DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tony Stewart visited Daytona International Speedway on Thursday afternoon to tour the repaving project and participate in a milestone moment in the history of the “World Center of Racing.”
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, joined Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III in painting the start/finish line on the new racing surface.
He also received a piece of Daytona history – a core sample of the original start/finish line asphalt – and took a laps on the finished portion of the track with Chitwood and North American Testing Company’s Senior Director of Construction Bill Braniff.
Stewart was appreciative of the piece of asphalt from the start/finish line.
“As you grow up in racing and as the years go by, you learn the history where you go to and importance of the venues you go to,” Stewart said. “To think of the great champions that crossed over this piece of asphalt to win the biggest races of their career. Whether it was in the Rolex 24 Hour race, or the Daytona 500 or the Nationwide race, the Firecracker 400 even. Think of the great people that have crossed over the start/finish line. This is a piece of racing history that you can’t put a price tag on this.”
In driving around the finished portion of the track in Turns 3 and 4 and through the tri-oval in a Chevrolet Camaro, Stewart got to experience the new smooth racing surface.
“I got to rip through 3 and 4 and it’s not the same race track,” Stewart said. “This place is going to have a totally new look and a totally new feel to the drivers and teams. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I can promise you that we are going to fill every square inch of this race track with cars now because we’re going to have that flexibility because this surface is going to be in such great shape when they get done with this last layer.”
And during his drive, he also got to witness all the paving work taking place in the steep 31-degree high banks in Turns 1 and 2.
“This is not like paving a highway,” Stewart said. “If you go down there and you watch how the cranes are holding up the equipment, I told them there’s no way you could pay me to be on that roller right now.
“For a gear head like me, I like seeing what the process is and how they have to do this. To see 75 percent of this project completed already is phenomenal. They’ve had great weather down here. It’s neat to see how good a job Lane has done.”
Stewart is tied with Cale Yarborough for third on the all-time Daytona International Speedway wins list with 15 triumphs including three Coke Zero 400s Powered By Coca-Cola.
A victory in the Daytona 500, NASCAR biggest, richest and most prestigious race, has eluded him and he would love to be the first driver to win “The Great American Race” on the new asphalt.
“I just have a problem with timing,” Stewart said. “I figured out how to do it on Saturday, I’ve just got to figure out how to do it on Sunday.”
About the Daytona Repave: Lane Construction, which repaved other ISC race tracks including Talladega Superspeedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Darlington Raceway, will use an estimated 50,000 tons of asphalt to repave more than 1.4 million square feet of Daytona International Speedway and has a target completion date of Jan. 1, 2011.
Speedweeks 2011 will kick off with the 49th annual Rolex 24 At Daytona GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race on Jan. 29-30 and conclude with the 53rd annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 20, the prestigious season-opening event to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Race fans can view the progression of the historic repaving project from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands, which will open free to the public. Track tours will also be available through attraction admission to Daytona 500 Experience.
Daytona International Speedway also is posting updates on the project at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com/repave and on its social sites on Twitter (www.twitter.com/DISUpdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/daytonainternationalspeedway). For fans interested in purchasing pieces of asphalt, they can visit www.jostens.com/Daytona
For tickets and more information on Daytona International Speedway events, visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PITSHOP.