By David Morgan, NASCAR Contributor
Phoenix International Raceway has been a staple on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule since 1988 and now the 1-mile oval in the Arizona desert will be given a modern look after the track and International Speedway Corporation announced a $178 million revitalization project on Monday afternoon.
The track underwent a reconfiguration in 2011, which provided fresh asphalt for the track and added the dogleg on the backstretch, but now the rest of the facility will be getting a much needed upgrade.
“This is a great day for ISC and Phoenix Int’l Raceway, but more importantly, for racing fans in the state of Arizona and around the world. It’s a true pleasure to begin work on this project designed to enhance the experience of the great fans who love to watch our races in Phoenix and enjoy this beautiful area,” ISC Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy said.
“Having Phoenix Raceway within our prestigious stable of venues always has been a tremendous asset and source of pride for us. We are thrilled to create a best-in-class facility in Phoenix, and we’re confident it will grow the fan base here and further serve as a destination track for motorsports fans everywhere.”
Among the changes are new grandstands that will be built alongside the current Bobby Allison grandstand in Turn 1 and will extend through Turn 2 and up to the dogleg on the backstretch. The new and upgraded grandstands will be comprised of individual chairback stadium seats will armrests, instead of the bleachers that the grandstands feature now, as well as other modern amenities, including new elevators and escalators, bathrooms, concession stands, and WiFi throughout.
Once the new grandstands are built, the existing grandstands that stretch down the length of the current frontstretch will be torn down.
As a result of the seating being shifted into current Turns 1 and 2, the start/finish line will also be moved from its current position on the frontstretch to between current Turn 2 and the dogleg.
In addition to the new grandstands, a new infield Fan Zone will be built, as well as a new midway behind the new grandstands, with a pedestrian tunnel connecting the two.
“When our project is completed, we will have a venue that delivers amazing fan experiences to go along with our reputation for great racing action,” Phoenix Int’l Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber said. “By shifting the start/finish line to Phoenix Raceway’s famed dog leg, fans will be perfectly positioned to watch one of the most exciting turns in motorsports. We are confident The Phoenix Raceway Project powered by DC Solar will put racing in Arizona in a whole new and exciting light.”
The project is expected to be complete by November 2018, which will mean that the next to last race of the season next year will be held on the new layout.
“It’s great to see Phoenix Raceway make such a big investment to improve the experience for the fans,” said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. “I’m from the West Coast and Phoenix is one of those places that always feels like home to me. Moving the start/finish line is a big change for all the racers that have been used to racing at Phoenix in the past; I’m looking forward to seeing how those changes might affect the racing and how the end of the races play out.”