By admin | April 8, 2010
By Richard Allen
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series began racing at the Phoenix International Raceway in 1988. And unlike so many of the non-traditional facilities on the yearly Sprint Cup schedule, this track actually looks like it belongs among the older NASCAR venues.
When thinking of the places where NASCAR seems to belong one tends to bring up locales such as Darlington, Charlotte, Martinsville and Daytona. Even though a couple of those venues have been copied, they were each unique for their day when first built. With few unique qualities, the newer racing palaces have taken on the copycat shapes of 1.5 to 2 mile ‘cookie cutter’ tracks.
PIR on the other hand is nothing like the tracks in Chicago, Kansas, California or Las Vegas. Instead of being yet another 1.5 to 2 mile track, this speedway measures in at one mile. And rather than having a similar shape as the all too common D-shaped raceways of today, this track is unique. The turns are each banked differently. And, rather than a common shape, the track has two straightaways of varying lengths with the backstretch having a bit of a kink in the middle.
Fans have rewarded the facility by filling the grandstands and hillsides surrounding the racing surface. Unlike the other places to have been added from outside the NASCAR norm, this track does not have scores of empty seats clearly visible at the drop of the green flag. Of course, that may not be true in this year of a sour economy but it typically is the case.
In 2005, NASCAR awarded a second date to PIR. This added date is not nearly so open to criticism as the second date added to the Auto Club Speedway located in the Los Angeles area. That track has an embarrassing number of empty chairs at its races.
It would seem as though track building giants Speedway Motorsports, Inc and International Speedway Corp. would have learned from PIR. It’s unique shape gives it character and provides entertaining racing, unlike the tracks these two promoting agencies have built in recent times.
Unlike its relatively new-to-the-schedule counterparts, Phoenix International Raceway has taken a place among the more traditional venues on the NASCAR schedule. This place really belongs.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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