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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- In just a few days, they will start tearing up the track at Michigan International Speedway. But removing the racing surface on the two-mile oval is not a troublesome sign for the future, since it will be replaced with a new deck that should prove faster and more exciting when MIS again hosts two weekends of NASCAR racing in 2012.
The official schedule for next year has not yet been released by NASCAR, but multiple sources have confirmed that MIS will retain a pair of highly coveted dates on the Sprint Cup Series calendar. In 2012, the elite stock car circuit will visit the Irish Hills track on June 16-17 and return on August 18-19.
Detroit native and Sprint Cup Series title contender Brad Keselowski is excited about the coming season and the prominent role MIS will again play in the championship chase. Drivers customarily object to repaving projects, since for them it is akin to tossing out a pair of well-worn and very comfortable jeans, but Keselowski trusts that MIS is making the smart move, especially after an aging surface in Daytona was beset with pothole issues earlier this year.
"There are a lot of drivers that discouraged the repave. I know, I've spent some time talking with Roger Curtis, the track president, about it," Keselowski said. "But he assured us it has to be done in order to make sure we don't have a Daytona situation. We can't have that. In our sport, it's important we get it right when we get here and have fans in the stands. I respect his commitment to doing that."
"The drivers love this racetrack," Curtis said Monday, "so it's exciting to start another chapter for MIS -- a new racing surface."
Curtis added that despite smaller crowds at this past season's two NASCAR weekends, MIS moves ahead fueled by optimism and the promise that its on-going investment in improvements and an enhanced fan experience will keep the future secure.
"We've made great strides, and as we go forward I feel like our relationship with the fans is the best it's been," Curtis said.
"We've seen a lot of new fans at the track this season, and a lot of Canadians coming to the races here. We're working hard in a tough economic environment, and putting everything we can into making these race weekends a great experience for the fans."
Curtis said that this past weekend he heard from many fans, as well as NASCAR officials and the stock car drivers themselves, that MIS is doing a very good job of staging races in a difficult economic climate.
"Everyone, including the drivers, told me that the crowds might be a little smaller but the level of excitement here is something they don't see a lot of other places," Curtis said.
"And the drivers give me a lot of hope and optimism that things will get better in the future. I get the sense they want to do more to help us give the fans a terrific experience. The drivers know that we're down here in the trenches, digging hard."
Kyle Busch, the winner of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at MIS and the current Sprint Cup Series points leader, said the sport is putting a good product on display.
"When it comes to on-track excitement, I've said for years that I think we've got one of the most exciting forms of motorsports out there," Busch said.
"We run closer together than anybody else out there at the speeds that we run around the racetrack. Of course, people say 'We love the good old days' ... good old days when the first place car won the race by eight laps over second place. I think this year has been some of the most competitive racing that we've seen."
Curtis said he expects MIS to benefit in the coming season from a burgeoning relationship with the Pure Michigan tourism marketing campaign, which sponsored Sunday's Sprint Cup race, and from a solid connection with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who attended Sunday's race.
"I think the light bulb came on last year, and there's been a lot of synergy growing in those partnerships ever since," Curtis said. "It's always sad to see the August over with and the racing season here end, but I'm excited about next year. We're already working on ways to make next season's race weekends an even better experience. We never stop pushing in that direction."
The 2012 NASCAR season opens at Daytona International Speedway, where the Daytona 500 will be contested on Feb. 26. The season ends nine months later on Nov. 18 at Homestead, Fla.
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org r 419-724-6510.