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Patching together a track solution

DAYTONA BEACH — Daytona International Speedway officials are doing everything possible to avoid another pesky pothole.

Engineers, asphalt specialists and track workers spent Friday repeatedly checking every inch of the 2½-mile superspeedway. The surveillance came hours after inspectors found a damaged section of track between Turns 1 and 2 — a few feet from the spot that nearly shut down the Daytona 500 in February.

Workers used epoxy to repair an area 1 foot by 4½ feet as a "precautionary measure" late Thursday night, track president Robin Braig said.

"It's going to get tested, but we are confident that the precautions we're taking are going to make a great Coke Zero 400," Braig said.

NASCAR's most storied track hasn't been fully repaved since 1978, creating huge bumps through the high-banked turns and a slippery surface. The less-than-ideal conditions make for harrowing racing at 195 mph with cars inches from each other.

Some drivers love it. Others, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., have been critical.

Everyone weighed in on Feb. 14, when a small hole between Turns 1 and 2 took center stage at NASCAR's marquee event, marred an otherwise spectacular opener and prompted officials to apologize for more than two hours of delays.

Days after the race, engineers decided a strip of pavement would be removed and reinforced with a concrete patch. The patch is about 6 feet wide and 18 feet long. Though officials believed it would hold up through tonight, they also scheduled a $20 million repaving that begins Monday.

But more damage developed after several practice sessions Thursday. Nationwide and Sprint Cup series cars turned laps for several hours — the first real test since February's race.

"It is the only area on the track that we've seen any deterioration or any added pressure, stress to the pavement," Braig said. "We've used every piece of technology available to scan the entire surface since the Daytona 500, but it's 32 years old."

"There's not really a reason to be concerned about it," two-time Cup champion Tony Stewart said. "It's either going to work out fine or come apart. … If it comes apart, they'll do what they need to do to fix it."

Patching together a track solution 07/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 12:10am]

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