What You Won’t See at Atlanta This Weekend: Weepers

Weepers have been a continuing concern for NASCAR. One unique aspect of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s massive renovation aims to make this a problem of the past.

Where Weepers Start

According to the United States Geological Survey, Groundwater is water that exists underground, but it’s not like there’s a river or pool of water beneath the earth. Groundwater permeates the soil and/or rocks. It provides about 40% of public water supplies ad 39% of the water used for agriculture here in the U.S.

A graphic comparing groundwater with surface water and ground without water.
This image from the Groundwater Foundation is one of their coloring pages to help kids learn about the importance of groundwater.

But the ground can only hold so much water. If you have a place in your yard that turns into a miniature lake when it rains, you’ve seen what happens when the ground is saturated.

Weepers, Jeepers

Now imagine covering that part of your yard over with asphalt. The ground water pushes upward on the asphalt. If there are cracks in the asphalt, that’s where you’ll see if first.

That’s a weeper.

We’ve had them at Fontana, Texas, Pocono and elsewhere. You can dry the asphalt, but there’s so much water underground that it’s like a spring in the middle of the track. The ground water will continue to seep through the crack, long after it’s stopped raining.

And you can’t race a track on slick tires when it’s even a little wet. As of today (2022-03-18), USGS says that the water level is about 3.3 feet below the surface in Atlanta. For reference, much of southern Florida has groundwater depths of 0 to 7 inches. So the rain forecast for this afternoon in Atlanta definitely poses the threat of weepers.

A NextGen Track

Atlanta Motor Speedway’s design took weepers into account with a sort of french drain design.

In addition to the usual open drainage layer necessary to handle rainwater, they’ve added a porous layer that directs water to an eight-inch PVC pipe with holes along it. The water coming down the asphalt channel goes into the pipe and the pipe sends it to the storm sewer instead of onto the track.

Sadly, it looks like the rain in the forecast will give the track an opportunity to see their new system in action.

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