By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
FORT WORTH, Texas – Texas Motor Speedway’s repave and reconfiguration are officially complete and on Monday, both NASCAR and IndyCar joined in on the fun.
The 1.5-mile oval began the process in January with the aim to add extensive draining to help with its irrigation issues that plagued it the past few years. None more apparent than last year when IndyCar underwent a 70-plus day red flag rain delay, with the race being completed on August 27 in a thriller won by Graham Rahal by just 0.008 of a second.
The necessary changes coming, Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, gave SMI’s (Speedway Motorsports Inc., the organization that owns TMS) Marcus Smith credit on the concept of re-developing Turns 1 and 2.
The opening corners are now lowered from 24 degrees to 20, and the racing surface has been widened from 60 feet to 80 feet. The additions have altered one of the widest pit road exits in all of racing and will now feature a narrower apron.
“Marcus Smith, president of Speedway Motorsports Incorporated which is our parent company, suggested why don’t we re-profile Turns 1 and 2,” Gossage said.
“Let’s make it a little flatter – that’s something we’ve always wanted to do is reduce the banking here if we could to make the cars slow down a little bit. He said let’s re-profile it and as it turned out we were able to lower the banking from 24 to 20 degrees in Turns 1 and 2 and widen the track in the process. The re-profiling is a great idea from Marcus Smith.”
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series were represented by driver Chris Buescher and Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, with the Verizon IndyCar Series was represented by driver Ed Carpenter were INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye.
Buescher, Carpenter and Gossage piloted three pace cars and shared laps around the new surface as O’Donnell and Frye waved green flags as fireworks erupted along the start/finish line.
“I’m excited to get out there in an Indy car,” said Carpenter, previous winner of the IndyCar event at Texas in 2014.
“Obviously, the Chevy SS (pace car) is nice and can get some speed, but it is a lot different car from an Indy car. But from what I could tell, it’s greatly improved, a lot smoother and I think the reconfiguration as drivers and teams we like challenges and it’s something different.
“Having diversity between 1, 2, 3 and 4 is something good for racing obviously and with it wider Indy cars may be able to go five wide through there.”
IndyCar teams will undergo a test at the track on April 12.
For Buescher, the changes bring comparisons to Kentucky, but that isn’t a bad thing.
NASCAR prepares for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on April 9, while IndyCar readies for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on June 10.