Grinding smooths Speedway's track surface.
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 3, 2002 - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway's asphalt oval surface was made smoother in early March in a process called "diamond-grinding." The process grinds and eliminates bumps in the asphalt, smoothing the track.
The current 2.5-mile oval asphalt surface has been in place since the fall of 1995, the last time the Speedway was paved.
"Over time, asphalt pavements degrade and crack," said Kevin Forbes, director of engineering and construction for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The cracks allow water to infiltrate, and in the wintertime it freezes and expands. This creates some slight upheavals, some slight vertical movement of the pavement itself, and over time these movements become magnified, resulting simply in a rough surface. For the standard highway this is typically acceptable, but for racing surfaces it is unacceptable."
This is the first time that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's surface has been ground to smooth the surface. The entire 2.5-mile oval was ground.
"Historically, there has been typically only one way to alleviate this condition, and that is to simply repave the track at great expense," Forbes said. "It also takes a great deal of time. We anticipate that this process will cure the problem for two to three years before we have to repave the entire surface again."
Forbes indicated the smoother surface will improve grip for race cars because the smoother surface eliminates cars bottoming out and disrupting the downforce generated by ground effects. With the grinding of the asphalt, small to medium grooves or channels are added to the texture of the track, increasing the coefficient of friction between the tires and the track surface and resulting in better grip.
"We are also hoping, that by adding a series of very small channels in the racetrack, that if and when a car blows its engine and the resulting oil spill gets between the tire and the track, we are hoping that it will somewhat channel that oil, and cars that might have otherwise lost control may possibly be able to retain control after a blown engine," Forbes said.
Speedway officials indicated they received positive feedback regarding the surface from Team Green drivers Dario Franchitti and Paul Tracy, who were the first drivers on the new surface during the first day of spring testing April 3 at the Speedway.
Other improvements made to the facility this spring include new concrete between the Tower Terrance grandstands and the inner pit wall, north of the start/finish line. Restrooms are being renovated in the Paddock Grandstand, and sidewalks are being reconfigured just inside of Gate 1 for fans as they approach the Speedway's main gate. Landscape work also is being done just inside of Gate 9 near Turn 4.
The Southwest Vista grandstands were dismantled so the steel could be regalvanized. The stands now are being reassembled, with no seats added or removed. The driver motorhome lot in the infield near the garage area is also being renovated.
"Most of the work is routine," Forbes said. "We are always thinking of ways to improve the facility for everyone, from the drivers to the fans."