Pat Warren, the president of Kansas Speedway since 2006, said he's very open to talking about the return of IndyCar to the mile-and-half tri-oval opened in 2001, and that a repaving project completed in 2011 is improving with age as expected.
"Absolutely we're open to (the return of IndyCar)," said Warren Saturday. ”I think the last conversation I had with (IndyCar) was several months ago. It’s just the economic model hasn’t worked for us. But we’re completely open to having them back. We’d love to do it. We think we have a great facility for it. Frankly, the reason we are a mile-and-a-half tri-oval is that we wanted to run both stock cars and IndyCars when we were built in 2001. If we were built just for stock cars, we wouldn’t be a mile and a half long. We’d probably be shorter. Even with our new configuration, our banking isn’t as steep as some of the places (IndyCar) runs. They've (IndyCar officials) sent someone out to inspect the track to make sure it met all their standards and everything -- it did of course -- and we’re completely open to it and would like to have that conversation.”
In 2011, Kansas Speedway was repaved to replace unformed banking of 15 degrees through the corners with a progressive banking that increases from 17 degrees to 18.5 degrees and finally 20 degrees from track apron to wall. This weekend marks the third NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup weekend on the new banking.
Warren expect two and three-wide racing to become more and more comfortable as the track ages. He sees the future of Kansas Speedway as much like Miami Homestead, were he said variable banking allows stock cars to run comfortably in any of three grooves. It will take more aging and use for the track to develop that outer-most groove, however. Other tracks, like Iowa Speedway, which also uses variable banking, have seen the racing groove widen from the apron up as the track is used over multiple years.
"The track is designed so that the high line is the fastest way around, because you can carry a lot of speed up there," said Warren. "It's only a matter of time before the drivers can run up there and it will be just fantastic."
Warren said deterioration of the old track surface forced them to replace the asphalt. "We were on the verge of having a really, really bad situation if we didn't repave" said Warren. Track officials chose variable banking rather than repaving to a more uniform corner banking as they had before because they felt it would create the most exciting racing.
"When we looked at the repave, we were 12 years smarter than when we did it the first time, so we said let's do everything possible to create the best possible race track we can," Warren said. "We spent a lot more money than we would have if we had just repaved the race track (in the original configuration), and we moved 300,000 cubic yards of dirt out (to make room for more banking while keeping the same outside wall)." Warren feels those extra expenses will be repaid with excellent racing as the track matures over the next few years.
Kansas Speedway repaving project also included the addition of an infield road course which Warren sees playing an increasing role at the track. "I think professional sports car racing is in our future for a long time to come."