Since it first opened in 1969 Gainesville Raceway has been one of the premier tracks in the southeastern United States. The NHRA’s annual Gatornationals have been a staple on the NHRA Mello Yello tour for five decades and the facility has played host to many historic moments in drag racing. To maintain its reputation as one of the finest tracks in the country the surface of the raceway has been completely redone with fresh concrete and asphalt for 2019.
Gainesville Raceway will forever be known as the track where Top Fuel drivers pierced the 260, 270, and 300 mph barriers. The track’s surface has consisted of about 700 feet of concrete that transitioned to asphalt at the top end for many years. According to Mike Yurick from Gainesville Raceway, the track’s surface has gone through some significant changes that will make a big difference for racers this season.
“We replaced all the existing concrete from behind the waterbox to 1,500-feet down the track from the starting line, plus the 100 or so feet behind the starting line. Both lanes were poured and are over 30 feet wide, so everything from the center of the track to the wall. We also replaced another 1,800-feet of asphalt in the shutdown area from where the concrete ends to the second turnoff at the top end.”
Even with the rather warm climate of Florida, the new surface was something that became a priority for Gainesville Raceway. The old track surface had been there in most spots for 25 years and the original concrete was even in place, as well. The asphalt at the top end was also starting to slowly deteriorate and was beginning to have some rippling issues.
“The company (NHRA) decided that this is one of the premier tracks on the circuit and it was time to do it. It took some time to get all the bids in and decide how we were going to attack this massive project. We started around December 10 on the demo work and last Friday we poured the final section of the asphalt. We were pouring concrete from midnight until 11:00 in the morning during construction,” Yurick says.
Normally, the track shuts down for a few weeks in December for a break and then begins racing the first weekend of the New Year. With the updates to the track in progress racing has been delayed but the wait will be worth it. The track will get its new rubber laid down by NHRA officials after the fresh concrete has cured.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Gatornationals so the new track surface will be a welcomed addition to the event. There will be plenty of crew chiefs in the pits ready to see just how much power the fresh concrete can handle.
“If the weather is right it’s going to give the fuel teams a lot more room to put the power down. They aren’t going to have to worry about the transition any more and how that changes the clutch setup. It should be faster compared to what was there, especially at the top end where the asphalt was. If we get good March Florida weather it should make for some fast times,” Yurick explains.
The improvements to Gainesville Raceway are another example of how national event level tracks on the NHRA tour are working to provide racers with the best surface possible. Fans will also see the benefits of these new surfaces across the country with racing being closer than ever in the professional categories.