Phoenix Raceway

Getty Images

Phoenix Raceway $180 million reconfiguration progress can be watched 24/7

Leave a comment

If you’re curious to see what Phoenix Raceway will look like after its $180 million makeover, there’s no need to wait until the project is complete. Rather, you can watch as it progresses step-by-step in the largest capital improvement project in the track’s 53-year history.

Phoenix Raceway officials announced Thursday that, in conjunction with DC Solar, a 24-hour livestream camera will provide viewers all over the world a visual record of the construction progress as it happens.

The site can be accessed at www.NewPhoenixRaceway.com.

In addition to the streaming webcam, there will be three time-lapse cameras in place throughout the property: outside of the current Turn 1; outside of the Turn 2 dogleg; and outside of the current Turn 4. Those cameras can be accessed at PhoenixRaceway.com.

The Phoenix Raceway project is somewhat of a smaller scale version of the $400 million Daytona Rising project that completely transformed Daytona International Speedway into the self-proclaimed world’s “first motorsports stadium.”

The Phoenix project will reduce seating to 45,000, but will include new and wider seats, and the start-finish line will be repositioned in what is now Turn 2.

The current seating on the frontstretch will be demolished. The Allison grandstand in Turns 1 and 2 will be extended just beyond the dog leg.

The project is expected to move into high gear in the next couple of months and is expected to be completed by November 2018’s NASCAR playoff semifinal race weekend.

“This is going to be a great way for fans to keep up with the project,” said Phoenix Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber. “To be able to have this technology at our fingertips to put the progress of the project into the homes of Phoenix Raceway fans, is only going to heighten the anticipation for November 2018.

“There are going to be plenty of milestone moments to come over the next 19 months, and we encourage all fans to check it out.”

Construction will continue into next year, but will stop temporarily for this November’s and next spring’s NASCAR weekends.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Cup season could lead to greater ticket sales

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement Tuesday that he will retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after this season could help minimize attendance declines that have become common at tracks.

Asked about the impact Earnhardt could have in the final 28 races of the season, Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., likened Earnhardt to another famous athlete.

“Dale Jr.’s announcement yesterday is significant, it’s similar to when Michael Jordan decided it was time for him to retire from basketball,’’ Smith said Wednesday in a conference call with investor analysts. “The opportunity for fans to see Dale Jr. race one more time is certainly special and something we expect will be inspiring to a lot of fans to come to races.’’

Speedway Motorsports Inc. reported that admissions revenue was down 4.5 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same time last season. The first quarter covered race weekends for Atlanta and Las Vegas. SMI reported that attendance at Atlanta was “up a little bit” and attendance at Las Vegas was “down a little bit” but did not provide numbers.

Earnhardt will be the fourth major NASCAR driver to leave the Cup series since last year Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart ran their final races last season. Carl Edwards announced before the season that he would not race this year.

International Speedway Corp., which owns tracks such as Daytona, Talladega, Darlington and Homestead-Miami Speedway, cited the absence of Gordon, Stewart and Earnhardt (when he missed the last 18 races of last year) as impacting admission revenue last season.

ISC reported its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down 9.3 percent last year from the previous season. The company hosted Cup races at Darlington, Richmond, Chicagoland, Kansas, Talladega, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead during that quarter.

“The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season,’’ said John Saunders, ISC president, in January about one of the reasons for the decline.

Earnhardt’s announcement that this will be his last Cup series already has some fans purchasing or looking to purchase tickets.

Richmond International Raceway reported an increase in interest for this weekend’s race after Earnhardt’s announcement. Richmond also is selling tickets to its fall race weekend. Earnhardt is scheduled to compete in both the Xfinity and Cup races there Sept. 8-9.

The series heads to Talladega next weekend and Grant Lynch, chairman of Talladega Superspeedway, anticipates more Earnhardt fans showing up.

“If you’re going to go see him one more time, why wouldn’t you go to the track where he runs the best,’’ Lynch said. “We think that’s the a positive for Talladega. He’s always been great at Talladega. It’s an Earnhardt track. I hope folks will take the attitude that ‘Wow, I’ll get two more chances to see him,’ see him next weekend and come see us again in October.’’

The greatest demands for tickets likely will come for races at the end of the season.

Earnhardt’s final Cup race will be Nov. 19 at Homestead. The track is selling three-day weekend packages. Deposits for single-day tickets, which go on sale May 5, are being taken. That race sold out last year.

The week before Homestead, the series races at Phoenix Raceway. The track is in the renewal process for the Nov. 12 race with fall race ticket holders. The track is selling tickets to its new Club 64 section above Turn 1 now. Grandstand tickets and camping go on sale June 2.

The week before Phoenix, the series races at Texas Motor Speedway. The track is selling weekend ticket packages only at this point. The track will sell individual tickets to its fall Cup race in June. A date has yet to be determined but it will come after the June 10 IndyCar race there.

 and on Facebook

Team Penske’s appeal hearing to be rescheduled

Leave a comment

Team Penske’s hearing before the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, which was to have been held Wednesday night, has been rescheduled for 7:45 a.m. May 9, NBC Sports has learned. The meeting needed to be rescheduled because of an illness to the Final Appeals Officer.

This will be the final appeal for Team Penske in this matter.

NASCAR suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe for three races and fined him $65,000 and docked Brad Keselowski and Team Penske 35 points each because Keselowski’s car failed the Laser Inspection Station after a fifth-place finish March 19 at Phoenix Raceway.

The team sat Wolfe out at Auto Club Speedway, counting toward one of the three races the penalty called for him to miss, but he was back on the pit box for Martinsville — where Keselowski won — Texas and Bristol as the matter went through the appeals process.

At this time, the team plans to have Wolfe at Richmond International Raceway this weekend.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel upheld NASCAR’s penalty after an April 12 hearing.

A hearing before Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss was scheduled for 6 p.m. ET today before a need to reschedule arose.

Car owner Roger Penske said after Keselowski’s win at Martinsville that the team was challenging the consistency of NASCAR’s procedures. The team claims that it was permitted only one attempt to pass post-race inspection on the LIS platform while others have gotten multiple attempts previously.

“I think that consistency is really important to me from an officiating perspective,’’ Penske said April 2 at Martinsville. “We’ll have a chance to go and talk about our side of the story. We might get nothing, but I think at least maybe we can make the sport better.”

 and on Facebook

Good news, race fans: few conflicts with NFL games during 2017 NASCAR playoffs

Getty Images
1 Comment

For the most part, NASCAR and the NFL won’t butt heads in the same cities too much when it comes to the 10 NASCAR Cup playoff weekends this year.

The NFL released its 2017 regular season schedule Thursday night, and with a few exceptions, racetracks in or near NFL teams are fairly in the clear when it comes to going head-to-head against their gridiron counterparts.

The most notable matchup will come on Sunday, November 5, a date Texas Motor Speedway boss Eddie Gossage is probably cursing about now.

While TMS’s NASCAR race begins at 2 p.m. ET that day, about 2 ½ hours and 30 miles down the road in Arlington, Texas, America’s Team – the Dallas Cowboys – will play host to the Kansas City Chiefs.

One other conflict of note – more so because of sentimental reasons – is September 24, when the New England Patriots host the Houston Texans, while New Hampshire Motor Speedway will host its last fall race (its race date is being moved to Las Vegas starting next season).

There’s also October 1, when Dover International Speedway hosts the third race of the playoffs. And while the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are on the road, the Baltimore Ravens have a big game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers.

Here’s how NASCAR stacks up against the NFL during the 10-week NASCAR Cup playoffs:

Sept. 17 — Playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway – no conflict as Chicago Bears play at Tampa Bay.

Sept. 24 — New Hampshire Motor Speedway – moderate conflict – New England Patriots host the Houston Texans about 110 miles away. However, Pats fans who are also NASCAR fans may decide to skip the game to attend what will be the last fall race at NHMS for sentimental reasons.

Oct. 1 — Dover International Speedway – minor conflict – Baltimore Ravens host the Pittsburgh Steelers 90 miles away. However, other nearby teams play on the road: Philadelphia Eagles play at Los Angeles Chargers and the Washington Redskins play at the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 2 (Monday Night Football).

Oct. 8 — Charlotte Motor Speedway – no conflict – Carolina Panthers play at Detroit Lions

Oct. 15 — Talladega Superspeedway – minor conflict – Atlanta Falcons host the Miami Dolphins, but that’s about 110 miles and two hours away.

Oct. 22 — Kansas Speedway – no conflict – Kansas City Chiefs play at Oakland Raiders on October 19 (Thursday Night Football).

Oct. 29 — Martinsville Speedway – no conflict – (Carolina Panthers are at New York Jets, but Washington Redskins host Dallas Cowboys four hours and nearly 300 miles away).

Nov. 5 — Texas Motor Speedway – MAJOR conflict – NASCAR race starts at 2 p.m. ET, while Dallas Cowboys host the Kansas City Chiefs at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, at 4:30 p.m. ET (and 30 miles from TMS).

Nov. 12 — Phoenix Raceway – no conflict – the Phoenix Cardinals host the Seattle Seahawks, but that game will be held on November 9 (Thursday Night Football).

Nov. 19 — Homestead Miami Speedway – no conflict – the Dolphins enjoy a bye week (don’t be surprised if several players wind up at the NASCAR race).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

ISC cites attendance decline in recent Cup events; increase in some younger demographics

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
2 Comments

International Speedway Corp. reported Tuesday that attendance was down about 7 percent on average for NASCAR Cup events at Phoenix, Auto Club Speedway and Martinsville, but officials are encouraged by increases in some younger demographics.

International Speedway Corp. owns 12 tracks that host NASCAR Cup events, including Daytona International Speedway. The company reported its first-quarter results in a conference call with investor analysts Tuesday. The first quarter covered only the Rolex 24, Daytona Speedweeks and the Ferrari World Finals.

John Saunders, president of ISC, stated that advance ticket sales for NASCAR Cup events at ISC tracks in the second quarter — Richmond, Talladega and Kansas — are down 7 percent.

“We’re seeing the rate of decline slow, which is good news,’’ Saunders said to investor analysts. “We’re just in this transition with new drivers coming online, younger drivers resonating with younger audiences. We’re very committed to the initiatives. We’re starting to see them bear fruit, particularly in the younger demographics.

“I would also point out that both in venue and on broadcast, for the first time, we’re seeing double-digit increases for the 18-34 (category). That bodes very well for us. Some bright spots there but a lot of work to do. We remain optimistic that we’re going to stabilize it and grow it from there.’’

Saunders highlighted some areas that have shown increases. He said TV viewership of the Daytona 500 increased about 5 percent from last year and was up 16 percent for males 18-34.

Saunders cited new series sponsor Monster Energy as helping increase the 18-34 numbers. Saunders also said the Daytona 500 saw an increase of about 5 percent in youth attending the event.

In other ISC matters:

— Saunders was asked if ISC is looking to move a Cup race from one track to another: “Currently, we don’t have any plans to realign a date from one facility to another.’’

— ISC stated that attendance and admission revenues were up for this year Daytona 500. The stands were sold out for a second consecutive year.

— The average ticket price for Cup events during the first quarter (Daytona) increased 3.5 percent to $165.

— ISC’s motorsports revenue in the first quarter was $103.5 million. ISC’s domestic TV broadcast and ancillary revenues were $62.7 million for the first quarter.

— ISC had a decrease of 1.6 percent in net admissions for its events in the first quarter of 2017 (Ferrari World Finals, Rolex 24 and Daytona Speedweeks)

— As of March, ISC states it had sold race entitlement sponsorships for all but three of its Cup events, all but two of its Xfinity events and all but one of its Camping World Truck events this season. At this time last year, ISC had not sold or announced entitlement sponsorships for one Cup and two Xfinity races. ISC expressed confidence at selling its race entitlements this year.

— ISC reiterated that it will spend up to $500 million on existing facilities from fiscal 2017 to fiscal 2021. Included in that is the Phoenix Raceway redevelopment, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2018, the first phase in development at Richmond International Raceway and other improvements at other facilities. The Phoenix project is expected to cost $178 million.

 and on Facebook