PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Officials with International Speedway Corp., and Phoenix Raceway jointly announced plans for a $178 million facelift for the 1-mile facility on Monday that focuses on improving the fan experience while also including a competition twist that will see the relocation of the track’s start/finish line.
The facility, located in Avondale, Arizona, annually hosts two NASCAR race weekends, and has hosted what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series since 1988. The track's first 2017 race weekend is scheduled for March 17-19 and will feature the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as well as the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
The project, sponsored by XFINITY Series entitlement partner DC Solar, is expected to be completed in November of 2018.
Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of ISC, described the announcement as "a huge day for our company … as well as motorsports overall."
Kennedy said the project "brings us full circle with Phoenix Raceway.
"The track itself has a very long and successful history with motorsports with NASCAR and IndyCar. Since we took it on in the '90s … there has been a lot of evolution and a lot of changes. It's time to take it to an entirely different level."
ISC, which owns multiple motorsports facilities hosting NASCAR-sanctioned events, purchased the track in 1997.
"This region is so supportive. It is just time to modernize it and continue to keep up with the times," she said. "There is a lot of competition for the leisure dollar … you have to provide great, quality entertainment. Not just for the first-timers but to keep the fans coming back."
Among the fan amenities to be included in the project:
• A redesign of the infield to include a new Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Fan Zone that will allow improved access for fans
• New and upgraded seating and hospitality areas located in what is currently the Turn 2 portion of the facility
• Construction of a pedestrian tunnel to provide access to the infield for those seated in the new, expanded grandstand areas
• "Canyons" consisting of elevators and escalators to aid fan access, additional restroom facilities and expanded concessions located in a new midway area
From a competition standpoint, the start/finish line will be relocated in what is now Turn 2, near the dogleg area.
Track president Bryan Sperber said track officials spoke with approximately 30 drivers about moving the start/finish line, "and the feedback was universally positive," he said.
The expansion of the grandstands in Turns 1 and 2 should be more comfortable for fans not only because there will be individual seating instead of open grandstand seating, according to Sperber, but also the shading from the sun will be better and the majority of the parking is also located on the western end of the facility.
Plus, he said, "Being able to create an opportunity for the fans to sit in an area of the track that is really producing … some of the best racing … is big for us."
Moving the start/finish line will produce even more exciting restarts, according to Joey Logano, who won last year's Fall race in an overtime finish.
"There will be high-energy restarts," the Team Penske driver said. "You see us pull that dive bomb move and cut off the dogleg quite a bit (now) which makes Turn 3 pretty interesting. There will definitely be drivers short-cutting that."
Fellow driver Daniel Suarez (Joe Gibbs Racing) said "It will be interesting to see what will happen coming to the checkered (flag), because you can maybe win the race going sideways there.
"You know drivers; we are crazy sometimes."
The undertaking is the first major improvement project for an ISC-held property since the completion of the $400 million Daytona Rising effort. Kennedy said that project "exceeded our expectations."
No less is expected for the Phoenix project.
"It's a great sports market, it's a great media market," Kennedy said. "It’s a fantastic destination for the fans as well as the world class racing. Those combined provided compelling reasons (to move forward).
"There were also some areas there at the track that needed to be updated. Not only to get up with the times but also to propel us forward. We can’t lose sight of that. We have to have compelling reasons to come and be entertained.
"It starts with the fans, because that’s the most important thing. If the fans are coming and enjoying themselves, I think it really propels the rest."