FORT WORTH — Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson has a not-so-subtle suggestion for improving the quality of racing at Texas Motor Speedway’s single-inclined 1.5-mile oval.
Fire up the bulldozers, the Speedway Motorsports hierarchy, and get going.
“I would like them to tear this place down first and then start from scratch,” Larson told the field media center on Saturday. The quality of racing here in NASCAR’s three National Touring Series and the NTT IndyCar Series has come under increasing scrutiny from drivers, fans and the media since the completion of a major improvement project in March 2017.
Rumors of an off-season reconfiguration and repaving have become a hot topic ahead of Sunday’s 18th annual AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500.
Announced on January 6, 2017 by Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith and former TMS President and CEO Eddie Gossage, the key feature was reduced lean in corners one and two from 24 to 20 degrees. The turn one apron has also been flattened and widened. The bank of turns three and four remained at 24 degrees and the whole layout was repaved. The intention was to break the TMS out of the “cookie cutter” mold associated with intermediate tracks and create additional overtaking opportunities.
Complicating the issue, however, is the fact that NASCAR continues to apply traction compound that, if not properly heat activated, reduces the racing surface to a lower single lane. This compound proved particularly problematic to pass in the IndyCar series.
“Well, to start with, they did a really bad job with the reconfiguration, the initial reconfiguration,” said Larson, the Hendrick Motorsports ace who won that playoff event last October. “I think I’d like to see them go from your mile and a half to something shorter. If I could build a track it would probably be a three-quarter mile Bristol – basically pavement and gradual embankments, everything I don’t know if it’s even possible here… but anything would be better than what they did.
Rumors of the reconfiguration swirled on social media over the summer, driven by a possible change to the recent redesign of the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway. AMS’ incline was increased from 24 to 28 degrees and its tarmac narrowed from 55 to 45 feet of grass – the latter resembling the width of the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway.
Smith declined to address the rumor earlier this month in a series of email questions regarding the August hiring of Mark Faber as TMS’s third general manager.
John Sturbin is senior editor at RacinToday.com, based in Fort Worth. He can be contacted at [email protected].
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