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Maintaining turf in an unusual place

July 20, 2018  - By

Sometimes, perfectly maintained turf isn’t always where you expect it to be.

Take a look at Daytona International Speedway (DIS), for example. It is world-renowned for hosting some of the biggest races and events in sports. But the asphalt track isn’t the only aspect on the display.

Photo :AT staff

Photo: AT staff

The football field — DIS’s Tri-Oval grass — is iconic. It’s understandable why, with the meticulously crafted designs and an overall color that, to say the least, pops for viewers on TV.

Here’s a look at what it’s like to maintain turf in this unusual place.

The turf crew

Jason Griffeth, grounds supervisor for DIS, leads a team of seven who care for the grass across the almost 500-acre property. Of those 500 acres, 180 make up the infield. (For scale, two Disneyland parks could comfortably fit inside the infield)

In addition to his crew, Griffeth receives support from turf equipment provider Toro, TruGreen and other experts.

TruGreen is accustomed to working with big name sports venues. The company also lends support to locations such as Churchill Downs.

When it comes to Daytona, TruGreen pitches in with support on agronomic programs and planning.

“It is a collaborative effort where we make TruGreen’s team of local, regional and national agronomists and scientists available to Daytona,” says TruGreen Vice President of Commercial Sales, Brent Armstrong.

A year at Daytona

Through many events, the turf maintenance team keeps its focus on the Tri-Oval grass. The Tri-Oval is displayed front and center, for the crowd, and media cameras, to see.

The concept of two-tone designs in turf actually originated at Daytona. It was former DIS Grounds Supervisor Sam Newpher who came up with the idea of using two types of ryegrass, annual and perennial, for the pattern, Senior Vice President of Operations at Daytona International Speedway Andrew Gurtis told AT.

An annual cycle of turf maintenance at Daytona looks like this:

Photo :AT staff

A beautiful evening before the start of the 2018 Coke Zero 400. Photo: AT staff

Griffeth and the crew starts with new, sprigged bermuda following each March’s Daytona Supercross. That gets the crew ready for the July Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR weekend. Next up is overseeding with ryegrass in November to get the two-tone grass design for the Rolex 24 and Daytona 500 in the spring.

“From go-karts, to the Rolex 24, to motorcycles, concerts and Jeep Beach, there is no track on the planet that hosts as diverse a calendar,” says Gurtis. “The entire team at Daytona can turn on a dime and achieve amazing things, all while wearing a broad smile and welcoming the next group of guests through the gates.”

Challenges and troubleshooting

Everyone knows the unfortunate possibility of crashes and cars going off the track during one of these high-speed races, but thanks to some serious TLC from the crew, the turf is tough.

“In many cases of a car going through the grass simply raking the scuffed area masks the damage,” says Gurtis. “We also have a swath of the same turf cultivated outside the track, affectionately known as the ‘sod replacement area’ from which we can patch a larger area.”

He also went on to say that the crew had been known to apply green sand or paint to keep a uniform look for major event days.

It might not be your average plot of sports turf, but it does come with its share of challenges, including one everyone can relate to: people.

“We allow guests on the Tri-Oval grass to enjoy pre-race festivities including concerts and driver introductions,” he says. “The turf takes a beating, but Jason Griffeth and crew do an amazing job overcoming the challenges.”

This is posted in Features
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About the Author:

Kelly Limpert is the former digital media content producer for North Coast Media. Limpert completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She specifically creates content for North Coast Media’s Golfdom, Landscape Management and Athletic Turf digital properties including eNewsletters, social media and websites.

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