Paving on Atlanta Motor Speedway’s new 28-degree banking is an impressive operation, but the process to give AMS its new asphalt doesn’t start at the track.
About 20 miles away at ER Snell’s asphalt plant in Stockbridge, Ga., years of prep and tons of material all come together to create Atlanta Motor Speedway’s asphalt mix.
Asphalt is created primarily using two products: a mix of hard materials like stones and gravel called the aggregate, and liquid asphalt.
“The liquid asphalt is a petroleum based product. It’s actually the glue that holds everything together in the asphalt mixture,” said Robbie Robinson, senior technical services manager for Associated Asphalt. While the stone aggregate for the AMS project comes to ER Snell from a nearby quarry, the liquid asphalt is hauled in from Associated Asphalt’s facility in Savannah, Ga. Robinson says that liquid is one of the key components that makes the speedway’s new asphalt unique.
“With the NASCAR cars you have the tires that create a lot of friction on the wearing surface. This product is a little stiffer; it’s going to be little more durable than your typical highway asphalt,” explained Robinson. “There’s a lot behind the scenes research and development that goes into making this product.”
The liquid asphalt isn’t the only part of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s mix that deviates from the norm. The composition of the stone aggregate that it binds with has also been optimized for racing.
“Six years ago we put up some designs for the project, then some of (the speedway’s) engineers came in and pointed out that they wanted a bit of a coarser mix,” said ER Snell Senior Vice President Nick Murphy. “A lot of that stemmed from the desires of the tire manufacturers and there was a lot of talk about the wear on the tires and what they’d expect at race time.
“Those are some things that we don’t encounter on a day-to-day basis so it kind of threw us a curveball, but we were able to make those adjustments and provide those properties that you were looking for.”
With the recipe for the racing surface nailed down, perhaps the biggest challenge to actually creating and paving the new asphalt comes down to logistics. Throughout the paving process, much effort has been spent making sure all the materials and manpower needed to complete the project are working in unison.
“Our business is very labor-intensive,” said Murphy. “We rely on a lot of different components, whether it be the liquid supplier, the liquid hauling, the truckers that are getting the material here to the yard, the plant personnel, the truckers getting the material back to the track and the paving operation itself. Everything has to move smoothly and if one breaks, then the whole system shuts down. So we definitely rely on a lot of people to make it all happen and make it a success.”
As paving at Atlanta Motor Speedway nears completion, it’s clear the sum of all that effort and coordination is a racing surface that will thrill fans for decades to come.
“We’ve got a good group of people behind this project. We’ve got people that take their jobs very seriously,” said AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison following a tour of ER Snell’s plant. “Atlanta Motor Speedway and our fans are what is most important to me so to be able to come out here, get to take a look behind the scenes at what is being produced that’ll provide entertainment for years to come is exciting for me. This asphalt will be our track for over 20 years – hopefully 30 years with the technology that we have today.”
The all-new Atlanta Motor Speedway makes its NASCAR debut in 2022. Tickets for both race weekends are available now at AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.