NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers who tested recently at Michigan International Speedway have given a thumbs-up to its new track surface.
Four drivers tested the new asphalt for the first time during Easter week after a $7 million repaving project was completed at the end of 2011, marking the first resurface for the two-mile oval since 1995.
Penske Dodge driver Brad Keselowski applauded the work done at what he calls his home track, and doesn't expect rubbering-in issues like those experienced last year at the resurfaced Phoenix oval to be a problem this time. He believes the track will be race-ready when the series arrives for the Cup race there in June.
"I thought it was a great test," said Keselowski. "I thought all the drivers were on the same page. I think there are some questions, but not a lot to be answered. The track really rubbered in. I think they did a great job repaving that facility.
"What I mean by that is they did a great job with their approach, which was to pave it in October and give the track a whole winter to cure. They had the [ability] to [do that, so that] when we get on the race track, there is zero break-in time to the surface, which is critical. When we come there in June everyone can just go out there and run."
Jeff Gordon, a two-time Cup winner at Michigan, says the new surface continues to allow drivers to race in different lines as in the past. He found the new asphalt offers plenty of grip, pushing speeds way beyond those ran the last time the series raced there in August, 2011.
"I tested at Michigan last week and I had a lot of fun," said Gordon. "It was one of the more enjoyable repave tire tests that I've been a part of.
"You go into it knowing it's going to have a lot of grip, that there's potential tire issues and what's the racing going to be like. [I looked for ] any other grooves other than the one you're running in and I thought that while it was extremely fast, I thought that it already showed signs of multiple grooves. I'm pretty excited about Michigan."
Roush Fenway Ford driver Matt Kesenth, also a two-time winner at Michigan, said lap-times in the test were around four seconds faster in race trim relative to the old surface. Top speeds reportedly broke 210 mph, which the former Cup champion don't believe need to be looked at by officials.
"I don't think we were going too fast as far as the cars being out of control or not having a good race or anything like that," said Kenseth. "They are big numbers but I don't know if you would realize you were going that fast if you didn't have all that telemetry on the car. It is about what we expected. It was a ton of grip and we have been getting faster at all the tracks in the last year or two, trying to make the cars better, and tracks have a ton of grip and it is real fast."
The Sprint Cup races twice at Michigan this year, the first event taking place in June before the series returns in August.