By Marvin Joles III
Loud motors, burning rubber, high speeds, wrecks and thrilling finishes. That’s what we think when we think racing, but here at Blacktop Banter we are learning there is a lot more to it than what is on the surface. For example, the actual surface. As in, the pavement.
Recently we were invited by two Blacktop Banter Podcast guests to come see them race at a very high level in this sport. James Roe, episode 75, racing in the Indy NXT Series and Spencer Boyd, episodes 42 & 92, both have amazing takes on the pavements they race on and how it affected them both recently.
James had us at Road America in Wisconsin. This track was recently re-paved and this was the first time he had been on it since. When asking James about the blacktop and what he noticed he said, “New asphalt means a smoother surface, and a smooth surface means faster times. I expect a lot of personal records to be broken here today.”
The other thing James noted is that on the smoother surface they will have less tire wear because the pavement is smoother. The fine aggregate loss over the years on these courses create a rougher surface and often causes raveling, which we see often in the asphalt and asphalt maintenance industries. Those rough surfaces act like large grit sandpaper on the soft rubber tires.
Spencer and Youngs Motorsports hosted us at Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course where he raced in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Race. This one had a large rainstorm move in, which really threw the pavement conditions to the forefront of the things that garnered attention for his team on race day.
The previous day Spencer had noticed the rain chances and had done a track walk. He noticed new asphalt patches in turning areas and took note. When asked why this was important Spencer said, “If it’s wet and you are on old blacktop during a turn, you may be holding the line fine, then if you hit a wet smooth surface during that turn, your backend can slide out, even with rain tires on.” Spencer told us the same thing happens, in rain or not, when transitioning from asphalt to concrete sections of courses or tracks. “You have to be ready and aware for changes in grip at any moment when the pavement is inconsistent,” says Boyd.
Nothing was more telling than an “S” turn transition area in the track when during the race, the drivers went from a higher elevation of old asphalt to a lower elevation of new patching, with standing water in between. Even at low speeds during this part of the course we witnessed many “spin-outs” and “fish-tailing.”
As spectators of motorsports we often don’t think of the pavement condition as a major part when taking in the determining factors of race-day but these teams do. They do their best to stay current on track conditions, repairs, updates, damage, and effect. They realize the better job performed on the pavement by the people who install it and maintain it, the better their performance will be when it really counts, from green flag to checkered.
As always, if you have any insight or criticisms about this article or anything in it, please feel free to email me at email@example.com or of course, reach out to us at Blacktop Banter on any form of social media. You can listen to Blacktop Banter anywhere podcasts are available and the Video Versions are always posted to the Blacktop Banter YouTube Channel.
Marvin Joles III, Owner of Wis-Coat Asphalt Maintenance and host of Blacktop Banter podcast. You can listen to and watch
Blacktop Banter podcasts by visiting https://blacktopbanter.com