Phoenix International Raceway has been hosting its first full test session since the completion of the major repaving and reconfiguration project that began in March and which was finished in mid-August.
As well as a complete repaving of the 1-mile oval track, there have been a series of changes to the track layout intended to promote more side-by-side racing and that should improve lap speeds by 2-3mph.
Changes include widening the front stretch from 52 to 62 feet; reconfiguring pit road with the installation of concrete pit stalls; pushing the dog-leg curve between Turn 2 and Turn 3 out 95 feet while tightening the turn radius of the dog-leg from 800 to 500 feet; and changing the banking - with 10-11 degrees between turns 1 and 2 and in the apex of the dog-leg, and 8-9 degrees in turn 4.
"This is a brand new facility," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "These teams will have to throw out their notebooks and start over."
"Nice to have that wide front straightaway," said Jeff Gordon. "I like the new pit road, as well. Getting used to the dogleg now on the back straightaway, which is quite a bit different than what it was before."
"The only place that seems familiar to me is Turn 3," agreed Regan Smith after his early laps on the raceway, on the first of two days of scheduled testing at the new-look Phoenix.
"The exit of Turn 2 is very unique; very different," commented Jeff Burton. "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," contributed David Ragan. "There is a little bit more speed."
As with any newly-repaved race track, there will be a period where the new surface is settling and sealing, and it will also need a lot of rubber to be laid down to allow the drivers to start feeling comfortable with it again.
"Anytime you repave a race track you always have that 6-8 month period where the asphalt is wearing," said Ragan. "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."