The historic .625-mile short track received rave reviews after hosting NASCAR competition in May for the first time since 1996 with a Truck Series race and the NASCAR All-Star Race.
It was the culmination of a long and difficult process that required much convincing of state and local government officials by Speedway Motorsports as well as $18 million in money from the N.C. state government for infrastructure improvements.
The return of NASCAR races came on the same surface the track featured when it originally shuttered its gates nearly 30 years ago.
That began to change on Tuesday when Speedway Motorsports kicked off a repaving process, which included milling approximately two inches of the old track, repairing failing spots, sealing and adding a specially designed asphalt mixture in the same configuration as the original track, including the 13 degrees of banking in the corners.
“There’s not a race track that I’m aware of other than North Wilkesboro Speedway that ran on a 40-year-old surface,” said Steve Swift, Speedway Motorsports’ senior vice president of operations and development. “That’s a tribute to the asphalt that they used back in the 80s. That was a really good product. There’s not many new tracks that have been placed since the 90s that will last 30 years.
“We were really deferential to try to maintain the character that was here before. Naturally, the old track was a unique creature. The patch materials that we had to use kind of changed the racing for the All-Star Race, just because of where we had to patch it.
“The product created so much grip, so it’s going to be pretty exciting to see how it goes back to where it was pre-patching, where they were racing two-wide and three-wide. Now the track has got the same grip all the way across.”
Like the process used in the Atlanta Motor Speedway repave, Speedway Motorsports used a special mix that is expected to age faster than traditional asphalt, creating a more “worn-in” surface more quickly.
At Atlanta, the track saw an eight to 10 percent falloff in grip in the first year after the repave, Swift said.
Carl Rose & Sons Asphalt, the original paving contractor for the track, supplied nearly 2,000 tons of specialty asphalt for the project, while N.C.-based Delta Contracting managed the milling process.
As a result of innovative improvements made ahead of this year’s All-Star Race, including a concrete foundation beneath the newly added safer barrier, the barrier was not removed for the resurfacing project, which will allow crews to complete the work in less than two weeks.
The track will again host the All-Star Race in 2024 along with a Truck race during the May 17-19 race weekend.