New Racing Surface is a Necessity, But Doesn't Guarantee The Best Results
One of the things in racing is that eventually, some things wear out and need updating. Just like during the race, when tires wear out, the pit crews put on new ones.
The same thing can be said for the tracks themselves, as many have undergone a change in the racing surface, with some going to a slightly different configuration. The problem then becomes wondering whether the change is good or bad for the track, the racing, and the fans.
This weekend's race at Kansas marks the final race on the current surface, as the track is getting new asphalt for the fall event. Other tracks have gone through a similar change after the 2011 season, such as both Pocono and Michigan.
What becomes the problem is whether the change is good, or bad, for the product.
The first major overhaul for a racing surface in the modern era came in 2006 when Talladega put down brand new asphalt on the massive 2.66-mile track. What the race saw in it's first initial race was a lot of speed, however lots of "follow the leader" racing. The difference in this style compared to the previous surface: the drivers found the high line was the true fast way around.
Sure, the race ended in controversy with Brian Vickers taking the victory after a spinning Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson went sliding down the backstretch.
Since then, the racing has gotten much better, and the fan base has always stayed true to it's Alabama track. Sadly, sometimes change isn't exactly what the fans want.
Case in point, I give you the debacle of Bristol.
The track went to progressive banking beginning with the night race in 2007, and since then, many fans have stated the racing has changed for the worse. The 28-30 degree banking was supposed to give the fans more side-by-side action, and did just that. What it also did was take away part of Bristol's heritage.
A short track is usually all about beating, banging, and arguing. With the new surface, it just wasn't that. Since then, the track is once again going under construction to bring back the "old Bristol" and it is uncertain if the change will work.
Obviously, resurfacing is put off because of the cost to complete, not to mention how drivers do enjoy the older surfaces. Tracks such as Daytona and Darlington, when they went to a new surface, it was simply because of necessity.
Darlington's new surface is both new and old, as it still will wear out tires, but now it's suddenly a possibility to see a two-tire stop pay off. That's exactly what Regan Smith did to win last year's Southern 500.
Daytona simply needed to because of the now infamous pothole, and has since gone under construction a second time due to the jet drier incident in February. But, it has brought about great racing, and tough competition.
This year, with the changes set at Bristol, a total of four races will be run on new surfaces, and not one driver knows what to expect. Tire tests can only do so much, as they aren't really meant to get a handle on setups. It's more about getting the right compound that will not wear out too quick, or not even rubber in.
A new surface comes about sometimes due to necessity, sometimes because of time, and others because of a push for change.
But it's always bringing the unexpected, as each track will have a new identity.