Possible changes coming to Phoenix International Raceway

Completing Daytona Rising is at the top of the International Speedway Corporation’s to-do list, but changes to Phoenix could be on the horizon.

Possible changes coming to Phoenix International Raceway
Race action
Scoring pylon
Overall view of the race action
Start: Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet and Joey Logano, Team Penske Ford lead
Pit action

After five-consecutive fall sell-outs at NASCAR’s desert jewel, the track is considering several capital improvement’s for the half-century old track — including the possibility of moving the start-finish line to the backstretch.

“I think we’re going to take a really hard look at our master plan over the next couple of months and start to answer some of those questions about how best to maximize the opportunities here at Phoenix,” PIR track president Bryan Sperber told Motorsport.com. “If this were a baseball game, we’re probably in the first inning of that. So, there will probably be a lot of different things that will surface and will vet a lot of the potential opportunities and land on a really good plan for Phoenix going forward.”

What’s made the backstretch so attractive to fans is how the reconstruction of the one-mile track has enhanced the quality of racing. In 2010, ISC announced a $100 million project that widened the front stretch to 62 feet and expanded the dogleg by 95 feet which increased the radius to 500 feet. Progressive banking was added to the relatively flat track. Turns 1 and 2 were raised to 10-11 degrees, Turns 3 and 4 to 8-9 degrees. Work was completed in time for the November 2011 race.

“The fans love it — what they call the dive-bombing,” Sperber says of the action on the backstretch where drivers use the apron to their advantage. “Whoever thought we could be four and five-wide at Phoenix. It’s been tremendously exciting. We thought it would be good, but it vastly exceeded even my expectations.

“We’ve really been blessed with a great racetrack and I think the next step for us is to make sure the rest of the facility matches the high quality of what we’re seeing in terms of the racing.”

Enhancing the circuit

With the track holding approximately 60,000 fans along the front stretch into Turns 1 and 2, a row of motorcoaches on the backstretch and a smattering of spectators on Rattlesnake Hill between Turns 3 and 4, there’s certainly room for expansion. While many tracks are tearing down stands, few areas boast the car culture of Phoenix and the valley. 

“We’ve looked at enhancing the front stretch,” Sperber said. “We’ve looked at some concepts, like adding a double-decker stand on the frontstretch. Certainly, the idea of developing some things on the back — were even talked about back in the late ‘90s — Bill France Jr., even talked about that.

“Those are all great ideas that as we get into the design process, in terms of master planning, I think we’re going to sharpen our pencils and really do a deeper dive and vet what we think is realistic and what is possible and kind of go from there. 

“It would be interesting to see if that were to happen because clearly, as you say, there’s a lot of action on the backstretch. But there’s a lot of action on the frontstretch, too. We’ve some crazy finishes here at PIR. We want to be careful not to tamper with what I think is a very successful formula as far as the on track racing.”

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