Kyle Larson Proposes a Radical Change With Indirect NASCAR Playoff Implications
Lipstick doesn’t make a pig look pretty, nor can a repave fix Texas Motor Speedway. So, defending champion Kyle Larson has a solution for what ails the track that hosts Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.
“It needs more than a repave,” Larson said Saturday. “I would like them to demolish this place, first. Then, start over from scratch.”
No, Larson doesn’t have an engineering degree. But he does have two eyes and enough laps on the Fort Worth track to offer an expert opinion.
Texas Motor Speedway got fresh asphalt five years ago
Texas Motor Speedway made its debut in 1997 as a 1.5-mile intermediate oval, with Jeff Burton winning the NASCAR debut there. It became a twice-a-year stop for the Cup Series in 2005 and stayed that way through 2020. The track lost its regular-season date last year but remains on the playoff schedule through at least next season.
When officials repaved TMS in 2017, they also reduced the banking on Turns 1 and 2 and widened the racing surface. It’s been the source of criticism by drivers and fans since.
“They did a very poor job, with the initial reconfiguration,” said Kyle Larson, who won an Xfinity Series race there in 2016 and the Cup Series playoff race last fall. “I would like to see them change it from a mile-and-a-half to something shorter, I don’t know if that means bringing the backstretch in or whatever.”
“I mean, if I could build a track, it would probably be a three-quarter-mile Bristol, basically. Pavement, progressive banking and all that.”
Kyle Larson is asking for the impossible
Like Texas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway is a Speedway Motorsports property. The 1.5-mile Atlanta track is sporting big changes since last season, but designers went the opposite route of what Texas did five years ago. They built more banking into the turns and narrowed the track, compelling NASCAR to apply its superspeedway rules package for both races this year.
At the other end of the spectrum, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, will be getting an overhaul closer to what Kyle Larson would like to see for TMS. The two-mile oval is slated to be redone as a short track, freeing up surrounding land for commercial development.
Converting TMS in that fashion isn’t going to happen, at least not quickly and easily. That’s because large grandstands, club suites, and a condominium tower surround the track.
There would be playoff implications for TMS
Any change to Texas Motor Speedway would come with risks, so Speedway Motorsports executives will require reassurances about NASCAR’s ongoing commitment.
Already, NASCAR took away the regular-season race after the 2020 season. Now, its two-year run hosting the All-Star Race is over because North Wilkesboro will take the event in 2023. An overhaul on the scale of converting a track could be a two-year project once the first shovel hits the ground. That presumably moves two years of playoff races elsewhere.
After the track is rebuilt and the ceremonial ribbon is cut, what is NASCAR supposed to do? With Bristol and Martinsville already playoff venues, adding a third short track on the path to the Championship 4 could be considered overdoing it.
There might still be IndyCar, and perhaps the Xfinity or truck series, but a makeover could conceivably end the Cup Series’ run at TMS.
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