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Why Does Martinsville Speedway Have Concrete Turns?

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What’s Happening?

Martinsville Speedway has potentially the most unique racing surface in NASCAR in that it’s the only track to have two racing surfaces. The straightaways are the typical asphalt, but, the bottom two lanes in the turns are fashioned with concrete. Why does Martinsville have such a unique track surface?

  • Martinsville Speedway is one of the oldest tracks in NASCAR, and it has undergone many changes to its racing surface throughout the years. The tight turns at the end of each long straightaway played into why the track has the odd surface it does today.
  • Martinsville was originally opened in 1947, and NASCAR races have been held as long as NASCAR has existed. Martinsville is the only track to be included on every Cup Series schedule since the series inception in 1949.
  • Fans are always curious about the concrete racing surface in the corners. However, not everyone knows exactly what went into that decision.

Why Is There Concrete in the Turns at Martinsville?

According to RacingCircuits.info, throughout the 1970s, cars were beginning to tear into the track’s asphalt racing surface in the turns. This is due to the unique characteristics of Martinsville Speedway.

The track is nicknamed “The Paperclip” because of the long straightaways feeding into tight U-turns. As a result, the cars generate a lot of power and torque to get the car going off the corner from as slow as 50-60 MPH to 120-130 MPH at the end of the straightaway. That happening across a field of 30+ cars for 500 laps takes its’ toll on a racing surface.

Concrete is a much harder and much more durable surface. Look at Dover Motor Speedway, which has not been repaved since concrete was introduced in 1995.

The problem is that concrete is a more expensive surface than asphalt. According to bobvilla.com, a concrete driveway is roughly $3 per square foot more expensive than asphalt. Add that up over a 0.526-mile oval, and the costs begin to add up.

S1apSh0es discussed this issue in the YouTube video below, and he explains that as the reason NASCAR and Martinsville decided to include concrete only in the corners. The corners were where the wear and tear on the asphalt was most severe.

As a result, Martinsville got its’ hybrid track surface. Concrete in the corners and asphalt on the straightaways, but, this is just the beginning of the unique track surface history of Martinsville.

The History of Unique Surfaces at Martinsville

Martinsville has perhaps the most unique racing surface history in all of NASCAR. Originally, the track was a dirt track, much like most NASCAR tracks were during those formative years.

However, paved tracks were the way of the future, and Martinsville adapted in 1955. The track was paved with asphalt, and it stayed that way for two decades until problems began to arise in the 1970s.

NASCAR Cup Series cars of the 1970s were getting bigger and faster. As a result, the tires and the big cars were starting to wear the racing surface. That’s when, according to RacingCircuits.info the track came up with the idea to put concrete in the turns, and the track was reconfigured in 1976 to include the concrete corners.

The track has maintained that unique characteristic since. Martinsville has only been fully repaved once since that 1976 addition of concrete, and that came in 2004 after Jeff Gordon ran over a piece of concrete that came up during the spring race at the track.

A combination of powerful race cars, fragile track surfaces, and a little bit of money-saving played into the Martinsville Speedway surface we know today. It appears the track will stay that way for years to come.

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