Kansas Speedway plans major changes to add Grand Am race?

Kansas Speedway will have a whole new look in its second decade of racing.

The track, which opened in 2001, will undergo a massive renovation project next year that will include repaving the existing track surface, reconfiguring and rebanking the 1.5 mile trioval and adding a new infield road course for the GrandAm Sports Car Series.

The changes will begin immediately after the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 400 next spring and be completed in time for the Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 in October 2012.

The 2012 schedule has not been set by NASCAR, but Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren said Thursday that the STP 400 will run in early spring to provide as much time as necessary to get the repaving project finished.

This year's spring race weekend was June 4-5, but the 2012 date probably will be either April 28-29 or May 5-6, dates formerly held by fellow International Speedway Corporation tracks Richmond and Darlington.

The life span for a track surface is usually about 20 years, but Warren said the recent harsh winters made repaving after just 11 years "a must."

"We've had the worst weather in the country as it relates to asphalt," Warren said. "All you have to do is look around at the highways and streets in our city to understand that. It's even worse when you've got a high-performance asphalt track that doesn't have any opportunity in the winter for cars or anything to warm it up."

Warren said the reconfiguration of the track, including variable banking, will create better side-by-side racing.

The current corners at Kansas Speedway are 15 degrees, but the new track will start at 18 degrees and increase up to 20 degrees in the turns. In addition to the turns, the front stretch, back stretch and pit road will all be reconstructed.

"That will allow the cars to run different lines around the track at different degrees of banking, which increases better side-by-side racing," Warren said. "You might have one lane that's 18 degrees, and one lane that's 18.5. So the two cars could run next to each other even though one is running higher and therefore a further distance around the track, it's also got more bank and can carry more speed."

Iowa Speedway and Homestead in Miami have similar banking.

"They want to make it more of what we've seen at Homestead or what we've seen at the progressive-banked tracks which I agree with," Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch said of repaving Kansas Speedway after winning the pole at the June race.

"You've got to keep it within reason though to make sure the track has the right amount of banking if IndyCar ever wants to come back here. That way you're not just tailoring it to the big heavy stock cars."

Other drivers said the track has never been better.

"Don't pave it," trucks series champion Todd Bodine said after his third-place finish in June. "Why are they talking about paving it? When it was first built, we couldn't run wide open… and now, even in the trucks, we're out there sliding around, and you're driving the heck out of it every lap.

"That's why see you great racing here. Yeah, it's got a couple of bumps and it's wore out, but that's what makes it fun. It separates good trucks from bad ones and good cars from bad ones and good drivers. It makes it fun. Anybody can go fast on fresh pavement."

Warren agreed that some drivers like tracks as they age, "and if we just repaved what we have now, it would really create a challenge as it relates to the quality of the racing.

"But going back in with the variable banking will really help because you won't have the issues we had in the first couple of years we were open when we really had a one-groove race track."

Kansas Speedway is expected to start having GrandAm Sports Car Series road course races in 2013 as part of a promise ISC made to the state of Kansas when it was awarded the Hollywood Casino that will open in spring 2012.

ISC Design and Development will oversee the repaving and road course projects. Warren declined to reveal the cost of the project other than to say "it's significant." It cost about $20 million to repave Daytona International Speedway — a 2.5-mile track — last year.

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