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Why Do Repaves Suck?

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Joshua Lipowski

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What’s Happening?

Throughout recent history, tracks have become notorious for wearing down their racing surface as much as they possibly can be. Tracks such as Atlanta Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway postponed scheduled repaves after drivers begged them to. The reason is that repaves are unpopular amongst the drivers and fans, but what makes repaves suck?

  • Conventional logic would say that a brand-new racing surface would be great for racing. However, the opposite is true, as it hurts major factors in the racing product including tire wear, the racing groove, and overall grip.
  • Sometimes, tracks try to counteract the issues with repaves by reconfiguring race tracks. Some reconfigurations have been good, but others have proved disastrous.
  • Fans dislike repaves just as much as drivers do. Fans constantly bemoan when a track has to get a repave.

How They Affect Tire Wear

A new racing surface does not wear out tires nearly as much as an older racing surface does. A newer racing surface is less abrasive on tires, while older surfaces are more abrasive. Kaulig Racing posted a picture comparing the old and new surface at Road America, and it shows why.

The new surface, on the left, is very smooth, while the old surface, on the right, is very rough. A smoother surface does not grind the tires nearly as much as a rough surface will. A rough surface has a “Cheese Grater Effect” on the tires, which wears them out much quicker.

An example of this would be North Wilkesboro in 2023, where the surface was old and rough. As a result, tire fall-off was enormous as a run went on. Kyle Larson went from last to first during the end of segment one because of how drastic tire wear was.

More tire wear creates the potential for varying strategies and “Comers and Goers”. Drivers have to make sure they save their tires throughout a run. A repave with little to no tire wear eliminates this potential.

The Racing Groove and Overall Grip

Going back to that Kaulig Racing picture we showed, a smooth surface means a larger contact patch for the tire with the racing surface. A rough surface means a smaller contact patch for the tire with the racing surface.

This means less grip, which makes the cars tougher to drive. Drivers tend to like it when their cars have less grip. It also forces drivers to search around for grip from the top to the bottom of the race track. Here is an example of a restart at Michigan in 2011, just before a repave.

Compare that to one year later. Drivers had a very narrow groove to negotiate because of the repave, and they were unable to fan out the way they did the previous year.

Races on new surfaces tend to be single-file affairs where passing is very difficult. Drivers cannot fan out and try different grooves on the track like they can with an older surface. This makes the racing less compelling to fans on TV or at the track.

Reconfigurations: Good or Bad?

Sometimes, tracks will try to counteract these issues by reconfiguring a race track. Sometimes, these turn out well, and other times they do not.

Homestead-Miami Speedway was reconfigured in 2003 to go from a flat intermediate track to a progressively-banked track. Fans and drivers alive loved the reconfiguration from day one, and it is still on the schedule.

However, some reconfigurations are not well-received. Texas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway both reconfigured turns one and two, with Texas reducing banking and Kentucky adding banking.

Kentucky is now off the schedule. Texas has lost one of its race dates, and it’s now down to one spring race in 2024.

Phoenix reconfigured as well before the 2011 season. It gained the Championship race in 2020, but the fans are not in love with the racing product at Phoenix. A lot of that is due to the Next-Gen car, but still, fans do not like it.

Repaves are a necessary evil in NASCAR. Eventually, they have to happen, but repaves hurt the racing product in the interim. This is why tracks often wait until the last possible moment before they repave.

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Joshua Lipowski

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