Last year I wrote a blog about what people in the year 2000 thought NASCAR would become. One of the bad ideas that has fizzled out since then was the indoor race track. I decided to examine the technological and financial challenges that such an endeavor presents. Will NASCAR ever host an indoor Sprint Cup race? The short answer is no, but keep reading for the long answer.
My first step in examining the proposition was to design a 0.5 mile (0.804 km) short track. The straightaways would each be 600 feet (182.88 meters) long with the turns banked at 14 degrees. Each turn would have a radius of 230 feet (70.104 meters). The pavement would be asphalt because it is cheaper and quieter than concrete. The first unknown is how this pavement will age. We see asphalt break down with age because it is subjected to large changes in temperature and UV light from the sun. Our track will never be exposed to those elements and will not change with age. It will also not be exposed to rain; therefore, rubber will never wash off of the surface until cleaned manually.
My second step was to examine what size building could hold such a racetrack. The superstructure would be shaped like a giant aircraft hangar: arches of reinforced concrete (each with a radius of 330 feet [100.584 meters]) would run the buildings 1,100-foot (335.28-meter) length with sheets of tin-plated steel connecting the arches. The structure's volume would be just over 188 million cubic feet (57 thousand cubic meters) making it the fourth largest building in the world by volume. Even with two decks of seats, the capacity would likely not exceed 75,000.
Despite the 330-foot-high ceiling, exhaust mufflers may still be needed to keep engine noise at tolerable levels. Even if engine noise is controlled, what happens if someone crashes and his/her radiator bursts? If engines are too loud, certainly a jet dryer would be too loud. I cannot fathom how large the ventilation system would have to be to protect fans from exhaust emissions. For all of the fans who would buy tickets to a race confident it would not be a rain out, there are a lot of fans afraid of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning while deaf. Making matters worse, rainouts at short tracks are rare because they only take 45 minutes to dry once the rain stops.
It's very likely that a Sprint Cup quality track could be built under a roof. The construction materials seem feasible enough; however, the potential financial returns are no more promising than any outdoor track. With the ceilings made for intentionally poor acoustics, don't bother trying to make money on concert tickets. These returns do not outweigh the extra risk of investing great quantities of money into an unknown endeavor. I am normally a big fan of doing unorthodox things just to do them first, but this track is not worth building and should not be built.
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