The track’s Tire Dragon has been in use around the clock since the completion of a repaving and reconfiguration project in late summer. The machine uses more than 200 Goodyear tires to “rubber in” the new racing surface, which will see Sprint Cup cars arrive for testing Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.
A handful of former and current drivers, including Randy LaJoie, David Green, Brian Keselowski, Steve Grissom, Justin Labonte and Brad Noffsinger have also been circling the 1.5-mile track in retired NASCAR Sprint Cup cars, running higher lines to encourage multiple grooves with additional rubber. Those same processes were employed successfully in 2011 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Teams will see two major changes when they arrive in Kansas City this week. There’s a brand-new asphalt surface, devoid of the seams that used to ring the winter-ravaged, deteriorating oval and upset the handling of the race cars.
The speedway’s turns also have been reconfigured, relegating teams’ previous set-up manuals to the rubbish bin. Previously banked 15 degrees from apron to SAFER barrier, the speedway now features variable banking of 17-20 degrees, much like Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway. That change should create multiple racing grooves, and computer modeling done after the reconfiguration indicates that all three lines should produce lap times within 0.1 seconds of each other. The computer says the highest line – banked 20 degrees – is actually the fastest way around the track.