Phoenix International Raceway’s new repaving and reconfiguring meant a lot of homework for the Sprint Cup teams testing on the one-mile oval.
Four-time Sprint Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon, winner of the February race on the old surface said “the day started off really, really edgy and uncomfortable, an eye-opening wow experience of, ‘Oh, my gosh, what's happened here?’ As we got halfway through the day, the grip started coming. Then there's the challenge of pushing the car, finding what you need to make it go faster.
Like I said, then I started having more fun, enjoying the laps I was making, the challenges the track had. Every track has its challenge. This one has in the past. The new pavement certainly creates new challenges that we'll have to deal with.”
The project required 23,000 tons of asphalt, 7,000 cubic yards of concrete and 600 pounds of rebar.
Jeff Burton who drives the Caterpillar Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing described some of the modifications. “I think it is a really unique. The exit of turn two is very unique; very different; the back straightaway has a lot of banking and it’s like falling into a hole; it’s pretty cool and it is neat to do something different here.”
“It’s cool with the new banking,” said David Ragan who drives the UPS Ford for Roush Fenway Racing. “There is a little bit more speed. Anytime you repave a race track you always have that 6-8 month period where the asphalt is wearing. It is curing and it is coming into its own. It gives us a hard time to figure it out, but the track will only get better with time. I think it is going to be a good race.”
Gordon also noted that the backstraight has been raised for better visibility for the fans “I mean, I don't know if I would have designed it that way, but I'm not a track designer. But I think certainly I like having the back straightaway elevated up for the fans so they can see what's going on back there. I feel like we sort of used to get hidden back there when we were racing. Now they're going to be able to have a heck of a view all the way around there.”
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, called it “a brand new facility.” “These teams will have to throw out their notebooks and start over. It takes time for these newly paved tracks and that’s why we are here testing. The teams are experimenting with a lot of different options and that’s what they need to do.”
In addition to testing the new asphalt and configuration, three teams were also here testing Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) cars. Hendrick Motorsports, Penske Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing brought additional cars to test in preparation for the launch of EFI in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2012.