As recently as January, International Speedway Corporation officials were touting plans to add Phoenix International Raceway as its next renovation project.
Yet suddenly, while hosting its first NASCAR weekend, those plans have been dismissed by the track president as “rumors.”
Just last fall track president Bryan Sperber told Motorsport.com that the track was going to take a “really hard look” at its master plan and start to focus on projects that could maximize opportunities for the track which hosts two Sprint Cup Series races each season.
Last December, ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy made mention of plans to make significant upgrades to both Phoenix and Richmond during a speech at the Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas.
That same week, during one of the functions associated with Champion’s Week, several sources told Motorsport.com a tentative plan for changes at Phoenix – including new grandstands on what is now the backstretch and infield facilities had been created.
Again in January, during the annual NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, Kennedy spotlighted the some proposed changes.
“It’s so important to continue to modernize these tracks and to be able to bring the modern-day amenities and comforts into these tracks, and I can tell you that we're taking a look at Richmond and also in Phoenix, those will probably be some of the next tracks that we look at,” she said.
“We’re always improving tracks across our portfolio, but those are great markets that we need to look at, and also great racing experiences. I think we can make some great improvements there.”
So, when Fox NASCAR broadcaster Mike Joy discussed the changes being considered at PIR during the telecast from Phoenix on Friday, nothing much was thought of it.
That is, until Sperber suddenly dismissed such talk as “rumors” and downplayed the idea any upgrades have been approved at all.
“Everyone loves a good rumor,” Sperber told NASCAR.com in an interview. “No decision has been made about what we’re going to do.”
Needless to say, members of the NASCAR media corps who have paid any bit of attention to this issue the past several months were collectively left scratching their heads.
Something has changed
Clearly, something has changed since last fall.
Did Sperber get ahead of himself when first discussing these changes last fall? That seems unlikely as Kennedy herself has publicly made mention of upgrades to Phoenix in the months since.
Is it possible ISC has decided to put new upgrades – and the costs they entail – on hold? The company just unveiled its $400 million worth of upgrades at Daytona International Speedway with rave reviews and a sold out crowd at the Daytona 500 in February.
Perhaps, though, ISC wants to take its time before embarking on yet another costly undertaking.
Whatever the case, something has changed at Phoenix.
Much-needed and what seemed much-anticipated changes to PIR suddenly seem to find themselves a lap down.