SALEM, Ind. — No matter how many times a driver has raced around historic Salem Speedway, it’s going to be different the next time around.
The first repaving at the high-banked, half-mile since 1977 is finished as the full stretch of turns three and four have a new coat of asphalt.
“The paving is perfect,” said Owen Thompson, owner of the track. “It drug out a little longer than we thought, but the surface is just as smooth as glass.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will race on the track on Sept. 13 in the Federated Car Care ARCA Fall Classic 200 presented by JayC Food Stores. It will be the 96th appearance for the ARCA Racing Series at the speedway, which began at Salem in 1955.
“It should produce better racing down low in the corners,” Thompson said. “We paved a lot more than we thought we would — we went all the way to the top. With this new surface, the drivers are going to have to drive a little different.”
The project began shortly after the Fourth of July holiday when crews moved in to build an access road high above turns three and four. Thompson had a machine built with a stabilizer to hold the paving machine on the track while it paved on the high banks.
Original estimates called for about 530 tons of asphalt for the project.
“We blew past that,” Thompson said. “We used about 800 tons.”
The new pavement begins where the John Deere sign is on the backstretch and continues into turn three until the start of the front stretch after turn four.
Thompson said he expects to get vehicles on the track next week with an eye toward allowing ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards teams to test at the track starting later this month.
Representatives of Hoosier Racing Tire, the official tire of the ARCA Racing Series, are monitoring the paving to see if any testing is necessary before the series returns to the track.
ARCA President Ron Drager said the paving shows that the Salem Speedway Fueled by the Hoosier Lottery is committed to the future.
“The ARCA-Salem Speedway relationship dates back to the formative years of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards,” Drager said. “It’s great to see how successful the ARCA race weekends at Salem have been consistently over the years, and Owen Thompson’s commitment to long term capital improvements like this make everyone-ARCA, the race teams, the fans, the sponsors-feel good about the future of ARCA racing at Salem Speedway. We all appreciate the investment Owen is making, and I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the race Sept. 13 with the new pavement in turns three and four.”
The project has been a long time coming and part of an overall strategy to maintain and upgrade the historic speedway.
“It was quite a big deal,” Thompson said. “When we were paving, we had anywhere from 10 to 40 people that would just come and sit in the stands to watch.
“There are a lot of people that really love this place. The repaving has created a lot of interest, renewed interest, in the track and the upcoming ARCA races. I believe it will create a new wave of interest for the next ARCA race here. It sure looks good to me.”