Speedway Dealing With Pothole Embarrassment


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - It's supposed to be NASCAR's crown jewel, but now it's Daytona Beach's embarrassment. A giant pothole cracked open on the track during the Daytona 500 (see it). It delayed the race twice and forced two drivers out of the race.

Eyewitness News asked track officials if they plan to speed up their timeline to repair the track.

There was plenty of talk at the track that weather caused the pothole. Weather, moisture and cold temperatures absolutely made it hard to fix and it may have had a hand in creating the problem.

AT THE SCENE: Daytona 500 Marred By Pothole

There are seams in the asphalt at the track like on a regular road. Eyewitness News found another Central Florida racetrack where water was pushing from beneath the pavement and leaking from track seams, even Monday.

The 2-inch deep depression at Daytona International Speedway had cars bottoming out, sending sparks and rocks flying, and it had track officials defending the condition of a track that hasn't been repaved since 1978.

"It's not unusually long at all, because we're in Florida. We have the best temperature here. We keep such great care of our track," Speedway president Robin Braig explained.

Eyewitness News found evidence at other area tracks, though, that recent heavy rains caused problems.

"You always expect it when you have a real heavy rain like we had for those few days," said Robert Hart, New Smyrna Speedway.

On the banked turns at New Smyrna Speedway, repaved three years ago, there were tiny trails of water leaking out of a seam in the track Monday. It caused them to cancel racing for a night while they worked on a fix.

"The seams begin to separate and the water behind the asphalt will seek the path of least resistance," Hart said.

Day's before the race in Daytona, drivers were questioning the track's changing conditions.

"There's a lot of bumps from when this track flooded last year and we're just kinda finding them as we go," NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. said.

The Speedway fell victim to historic floods in May though at no time was the racing surface underwater.

In 2004, a pothole delayed a race in Martinsville, Virginia. A chunk of rock from the hole ruined a car in that case.

In Daytona, track officials said engineers are evaluating things this week and the track may not need a complete repaving, which was expected for 2012.

It has been 30 years since the track was paved. By comparison, the Florida Department of Transportation said they expect to get about ten to 12 years of life out of their asphalt highways.

Daytona's 480-acre motorsport complex is aging. Since opening in 1959, it's been home to the biggest race in all of NASCAR, the Daytona 500. The facility holds almost 168,000 spectators and hosts eight major weekends of racing a year.

All of that activity is taking its toll on Daytona. It's the 5th oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup track. The oldest is Martinsville in Virginia, which was built 10 years before the Daytona Speedway.

Previous Stories: February 15, 2010: Pesky Pothole Puts Damper On Daytona 500 February 15, 2010: Pothole Creates Problems In Daytona 500 February 14, 2010: Major Track Problems Force Delays At Daytona 500