Built for Speed
Built for SpeedPutzmeister Telebelt® TB 110 instrumental in construction of the “Bellagio of dragstrips”
STURTEVANT, WI (February 3, 2009) – September 11, 2008 marked the momentous opening of the zMAX Dragway @ Concord, the first and only all-concrete, four-lane drag strip in the United States. To place the 3,360 cubic yards (2,569m3) of concrete for the historic drag strip, Concrete & Materials Placement (Concrete & Materials), relied on their Putzmeister Telebelt® TB 110 telescopic belt conveyor to get the job done right.
Quickly becoming the new hub of motorsports, Charlotte, North Carolina had residents and the motorsports community alike cheering for the success of its new drag strip. For its grand opening, the zMAX Dragway @ Concord hosted the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Carolina Nationals September 11 – 14. The event was the first of six races in the playoff-style NHRA POWERade Countdown to the Championship.
The Vision of a “Crown Jewel”
“I love to build things and this is an exciting project because we are going to build the crown jewel of drag strips,” says Speedway Motorsports, Inc.’s (Speedway) Chairman and CEO, O. Bruton Smith. “Drag racing is the perfect complement to the wide variety of motorsports entertainment already on the schedule here at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.”
The “Bellagio of drag strips,” as Smith often refers to the zMAX Dragway @ Concord, is located on 125 acres (505,853m2) of Lowe’s Motor Speedway property across U.S. Highway 29 from the superspeedway, adjacent to The Dirt Track in Concord, North Carolina. The drag strip facility’s track, pit areas and midway cover 46.5 acres (188,177m2).
“We are constantly looking for ways to grow our business and the success of NHRA racing and our other tracks told us that adding a drag strip here was a tremendous opportunity,” adds Smith.
With the addition of the highly anticipated quarter-mile (0.40km) drag strip to Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s legendary 1.5-mile (2.4km) superspeedway and four-tenths-mile (0.64km) dirt track, it’s likely to be the most popular auto racing series to fans from around the world.
Many racing teams, along with a considerable amount of manufacturing for the racing industry were located in California until the 1990s when racing teams and manufacturing companies started to make the move to Charlotte.
“Nascar is to Charlotte, like steel is to Pittsburgh, and music is to Nashville,” comments Mark Stanley, project manager for Baker Concrete Construction, Inc. (Baker), one of the prime contractors for the dragway.
It’s easy to understand why Charlotte is now being referred to as the epicenter of race car construction (as far as number of race teams in one area) in the United States, given all it has to offer, including:
•A lower cost of property and manufacturing
•Lowe’s Motor Speedway
•The zMAX Dragway @ Concord
•The NASCAR Hall of Fame opening in Uptown Charlotte in 2010
•Wind tunnel testing companies opening up shop
The zMAX Dragway @ Concord offers what seems like endless amenities for the motorsport fan:
•The entire quarter-mile (0.40km) racing surface is concrete – only two other facilities on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit share this feature, the Texas Motorplex and Bandimere Speedway.
•A 34,000-square-foot (3,159m2) starting line tower that includes 16 luxury suites, an additional 4,000 square feet (372m2) of roof access for guests and a control area for race officials, a broadcast booth for ESPN’s announcers and a press box for media members.
•Two steel and aluminum grandstand structures, one on each side of the drag strip, with a seating capacity of 30,000 and room for expansion to 60,000.
•The primary grandstand, named in honor of 14-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, is on the drivers’ left, adjacent to the Manufacturer’s Midway and Pro Pits.
•4,350 premium flip-down stadium seats make up the top 10 rows of John Force Grand Stand; the remaining rows consist of 20-inch-wide (508mm) bench seats with backrest.
•Two tunnels under the drag strip connect the grandstands, enhancing fan mobility.
•24 luxury suites with hospitality accommodations are located above the main grandstand.
To make the “Bellagio of drag strips” come to life, the owner and developer, Speedway, located in Charlotte, hired on a team of which included: Hoopaugh Grading Company, LLC as site preparation and excavation contractor, Charlotte, general contractor Atlanta-based Choate Construction Company (Choate), Charlotte, North Carolina-based Al Design Group as architect, and Monroe, Ohio-based concrete contractor Baker.
Baker chose Concrete & Materials Placement as the Telebelt TB 110 telescopic belt conveyor provider and Thomas Concrete as the ready mix concrete supplier.
With groundbreaking in February 2008 the countdown began to the grand opening festivities that were to take place in September.
All Concrete, All the Way
According to Steve Swift, Project Manager for Speedway, most drag strips have concrete for the first 660 feet (1,062m) or less, however at the zMAX Dragway @ Concord, the entire drag strip is concrete and is the flattest racing surface in the industry.
“It’s the transition from concrete to asphalt which usually upsets the traction of the rear wheels, making the car unstable for drivers as they attain speeds in excess of 300 miles per hour (483km/hr), says Swift. “With a concrete-only drag strip, cars won’t encounter the concrete to asphalt transition, allowing cars to drive at even faster speeds with less effort while making it a more enjoyable experience for the fans. The concrete drag strip will be as smooth as glass.”
“There’s a perception in the industry that asphalt is a cheaper and necessary building material when building a drag racing facility, but we’re actively trying to change that view,” says Jim Hosea, Operations Manager for Baker. “A lot of drivers have complained of a bump at the transition point from concrete to asphalt. On tracks that only feature concrete ‘launch pads’, the length of the pad can sometimes produce a transition bump during a high speed gear change which is not a good thing. With an all-concrete drag strip, it allows the drivers more of a consistent grip down the entire track.”
According to Hosea, this is not the first time they have used a TB 110. A TB 110 was also used at the Bristol Motor Speedway reconstruction project in Bristol, Tennessee in 2007 to install sub-base, track concrete and wall backfill, and the reconstruction of the launch pads at Thunder Valley Dragway.
Concrete & Material Placement’s TB 110 placed 3,360 cubic yards (2,569m3) of concrete for the drag strip and the two in-fill areas (the areas on either side of the racing lanes).
“With the tight concrete mix specifications on the project, Baker did not want to risk adding water to the concrete mix. By conveying the concrete with the Telebelt, as opposed to alternative methods such as pumping, there was less risk for aggregate segregation that would adversely affect surface tolerances and pavement performance,” says Doug Doggett of Concrete & Materials Placement. “Our TB 110 will place any slump concrete and will not alter air content of the mix which is extremely important when placing concrete for a drag strip.”
“The concrete mix design was a crucial element to the success of the tracks,” says Hosea. “The mixes were designed to produce a 650 flexural strength, or 5,500 – 6,000 psi.”
Flexural strength indicates the tensile strength of concrete, which is the stress point at which the material breaks or permanently deforms.
“The flexural strength tests of the concrete mixes mirror those for highway and airport specifications,” adds Hosea. “Samples of different types of sand and gravel were collected to determine which type would be ideal for this mix.”
According to Hosea, the concrete mix design per cubic yard included:
•664 pounds (301kg) cement
•1,304 pounds (591kg) sand
•1,830 pounds (830kg) 57-inch (1,448mm) stone
•40-ounce (1,134g) polyheed 997
•34 gallons (129L) water
•Two pounds (0.9kg) fibers
•0.43 water/cement ratio
Making the Grade
Because this is not the first time Baker has utilized a TB 110 on a drag strip, Baker knew to expect nothing but dependable performance from the telescopic belt conveyor.
“Paving the drag strip required multiple moves, and the moves had to be quick so there would not be any delays that would affect the flatness of the pours; one of the TB 110’s best features is its ability to set up quickly and teardown even quicker,” notes Doggett.
“The fast, telescoping action of the boom also aided in placing the concrete quickly,” adds Hosea.
According to Doggett, the TB 110 was on site for 21 days and the concrete pours lasted around four hours each.
All of the 12 track and in-fill pours were at night to minimize concrete travel time disruptions, take advantage of cooler temperatures and less humidity as well as having more consistent concrete set times.
“The TB 110’s four-section telescopic boom was vital in placing the concrete exactly where it needed to be for each section of the drag strip,” says Doggett. “With its 106' 1" (32.34m) horizontal reach, the boom provided smooth, surge-free conveying results.”
The TB 110 conveyed 280 cubic yards per hour (214m3) at grade, which, according to Doggett, is a very fast conveying rate. Doggett says the average conveying rate is usually 150 cubic yards per hour (115m3) for his TB 110.
“The fast conveying rate makes for a faster lay of the concrete, provides less fatigue on the finishers and saves money on the project overall,” says comments Doggett.
“Observing the versatility of the TB 110, contractors that were on this project are now requesting the telescopic belt conveyor for conveying stone and backfill material for other job sites,” notes Doggett. “Our TB 110 never disappoints, but always impresses.”
In recognition of the extremely flat concrete surface created for the zMAX @ Concord Dragway project, Baker is being awarded a Golden Trowel® Award for the 2008 Golden Trowel contest year. Golden Trowel Awards are given annually by The Face® Companies of Norfolk, Virginia for the flattest and most level concrete slabs placed in the world.
There are approximately 12 Golden Trowels awarded each year, each a different category; most awards are for building floors. Baker won the 2008 award in a special category for the drag strip. Baker is no stranger to the Golden Trowel Awards, having won 11 times previously since 1998.
Flatness and levelness for candidate projects are independently verified using the F-Number (Face Floor Profile Numbering) System which was developed by The Face Companies in the 1970s and 1980s. Measurements are taken using the Dipstick® Floor Profiler, the world’s most accurate floor profile-measuring device. F-Numbers are the recognized American Concrete Institute/American Society for Testing and Materials/Canadian Standards Association (ACI/ASTM/CSA) standard for the specification and measurement of concrete floor profiles.
A total of 94 contractors from six countries have claimed the 226 Golden Trowel Awards in the contest's 20-year history.
“After the success of the NHRA nationals back in September, everyone was dripping with enthusiasm about the growing interest in, and activity of the motorsports industry in Charlotte,” comments Swift. “We had a huge turnout of 113,000 attendees at the four-day grand opening and have our 2009 calendar booked for events at the zMAX Dragway @ Concord. We are confident that the Dragway will continue to bring more people into the area and that motorsports is here to stay in North Carolina.”