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Michigan announces comprehensive repaving project

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

BROOKLYN, Mich. - When NASCAR comes to Michigan International Speedway next year, the track will sport a completely repaved racing surface, if the project announced Friday goes according to plan.

Michigan will begin the fourth repaving in the history of the two-mile track with the resurfacing of pit road immediately after Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race. The project does not include any reconfiguring of the race track, speedway officials said.

Repaving of the racing surface itself will begin after the Aug. 21 Sprint Cup race. The project is scheduled for completion before the NASCAR's top three divisions return to Michigan next year.

Most drivers were wary about the repaving, because most think the nature of racing is likely to change. Michigan is known for its wide racing surface and use of multiple grooves, and that aspect could be diminished with new asphalt.

"Just like every other race track, it will change the grip and the tire combination, which will have an effect on the racing," Ryan Newman said. "I don't think we've ever gone to a newly surfaced race track and run three-wide or had three grooves to work with, so it changes the characteristics of the racing.

"In saying that, it's something that has to be done for the future of our sport from a safety standpoint. ... As a driver, I should say, I never like to see them paved. I love them when they're old and have character and they're lacking grip, and we can take a tire there that's pretty grippy and falls off and that is a good combination for us as drivers, especially for the racing and for the fans."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose last Cup win came at Michigan in June 2008, was more succinct in his assessment of the project, which will cost an estimated $7 million.

"The track's awesome," Earnhardt said. "I don't know why it needs new asphalt. They ought to send that asphalt over to Pocono."