Paving Progress Report, August 24
Q: Where are you from originally, and how did you make your way into the world of asphalt and road construction and into your current position with Sunmount?
A: I am originally from Remsen, N.Y., upstate, about 4 hours from New York City near the Adirondacks. I grew up there, and was always interested in a career in construction because my father owned a construction company. I had decided I did not want to just operate a shovel and other heavy machinery, but I wanted to be able to manage a company, so I went to school at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y. and majored in both physics and civil engineering. After college, instead of staying home to work, I sent out resumes and was immediately hired by Lane Construction, which is Sunmount's sister company based in Meriden, Conn. I worked on projects for them in the early 1990's, then I was sent to work on a project in Texas in 1992. That is how I ended up there, and working with Sunmount.
Q: Sunmount Corporation has handled work at several tracks, have you been involved in all of those projects?
A: The track projects started with Texas in 1995, because they were practically in our back yard. From Texas we went to Atlanta in 1997, then back to Texas in 1998 to correct some settling over their tunnels and work in the curves, which we did in 42 straight days between their NASCAR event and Indy event. Then we did an overlay in 2001 at Texas, and went to do the project at Homestead-Miami in 2003. From there, we went to Richmond in 2004, and to do a mill and resurface job in Charlotte early this year.
Q: Sunmount Corporation is not exclusively a track paving company, with these projects being few and far between compared to the various highway and bridge projects it handles. What are the biggest differences in the two types of projects, which do you prefer, and why?
A: The track projects are more challenging than most of the highway projects I've been involved with, but I've not personally been involved with any extremely complicated highway projects like a five-level interchange in Atlanta or something like that. The track projects are also unique because we don't do them every day, and when we do they are usually four to six month long projects. Track projects are more challenging, but they are more satisfying when they are finished.
Q: Did you know much about racing before taking on these speedway projects?
A: As far as NASCAR racing goes, I started learning by osmosis when we started working on Texas. From the mid-90's till now, I've watched the races on television, but I'd never been to one here, and it is pretty intimidating up close! The banking is the most impressive, and presents the most challenges for what we do. On 24-or-less- degree banking, you can drive your vehicle through the turn, stop, and get out. Now your door may fly open and you may fly out, but you can stop and get out. Here, you can't do that. This one, you just can't go running up and down. When working on airports, roads or bridges, it's easy to pull tape measures and that sort of thing. Here, you have to crawl around. Surveying is much more difficult with this type of project because of the steep banking."
Q: Do you perceive the races totally differently now when watching on TV, perhaps paying more attention to the racing surface than the race?
A: I kind of do. I can watch and
tell if it is bumpy or not bumpy better than most people would, and can get a good idea of the roughness of different tracks just by watching.
Q: Have you had any particularly good, "breakthrough" days with this project?
A: The day we finished the level-up course in the curves, and knowing just by driving it that we'd gotten it right. It is not a simple task to achieve the accuracy we must achieve, so surveying alone for a project like this is a monumental task. It was a breakthrough day knowing it would ride well.