Performance Paving Paves Phoenix Raceway
“Asphalt is for racing. Concrete is for sidewalks.”—Dale Earnhardt Jr.
ISM Raceway, formerly known as Phoenix Raceway, is a 1-mile low banking oval track in the Sonoran Desert. First built in 1964, the raceway hosts tens of thousands of racing fans for both NASCAR and INDYCAR race.
In 2018, ISM raceway and parent company International Speedway Corporation decided the facility was in need of a few updates to accommodate an increasing number of racing fans and a greater variety of fan experiences. They earmarked $178 million for these efforts.
A large portion of that funding went to expanding seating, parking and the infield, with a significant amount devoted to improving the team garages and constructing a new pit road. Construction, which began April 8, 2018, had a 214-day completion window so the raceway would be ready for its largest race weekend, Can-Am 500 NASCAR weekend, in November.
Performance Paving Performs
Performance Paving, Fountain Hills, Arizona, was chosen to pave the entire pit road, and also secured a secondary contract to pave the majority of the parking lot expansion.
For the last 15 years, Performance Paving has taken care of any required maintenance on the track twice a year. “We also do pre-race and post-race inspections on the track to identify any deficiencies that could be coming up,” said Managing Member Tommy Tuttle. Performance Paving also has a history of completing similar high profile projects, including the Toyota Proving Grounds and the Barrett Jackson pavilions in Scottsdale.
Tuttle is a fourth generation Tuttle in the asphalt industry. He worked alongside his father, uncle, grandfather and great grandfather in the family paving business in Wisconsin. He’s observed job sites since he was 5 years old and began cleaning shovels and lutes at age 8.
“I will never forget my 10th birthday, when my grandfather said I was old enough and had enough experience to start becoming the roller man,” Tuttle recalled. In 2006, he and his wife, Danielle, started Performance Paving.
Today, Performance Paving employs 38 people and runs two paving crews, one sealcoating crew, one slurry sealing crew, one striping crew and two earthmoving crews. Roughly 70 percent of Performance Paving’s operations are asphalt paving.
Succeeding Under Strict Specs
For non-racing fans, the pit road is how race cars get into and out of the pit, where they fill up on gas and change tires.
Before paving could begin, Performance Paving had to do the earthwork required to relocate the pit road with its entrance at the backstretch of the final turn and its exit, prior to the relocated start/finish line. Additionally, the length of the pit road was extended from ¼ of a mile to ¾ of a mile.
According to Tuttle, the new pit road setup improves visibility for fans and enabled the owner to construct glass buildings so fans can watch their team in the pit.
Although the pit road is not part of the track proper, which accommodates cars traveling up to 194 miles per hour during INDYCAR races, it still must meet stringent specs.
“Because of the speeds these roads are traveled, the tolerances for rideability are much tighter,” Tuttle said.
For example, the surface of the pit road should not vary more than ⅛ of an inch over a 16-foot straightedge, and the maximum allowable profile index of 0.1 inch blanking band for a 0.1 mile section is equivalent to only 12 inches per mile on the mid course; the final course, just 8 inches per mile. The pit road also had to meet a minimum density of 95 percent.
The stringent specs also pertained to the actual paving process. The Performance Paving crew had to pave non-stop from the start of each pass to its completion with a maximum paving speed of only 15 feet per minute.
“The extremely slow pace of paving is one of the primary differences of this job compared to our typical jobs,” Tuttle said. “On our typical street paving job, we’re moving 8 to 10 times faster. You really have to gear all of your equipment and people to go at a much slower pace.”
The pit road required 5,000 tons of asphalt laid in three lifts: 2 inches, 2 inches and 1 ½ inches thick. It was paved in five 14-foot-wide passes over the course of seven days.
Equipped to Pave Pit Road
Performance Paving purchased a new Carlson CP100 II with EZCSS front-mounted screed in July 2018 specifically to complete this project. It’s Performance Paving’s second Carlson paver.
The company’s older Carlson CP100 was used to pave approximately 14,000 tons of asphalt used for the secondary contract for the parking lot expansion. The parking lot expansion was paved with the same crew, which bounced back and forth between paving the pit road and the parking lot, sometimes within the same day.
“We decided on the CP100 II for paving the pit road because of the features it offers,” Tuttle said. “For example, you’re able to control the paving speed electronically.” The screed quality and resulting mat finish were also contributing factors. The CP100 II was also equipped with TF Technologies grade sensors to achieve profile and smoothness.
Performance Paving also rented a Roadtec SB2500 Shuttle Buggy to assist with the non-stop nature of this paving job and improve rideability by never risking trucks bumping the paver and creating a dip in the mat.
Because the crew could not stop mid-pass, Tuttle ensured that there were always two full haul trucks ahead of the paver. They also did a few tests to determine how long it would take the haul trucks to get from the asphalt plant to the job site in various traffic conditions.
Performance Paving purchased the asphalt for this project from a Vulcan Materials plant located approximately 20 minutes’ haul from the job site.
“The mix design contained a special type of AC with a harder softening point than normal,” Tuttle said, adding that it was ½-inch Superpave mix design made with 76-22TR SBS AC. “The pit road had to be incredibly strong to withstand the intensity of cars accelerating and decelerating on it coming in and out of the pit.”
Performance Paving used three rollers from Caterpillar, Peoria, Illinois, to compact the pit road. The CB44 was used as a breakdown roller, typically doing four vibratory passes and three static passes. The CB34 made three static passes, and then the CB24 finished with two static passes.
The owners also didn’t want to ever see a roller start or stop on the mat, so it was integral that the rollers ended only on cold asphalt.
Another unique challenge on this job was dealing with the heat of paving a job in the middle of the Sonoran Desert at the height of summer, with ambient temperatures averaging 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Tuttle estimated the 10-person crew was going through 18 cases of water and eight cases of Gatorade per day.
“We had to keep the crew hydrated and really take care of everyone working in those conditions,” he said.
Racing Toward Specs
Performance Paving was able to meet all specifications on ISM Raceway’s new pit road with an average of 96.3 percent compaction and a rideability profile index of 0.081 inch on the blanking band.
With the right mindset, the right equipment for the job, and a dedication to perfection, Performance Paving won its own race against time to pave a high-performing pit road in time for November’s Can-Am 500 NASCAR weekend.