Created on Friday, 14 June 2013 Written by JOEL E. MAST
The last time Gov. John Kasich took a high-speed lap on the Transportation Research Center’s 7.5-mile oval, he wasn’t sure his driver was going to complete the circuit.
ABOVE: Gov. John Kasich speaks with reporters Thursday after riding along for two high-speed laps on the newly repaved 7.5-mile oval at the Transportation Research Center near East Liberty.
“It was so bumpy and rough I thought we were going to fly over the fence,” he said Thursday during a ceremony to celebrate a $16 million project to restore the track’s surface.
After riding along for a two-lap, 130-mph run, the governor’s assessment changed 180 degrees.
“It’s smooth ... smooth as silk,” Gov. Kasich said. “The word’s got to get out. This new surface is like new ice to a skater, like fresh powder to a skier. This is as good as it gets.”
TRC and Honda, which owns the facility, used Thursday’s event to thank the governor and the state for helping the project with $6 million in funding.
Honda’s Jim Wehrman said Ohio’s help shows government can respond quickly to a need.
In about a year, after learning about TRC’s big oval issues, Gov. Kasich charged his staff with finding ways to help repave the track.
Using JobsOhio and the Third Frontier initiative, the state was able to come up with a $3 million Targeted Industry Attraction grant and another $3 million from the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Honda chipped in $10 million and TRC has committed to keeping 360 full-time jobs at the testing facility.
TRC’s Rick Gildow said the track’s surface, which was built 39 years ago, had begun to deteriorate. For safety, the track’s maximum speed was 140 mph in the corners.
Since repaving just before winter, the track can now handle 200 mph or more through the high-banked turns.
The highest speed set on the track was 254 mph.
Gov. Kasich believes the revived track sends an important message to the automotive industry.
“This is one of the crown jewels in Ohio,” he said. “It was getting a little tarnished, so we polished it up a bit.
A professional driver speeds off a pit lane Thursday at the Transportation Research Center with Gov. John Kasich as a passenger for a two-lap run of the newly repaved 7.5-mile oval. EXAMINER PHOTOS | JOEL E. MAST
Places like TRC with its role in cutting-edge transportation technology sends a message to young engineers across the country that “Ohio is not a fly-over state anymore,” the governor said.
Improvements to the track will help TRC attract more business which benefits the facility and the state, Gov. Kasich said.
TRC’s annual revenues are about $43 million a year from more than 800 customers. About 66 percent of the facility is located in Logan County.