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Local News / Sports

Saturday, 29 August, 2009 1:58 AM

Jeff Burton completes demolition of MIS infield pit suites and media center

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

NASCAR driver Jeff Burton sits inside an excavator as he receives instructions from Ron Reinke of Blue Star Demolition.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

(Quicktime Video)

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- On Sundays, Jeff Burton drives the #31 Caterpillar Chevy Impala for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Last Wednesday, he came to Michigan International Speedway to drive a CAT excavator. He was in town to finish off the demolition of the infield pit suites and media center. It was a chilly, rainy day, however everything went according to plan. It is an off weekend for the drivers, who are normally practicing for the next race.

Track fire crews and staff spent the night of the race and the next day to complete the move-out of the 27-year-old building. The former brown and tan terrace suite spanned along pit road and overlooked the garage and track activities.

"It's good to see the race track stepping up and doing it," Burton said. "To sit in something that has that kind of power is unbelievable. A pretty neat experience to have that much power in your fingertips. It's my first time driving a large excavator. I've driven it's smaller brother many times. The excavators that you see digging swimming pools or doing roadside ditch work, that kind of stuff. I've never driven that one that big. Oh yeah, it's fun."

New infield pit suites and a new media center will be built just in time for the June 2010 season at MIS. Lansing-based Clark Construction was selected as the general contractor for the project which will cost $17 million. The design was handled by Rossetti Associates, a Southfield-based architecture, planning a design firm that is known for designing Ford Field and The Palace of Auburn Hills. This is the first of three phases to redesign the infield of the track.

The new two-story design will use solar power and will feature 31 corporate suites on the second floor. They will have movable walls for areas to be expanded or decreased. The first floor will house the media center. It will feature more space for journalists to work and cover events at MIS. There will be separate rooms for press conferences, competitor meetings, a new kitchen and a press dining area.

"Well, I had a good coach," the NASCAR driver said. "My instructor, who is the operator of the machine, has a passion for what he does. He was fired up about the building coming down. You watch an operator work those things, you really take for granted how easy they make it look. We walked in the building, he showed me this is what we are going to do. See the wood here, these are steel beams, the structure is held up by this. He had studied it and knew what it took to bring it down. The first thing was to weaken the building, the next thing was to knock it down. He knew how to do all that."

Phase One also includes work on modifying pit road and the current fire lane. The race track's fueling station in the garage area will also be moved. MIS has spent more than $55 million since 2005 on various projects including enhanced seating, a new scoreboard, a new public address system, better campsites and new signs.

Phase Two will include a fan walk-style entertainment area with fan-accessible garages, along with reconfigured and enhanced infield campsites. That should become a reality in about two years.

"We are a team that's working on being a championship contender on a yearly basis," Burton said. "This year has been very frustrating for all of us. That's our responsibility. The reality of it is it's our job to get it done and we haven't. Our goal next year will be to make the chase and contend for the championship. But we're not to next year yet. We have 12 races to run this year. We're not writing off this year. It's a reality we are not going to be in the chase this year. We're not going to throw this year away because we're not in the chase."

Upcoming events at the race track will not be affected by the construction. The annual Spirit of America blood drive will take place on September 11, as a tribute to the victims of 9/11. The annual Michigan State High School Athletic Association cross country meet will take place in November.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

An excavator sits next to the remaining portion of the infield pit suites and media center.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Jeff Burton chats with construction workers before getting in the excavator.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Jeff Burton receives instructions on how to tear down the rest of the building.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Jeff Burton hops into the excavator.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Burton tests the excavator and learns the controls before the demolition.

 

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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer and Privacy Policy.

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