IRL: Scratching the surface at IMS

The 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval will be repaved following the August 8th running of the 11th annual Brickyard 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race that signifies the end of the circuit's racing season this year. Although the track was ...

The 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval will be repaved following the August 8th running of the 11th annual Brickyard 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race that signifies the end of the circuit's racing season this year.

Although the track was resurfaced in 1995 and is recognized as being one of the smoothest oval circuits in the United States, owner Tony George decided it needed improvements for "some drainage issues", according to Indianapolis Star reports.

Height of the racetrack and its SAFER barriers on the outside walls in each of four turns won't be affected by the project. Four inches of the surface will be milled and replaced with an identical amount of new asphalt, the track said.

The earlier job did not include pit road or the voluminous warm-up lanes that were added to the facility to easy ingress and egress on pit road. These items are on the docket for paving after two years of planning. The project should take about two months and entail the use 36,500 tons of asphalt, covering 1,085,085 square feet per layer. Three or four layers of asphalt pavement will be poured.

This year's racing schedule at the Brickyard circuit has been compressed as the United States Grand Prix was moved from the September date it occupied the first five years to the June 20th the race occupies this year. Although the interior road course is not slated for repaving, the oval track's new "texture will become more similar to the road course itself," according to Kevin Forbes, track director of engineering and construction.

That compression of scheduling for the three races run at Indy - May 30th for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, June 20th for the USGP and the August 8th Brickyard 400 - along with a ban on fall testing at the track by IRL teams will enable the asphalt to be laid and cured before winter sets in.

In discussing project plans, Forbes focused on the difference between roadways and purpose-built circuits such as the Indy oval. The goal of this project is to eliminate the surface cracks caused by cold winters and the unusually high amount of downforce generated by Indy cars; ergo, the project takes place in the warmth of late summer and should be completed by mid-October, well before frost sets in.

These small cracks don't close - as they might on traffic-laden road surface - due to the lack of everyday congestion. "Since we don't have that traffic, once a crack opens up," Forbes said, "it stays open. Every one of those is an entry point for water," leading to deterioration at and below the track surface.

"In May when the IndyCar Series cars are on the racetrack, with all the suction from downforce and the track still somewhat cold from winter, they actually start to break up little bits and pieces of the track," Forbes delineated. There are "very small pieces, and it's not that many, but just enough to become a nuisance."

Forbes and his crew are designing a "pavement, or mix that will combat the oxidation much better," he said. The mixture is "something we've used with virtually every track that's been paved" since the Brickyard circuit was last fully redone in 1995.

"We are starting to really understand the dynamics and all the little idiosyncrasies that surround racetrack pavement. Even though bituminous asphalt technology has been around since the 1930s, really only in the last 10-15 years or so have we truly begun to understand how it works on a racetrack."

By using "diamond grinding" in the spring of 2002 that eliminates minor bumps in the asphalt surface, the IMS crew was able to postpone the paving project it has now scheduled for an August 9th start. The new surface should be a little bit smoother than the diamond grinding process, Forbes noted. Hall of Fame Museum track tours will resume within days of the project's completion in October, the track said.

A singular benefit of the new surface will be a shorter period necessary to dry the surface after rain interruptions, which should be advantageous for both the IndyCar Series and the NASCAR Cup cars that use the oval exclusively.

Forbes wrote the paving specifications for six other oval tracks: Chicagoland Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Walt Disney World Speedway, Pikes Peak International Raceway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His contractor is a commercial street/highway paving company and, Forbes acknowledged, "We will meet with them and oversee their operations from start to finish."

The Indy Racing League's senior vice president of racing operations Brian Barnhart stated to the Star that he did not request the repaving job, noting that IMS is among the smoothest on the 16-race IndyCar Series schedule's stops.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series History , IndyCar , NASCAR
Drivers Tony George