PHOENIX, Ariz. – After over fifty years of providing the Valley of The Sun with exceptional racing, Phoenix International Raceway announced Monday that significant changes would be coming to the track in 2018. In a project officially Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, the changes are expected to enhance the experiences of both the drivers and fans alike.
“The track has been here for a while, and I think it’s evolved overtime, but it’s time to really take a huge leap,” said Lesa France Kennedy, Executive Officer of the International Speedway Corporation.
Having opened it’s doors back in 1964 with the primary intention of hosting IndyCar races, the track began as a two and a half-mile road course nestled in the hills of Avondale. Years later in 1991, it was transformed into the mile and a half tri-oval it is today, a venue perfect for NASCAR races. Since then, the only adjustments made to the track have been additions to the grandstands, a repavement of the track, and the installment of solar-powered lights provided by DC Solar, the company that is sponsoring the track’s newest project.
“Parts of the track aged and were below where it needs to be,” said Bryan Sperber, President of PIR. “This was something we started looking at about five years ago.”
The $178 million project will include a variety of amenities to not only create a more fan-friendly atmosphere but also make the track more accessible. Elevators will be added, and tunnels that were previously out of use will be reopened to make it easier for all fans to enter the grandstands and enjoy the races. A first-of-its-kind Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Garage Fan Zone will also be added to the infield to give fans a special face-to-face experience with their favorite drivers.
The most talked about change, though, is the new location for the start/finish line. Races will now start and end in a section of the track that has become somewhat of a trademark for PIR: the dogleg.
With this new location, PIR will also be moving the grandstands to surround the dogleg and provide audiences optimal views of the most interesting section of the track.
“I talked to about 30 NASCAR drivers about a year and a half ago about this idea just to see what the feedback would be. Universally, it was very positive. ‘Cool’ and ‘awesome’ were used the most and that gave us the confidence that we might be onto something,” Sperber said on the decision to move the start/finish line in such a unique spot.
One such driver to provide support for this particular change was the driver of the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske, Joey Logano, who was in attendance when the project was announced.
“I think the racing gets better where the start/finish line is,” Logano said. “If I could put it anywhere I wanted that’s where I’d put it to make the most exciting, craziest thing happen as we go into turn one on a restart.”
Though the new location of the start/finish line in the dogleg will provide more room for stock cars to make passes for the finish line, the same can’t be said for IndyCars, the other machines that take over PIR each year.
Reigning Indy 500 Champion Alexander Rossi said that though he isn’t yet sure of how the change will affect competing at the track in the IndyCar Series, he agrees with Logano that the beginning and end of the race will be more exciting.
“It’s unlike anything else, so I don’t think any of us really know exactly what it will be because [PIR] is the first track to be doing this and it’s very inventive and I’m excited to get started,” Rossi added.
Fans can learn more about the Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar and obtain news, updates, and alerts by visiting www.phoenixraceway.com.
Vivian Meza is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist
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