Why Do Oval Tracks Have Painted-On Lane Lines?

Photo credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Photo credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The freshly repaved Texas Motor Speedway is a little slippery thus far, but man, does it look sharp. What’s more noticeable than usual, however, are the freshly painted, bright-white lines against the dark new asphalt. It begs the question: why are they there?

Painted-on lane stripes that run in the middle of a track surface are mostly an oval phenomenon. Paint gets slippery in the wet, so drivers who run an oval’s road course in the rain occasionally bemoan their presence. They’re fine in the dry when NASCAR runs, though, but it’s still hard to tell why they’re there. It’s not like these lane demarcations are mandated by law to sleepy Prius drivers out of your lane like they are on public roads. So, what’s up with them?

NASCAR doesn’t actually mandate these lines on the oval tracks they use, according to a NASCAR representative who commented to Jalopnik. It’s left to the track’s discretion as to how they paint it.


So, we asked the staff at Texas Motor Speedway to explain themselves, given that they just underwent a major re-pave and re-configuration that widened and flattened parts of the track, and added channels under the pavement to alleviate drainage issues that have hampered running there in the past.

Approximately 1,400 gallons of paint went into the repainting of TMS after its repave, including some fancy work around the start/finish line and huge Texas and American flags painted on both ends of the pit lane.

For Texas Motor Speedway, the decision to mark off lanes was part driver aid, and part aesthetic.

“It gives some drivers reference points on the asphalt in the turns,” Texas Motor Speedway VP of Media Relations Mike Zizzo told Jalopnik.


The track also hosts a number of driving schools, and these lines help drivers figure out where they are on the wider sections of the track, and know when to enter and exit the turns.

You may hear announcers refer to different “grooves” on the track that racers run in—top, or bottom, for example. These lane lines help racers figure out which groove they’re in. Otherwise, the really wide sections kind of look like one big mass of asphalt.


Lest we forget that cars running flat-out on an oval course are fast, the lines also help emphasize the cars’ speed.

“It is an aid for TV coverage in the fact that it better exemplifies the speed of the cars when they speed past the white stripes as opposed to plain black or gray asphalt,” Zizzo noted.


It works, too! Sure enough, this weekend’s cars sort of look like they’re cruising through space at near-plaid speeds thanks to the lines wooshing by like the simulated stars on a vintage screensaver.

Now we know, and sort of wish other big ovals would repaint their lines to stand out this brightly more often. I mean, look at that. It’s pretty.

Moderator, OppositeLock. Former Staff Writer, Jalopnik. 1984 "Porschelump" 944 race car, 1971 Volkswagen 411 race car, 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS.

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Alanis King

I was amazed at how great these lines look on televition with the fresh paint and such dark asphalt. You’re right—it makes the cars look like they’re at freaking rocket speed. I vote repaint after every race weekend.