Marcus Smith talks Bristol Motor Speedway: Asphalt and dirt racing ideas

Dale Earnhardt Jr wants to see them tear up the concrete, run a dirt race then convert it back to asphalt

Dale Earnhardt Jr has a bold idea for Bristol Motor Speedway. It’s actually a two headed monster.

First, he wants Speedway Motorsports Inc to rip off the concrete. Then, he wants to see a Cup race, on dirt. Then, when that’s over, he wants them to pave Bristol Motor Speedway back to asphalt.

“I think that once it goes back to asphalt, it will solve all the concerns,” Dale Jr stated.

It’s not a horrible idea. Nor is it out of the realm of possibilities.

It’s no secret that Bristol Motor Speedway has lost some of its excitement. The old concrete was grooved so many times that steel bars were coming through the race track.

They repaved it. In doing so, that added multiple grooves and various degrees of banking in each lane. Bristol was no longer a one groove race track.

Drivers had options. In the old days, they needed to use the bumper to pass. With multiple lanes, contact was no longer required to make a move.

In recent years, Speedway Motorsports Inc has also added PJ1 trackbite to the bottom lane. That puts the early portions of the race, right back to the bottom lane of the race track.

But, they’re always working on that track. They’ve taken a grinder to the outside lane. They’ve polished the inside lane. There’s all kinds of stuff going on within the current surface.

Bristol Motor Speedway and Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville were in competition with each other to use the name ‘The Worlds fastest half mile.’ Over the years, each track added more and more banking.

But, Bristol Motor Speedway used to be asphalt. As they added banking, the asphalt wouldn’t stay in the corners due to the technology they had at the time.

In 1992, they abandoned the asphalt surface and switched to concrete.

Marcus Smith on Bristol asphalt and the switch to concrete

“At the time, asphalt would not stay up on the banking, Marcus Smith said of Bristol Motor Speedway via the Dale Jr download.

In the old days, heat of the day practice sessions would tear up the race track. There’s a lot going on during Bristol weekends, NASCAR Cup Series and support divisions combined would be too much for the asphalt technology at the time.

But, that’s changed…

William Byron on the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway - NASCAR Cup Series
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 28: William Byron, driver of the #24 UniFirst Chevrolet, practices for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Modern laying of NASCAR asphalt

“Now when we pave, we start out with regular asphalt. The heat would kind of pull the asphalt down,” Smith added.

“Cause that’s how you make asphalt… You get it hot, pour it out and smooth it out. Then, you heat it back up again.”

“The next step was polymer asphalt and that helped to keep it in the turns. But, it also made the track so smooth and perfect that you end up with 3-4 years of perfect race track. Which is not good for racing.”

“When we repaved Kentucky a couple years ago, my challenge to Stephen Swift and others was, ‘Pave the track but make it old from the beginning.’ “

“That was a pretty cool thing. When you pave you have several layers, like a cake. The top layer is like the icing on a cake, it’s real smooth and doesn’t have as much rock in it.”

“Instead of doing that top layer, you just leave it off. So, the top layer still has a lot of rocks in it. A lot of crevices that make it a courser, kinda grindy surface.”

The new asphalt is also fitted with rubber components. That was first done at the recently repaved Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We did a test. The new stuff, after four or five hours in the sun, didn’t move. The classic asphalt, was melted.”

Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson at Bristol Motor Speedway - NASCAR Xfinity Series
BRISTOL, TN – APRIL 06: Justin Allgaier, driver of the #7 ARMOUR Vienna Sausage Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 6, 2019 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Bristol dirt race

It’s been done before. In 2001, Bristol Motor Speedway filled the track in dirt. They then brought in the World of Outlaws and made a classic event.

The problem with it was that had a very hard time getting the dirt out of the track. I would imagine the tracks used to scrap up the dirt also did some damage to the concrete surface underneath.

“I’m excited about things like Nashville. Who knows? Maybe we’ll have a dirt race at Bristol one day. I’m gonna call it the Dale Jr Invitational,” Smith concluded.

“And once you’re done with that dirt race and everybody has had their fun, you can pave it,” Dale Jr adds with a laugh.


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