the best to maximize those first couple of years to get it good by the end.
“I think Homestead’s a great model. If we’re going to build another mile and a half, I think we need to look at what they have. The progressive banking…the shape of the track is different. I just think it’s a really good race track. And I think it always puts on great racing. So, anything we can do to match that would be my vote for sure.”
Among the rumors that have swirled regarding Texas’ future is the thought that an Atlanta Motor Speedway-like reconfiguration could be in the works. But if the drivers had it their way, another superspeedway would be the last thing any of them would like to see Texas turned into.
“I hope that doesn’t happen,” Joey Logano said. “I really do. I think that’s the wrong move. I don’t think that’d be any better than what we’ve got. Anything but that, for sure. Short tracks are always great. I don’t know, put a Roval in here. Keep doing what we’re doing. I think adding more superspeedways isn’t a real good move.
Logano doubled down on his disdain for possibly adding another superspeedway, questioning whether that type of track is truly what the fan base wants to see.
“Do the fans really want that?” Logano inquired. “Daytona is always going to have a good fan base because it’s Daytona and the Daytona 500. The second Daytona race is the final race to make the Playoffs and of course, it’s going to have good ratings. That’s great, but do we need more superspeedways? Is that the type of racing fans want to see?
“When you look at the way people have finished up front in these superspeedways lately, it’s the ones that are riding around at the back. Do you believe you should be rewarded for not working? Because that’s what they’re doing. They’re riding around in the back, not working, not going up there to put a good race on, riding around in the back and capitalizing on other people’s misfortune for racing up front and trying to win. I don’t think that’s right.
“That’s not racing. I can’t get behind that. I always say it’s a tax I have to pay to go race at real race tracks. My opinion is don’t put more of those out there.”