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Another NASCAR run at a NYC Speedway? First things first -- and that Daytona pothole is now history

  Wide-open on Daytona's new asphalt, and drivers seem pleased (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


  'Tis the season for gifts and dreaming, and the New Yorker buying into Richard Petty Motorsports, Andrew Murstein, the taxi medallion baron, is dreaming big – about a new NASCAR speedway in or near the Big Apple.
   At least that's what one New York City newspaper is reporting, saying that Murstein is interested in a track which could tap into the fan base that hits nearby Pocono Raceway twice each summer for Sprint Cup events.

   Murstein and his business partners have bought majority interest in Petty's NASCAR operation, for about $50 million, and it is expected to field two Cup teams, with AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose in 2011. RPM just dropped at least 100 employees when it cut back from four Cup teams to two, while dealing with the financial problems left by George Gillett.
   A New York City Speedway was first envisioned by the France family's International Speedway Corp. more than five years ago, but that Staten Island project collapsed in 2007, in the face of considerable opposition. That would have been an 80,000-seat Richmond-type three-quarter-mile track, with the Manhattan skyline as backdrop. Fans would have been brought to the site in part via the ferry system. The ISC still has that property.
   Famed entrepreneur Donald Trump was also part of the ISC New York City game plan at one time, but he was unable to get much traction.
   News of a possible new New York track venture comes as NASCAR struggles with a decline in fans and a marked decline in its TV audience the past two years.


   Robby Gordon, heading to South America for Dakar. The man who never sleeps (Photo: PlanetRobby.com)

    In more solid action on the stock car racing front, NASCAR teams this week are finishing up two days of testing on Daytona's new asphalt, 17 men on the track Wednesday, a dozen Thursday, in packs. The next big test is set for late January.
    And Robby Gordon, the first NASCAR man to actually be racing in 2011, in the Dakar Rally, through Argentina and Chile, has just shipped his off-road Hummers to South America. Gordon, who plans to cut back on his Sprint Cup racing in 2011, says he's settled that logo dispute with the bicycle company Specialized, over the shape of the 'S' used on his new Speed energy drink. Gordon's Speed is available currently on-line, but he says he plans to have the product in stores, possibly The Vitamin Shoppes, in January.
    The first big NASCAR-action runs at Daytona will be in the Feb. 12th Shootout sprint, which Jeff Burton says "is going to be crazy.
   "It's going to be nuts. It's going to be wide-open every lap. I'm not going to say you'll have more wrecks, because you never know, but the possibility to have more big wrecks is certainly looming."
   The huge, five-month repaving job just finished last week, with work on the Westside apron, in turns one and two. The work was done by the same company, Lane Construction, that repaved Talladega, Homestead, Richmond and Darlington in recent years. The job: 50,000 tons of asphalt, over more than 1.4 million square feet. The first racing on the new surface is to come with the Jan. 29th 24 Hours, leading up the 2011 NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500 Feb. 20th.
    Jamie McMurray, one of the nearly two dozen drivers testing Goodyears this week, and the 2010 500 winner, says the SpeedWeeks action this time is going to be "different.
   "The cars are going to stay bunched up a lot more.
    "In the past, as the tires wear, the pack would spread apart....though by the end of the race, if the sun went down, you would run in a pack.
    "With the amount of grip the track (now) has -- the tires are not falling off at all (in speed) -- it will be two-wide or three-wide, and really hard on the drivers and spotters for 500 miles."
   Burton doesn't expect this 500 to come down any pit road gambles down the stretch: "You're not going to need tires to win the race. You're going to need track position."
   McMurray said the widening of pit road, by about 12 feet, was "really nice....Pit road speeds are really fast when you come to plate tracks. Typically we have the smallest brakes, so pit road is trouble."
    Bobby Labonte: "I've always said this is one of the hardest pit roads, because it was too narrow, never any grip.  The asphalt widening, that's definitely a plus."
   Kurt Busch said the old pit road "was the most treacherous of all we race on."
   While the racing is expected to be now much like Talladega, with big packs throughout a tire run, Labonte says the tighter corners here may preclude those two-car breakaways seen the past few races at Talladega.
    Busch agrees, pointing out Talladega is six lanes wide, while Daytona is still only three lanes wide.
   To which Jeff Burton adds "three-wide is work....four-wide is a wreck."


   Remember the 2005 plans for that New York City Speedway? (Graphic: ISC)

   Plenty of landing dock space, in the curious track entrance (Graphic: ISC)

    "You can't 'lock together' the way you can at Talladega," McMurray says of the new Daytona. "The way the cowl (induction) sucks the air in, the (trailing) cars (in the draft) are stalling out a little. You can still get locked together...(but) I haven't seen anybody try to shove somebody all the way around the track. Everybody is letting off when they get to the corner."
   The more grippy new asphalt, Busch says, will make handling much less of an issue. Typically handling means more at Daytona than horsepower, "but the new asphalt will be a great equalizer."
   McMurray and Labonte say, on the other hand, that spotters will be even more important now, because of limited visibility at the wheel, and the ever-present worry about simply running over somebody, since the trailing car is typically quicker than the leader.
    Burton: "The old surface was a lot of work; you were up on the wheel from start to finish. This will be more of a chess game; this is going to be 'When do I get aggressive, when do I not get aggressive?' A lot of times on the old surface your car dictated when you could and when you couldn't. What's going to dictate that this time is how many laps are left."
    Drivers testing included McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Busch, Casey Mears, Matt Kenseth, Trevor Bayne, Paul Menard, Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, Labonte, Todd Bodine, Regan Smith, Reed Sorenson and Brian Keselowski.
    McMurray said he and others expected to see very hot tire temperatures, but they didn't. Whether that will hold up through the 500 itself isn't clear, because testing isn't racing, and 18 cars on the track, as in this test, is considerably different than all 43, when drivers tend to be slipping and sliding a lot in traffic. Goodyear engineers say tire temperatures have been closely monitored.
    Still McMurray says the hard Talladega-type tires Goodyear picked for this look good so far: "We made our first 15-lap run...when I saw the tire sheet, I didn't believe the tires were so cool -- maybe 75 degrees less than we expected."
    So Goodyear's first days on Daytona's new asphalt drew driver praise....and for new track boss Joie Chitwood – who was running Indianapolis Motor Speedway that fateful afternoon in 2008 when NASCAR officials were forced to throw cautions every 10 laps or so because tires were wearing excessively – this week's runs were in sharp contrast to that day, when he had to face up to the Indy tire crisis. This week it's all smiles.
   "Money was not an object," Chitwood said. "We spared no expense in giving them a surface we think is going to last for a number of years, and hopefully provide some great, competitive racing.
    "Daytona is the flagship brand; we were going to make sure we did it right."
   Indeed the Daytona International Speedway racing surface, walls, pit road, aprons and all, was completely taken apart and rebuilt, after the pot-hole embarrassment.

  Daytona's original asphalt: 1958 (Photo: Daytona)

   And for Goodyear, that Indianapolis tire fiasco was a major turning point in this sport; the company changed up its testing policies, with more tire tests and more aggressive simulation engineering. And Burton, with good reason, says the product now is much, much improved, across the board.
   "This past year was Goodyear's best-ever in racing," Burton said. "Goodyear stepped to the plate and has done an incredible job of building us better tires. You've seen that on the track -- They've had a huge impact on the quality of racing.
    "Goodyear made some major investments to make our sport better."
    Still, Burton conceded when Goodyear engineers told him what they had planned for Daytona's new asphalt "that didn't make any sense. But right off the bat it worked."
    Goodyear's Greg Stucker says this week's Daytona tests confirmed his engineers' game plan, which began with a test at Talladega last August to get a computer baseline, since the asphalt mix for both tracks is identical. Stucker said that his men were able to get a brief look at a car on one lane of the new Daytona asphalt before the full job was finish, so he could confirm the Talladega projections.
    All that, of course, because hand-production of the some 6,000 NASCAR tires needed at Daytona meant production had to begin weeks ago. Stucker says Goodyear in fact is now just about done with its Daytona SpeedWeeks production runs. In fact the new Daytona left-side tires are the same left-sides used at Talladega.
    Improvement in tire wear the last few years Stucker says is as much a factor of better, 'tighter' asphalt compounds as anything. "We just don't see the tire wear we typically have seen in the past.
    "So tire wear won't be an issue (at Daytona), at least the first couple of races."
   Another aspect of this Daytona 500 preview – what size engine restriction plates will NASCAR use for the 500? NASCAR's Robin Pemberton says flat-out speed might not be the real issue, but rather the closing rate. How the fuel change to E-15 might affect that isn't clear.
   "Right now we're the same as at Talladega, but we will further evaluate," Pemberton says. "We're not sure if we may need to come down (smaller); we'll talk to the teams and look at the speeds."
   Pemberton says the fastest speeds he saw this week were around 197.5 mph, "depending on where they pulled up in the draft.
    "It may be a little quick. We'll discuss that and prepare for our late January test. But so far all indications are that everything hit its marks."
    That January test, like this one, will be open to all NASCAR Cup teams.
    Bottom line, Pemberton says, "Joie and I will be on the dock fishing by the time we have to fix a pothole like that again."


   Daytona crews worked into the night to finish up the first repaving job since 1978 (Photo: Daytona)


Wait And See On Talladega-style Superdraft

Right now everyone is testing, and they may be reluctant to really try and make the lock-bumper superdraft work at Daytona. "Four wide is a wreck," but we've seen four-wide in actual races before, so I take comments in that vein with my salt shaker; I'm expecting lock-bumper superdrafts to kick in come Speedweeks.

The shaker pales to the Mount St. Helens of salt I take regarding a New York City Speedway. ISC could not make it work because there was no support for the idea (if anything reception was outright hostile) in the city, one of the worst racing demographics in the country, and this newcomer teamed with Richard Petty thinks he can make it work? And the premise that the sport even needs a NYC Speedway is preposterous; it's a bad demographic and that general market is served excellently by Pocono. If anything, ISC should be working more closely with Pocono, not trying to work behind it for a track the sport doesn't need and the city doesn't want.

Finally, Goodyear may not have screwed up in 2010 as has been seen in previous seasons, but they still should not be allowed this monopoly; give the sport what Firestone and Hoosier can provide and give more teams that kind of engineering help.

Oh, sure, testing isnt much

Oh, sure, testing isnt much more than letting the drivers run a few laps and look-see, and promote 500 ticket sales. i want to see how the drivers deal with the exit to turn two, where the dropoff used to make it tricky. not sure just how much they changed over there. the two worrisome things for me -- the trioval will be grippy and fast, and i still have nightmares about geoff bodine's fiery crash in that part of the track, where passing is always iffy anyway. hope they've reinforced the fencing. and will the drivers be sliding the tires sideways that the rubber grates?
The New York City Speedway: well, it helps to have the politicians on your side. hearing Brooklyn might be the side of town NASCAR's looking at now. I agree Pocono should be marketed better -- by Pocono and by NASCAR and its sponsor, in NYC itself too.
Goodyear's monopoly? Well, I would like to see more tire makers involved, just because monopolies dont generally help the sport. But drivers probably would disagree.

Having lived in the NYC area

Having lived in the NYC area over the past 11 years, NASCAR should just let it go about racin' in NY and concentrate on venues that they already have like Pocono, which to me, the worst on the circuit. If it's not Yankees, Mets, Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Knicks, Nets...they don't care and really, stereotype NASCAR as a redneck sport that's actin' like a stepchild looking for parental love...in all the wrong places, no doubt.

But it's really not NASCAR that's gotten the finger from New Yorkers about racing in Gotham (NYC's nickname) The late Paul Newman back in 2006 tried to push for a racetrack to be built on Brooklyn's Southeast side at Floyd Bennett Air Field. Only to be shot down by a bird.

Here's the story: http://www.nysun.com/new-york/paul-newmans-grand-prix-ambitions-foiled-by/35786/

Also, Formula One is on the move with a possible street race in the near future in the NYC area and with the influx of historical European immigrant families, descending from Italy (Ferrari), German (Mercedes), Britain (McLaren, Red Bull, Williams), France (Renault)and others from the world stage and the financial markets of Wall Street, it may fare faster and much more well received by the local community. Where do your automotive dreams lie? Driving a Ford or driving a Ferrari? 'Nuff said.

Here's the story: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/motor/formula1/2010-03-25-ecclestone-newyork_N.htm

I've driven around Manhattan many, many times and if a race could be held in the city, more than likely it would be held in the Tribeca section of Lower Manhattan. A lot of things work in it's behalf, 1) Wider streets 2) Long straightaways: Church Street/West Side Hwy (bypassing World Trade Center, both sides) 3) Financial markets are closed. The one thing that could guarantee a race there if F1's Bernie Ecclestone puts up the $$$ for a exhibition race. The media attention would be so crazy, it would be an automatic success. But Ecclestone is known for forking over a dime, unless you fork over a dollar, first! He didn't make billions by NOT being shrewd. Maybe that's what The France family should do. Sponsor a mock race, on an off-weekend on a Sunday for 50 laps/1-mandatory pit stop and all the press coverage in the world. They'll get more sponsors signing up on a one-race deal than at Daytona, Charlotte or the Brickyard.

Mike, I'm moving to Los Angeles in March, hopefully arrive before the one and only Fontana race. We gotta get together chug a couple of ice cold brews! The brew is on me!!!!

good points....roger penske

good points....roger penske tried something in downtown nyc a while back too, but no go.....nyc is weird, not like the rest of the world....still think there's a go here somewhere....whatever happened to islip anyway....
march, fontana, brewski -- sounds just riiightt!





Darlington, Bristol, Richmond, Martinsville, Atlanta, the road courses, are all tracks far worse than Pocono, one of the three most competitive tracks in the sport.

F1 failed in NYC and is failing overall.

NYC TRACK Track for NY

As a NASCAR fan living in the New York City area I am disgusted if not appalled that there is not a NASCAR track in the NYC area already. NYC has a great tradition in auto racing starting with the first-ever official race held in the US, the Vanderbilt Cup. Why can't NASCAR get a foothold in the area? It is terrible that I have to drive five hours to Pocono, probably the worst NASCAR fan experience in the world (you can't see the backstretch from the grandstand) to see a race; and I don't want to go to a road course. How come they can build tracks in the middle of nowhere in the northeast (New Hampshire and Pocono), (Watkins glen is excluded because of the track's history) but not in the greatest city in the world. Building a track would bring in even more tourists, create jobs, and help the NY state deficit recover. The Floyd Bennett Field site is a perfect for this, as it is far away from many residential areas and has many highways that access the area.
To make it great for environmentalists, some of the track proceeds could be used to restore forest and wetland areas to pristine condition and help fund the state park system.

Surface Mat

How long after the surface paving was complete did racing begin?

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