NASCAR Speedway to become short track

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Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, looks set to be transformed from a two-mile oval into a half-mile short track in a bold rebuilding project.

Local media in California reports that NASCAR has submitted plans for the transformation to San Bernardino County, within whose jurisdiction the Speedway is located.

If the rebuild goes ahead it is understood that construction would begin in 2021 but not affect the track’s Spring NASCAR Cup series date. The new track would be ready for racing in 2023.

Opened in 1997 as California Speedway and hosting NASCAR races from that year, the D-shaped oval also featured on the IndyCar Series calendar between 2002 and 2005 and 2012-2015. At one time it held two NASCAR Cup events in one season but the second September date proved short lived due to poor attendance. The track has also seen its seating capacity reduced in recent years while its remaining Cup race was reduced from 500 to 400 miles in 2011.

PMW understands a further concern is that the racing surface is overdue for replacement, and a new surface could result in ‘one-groove racing’ for several seasons until it ages. Reducing the lap length could produce the more dramatic races that are typical of short tracks and release valuable land for redevelopment.

Currently the NASCAR Cup calendar includes three short-track venues, the half-mile Bristol and Martinsville ovals and the three-quarter mile track at Richmond, which all host two races each season.

NASCAR has offered no details of the rebuilding project, but chief innovation officer Craig Neeb did confirm that the plans are at an early stage. “We are excited about what this ambitious project could mean for our loyal fans in Southern California,” he said.

“This is our first step toward creating a state-of-the-art facility that would deliver the intense short-track racing our fans love, an intimate viewing experience, and upgraded suites and hospitality areas that would position Auto Club Speedway among the top entertainment venues in the market.”

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Andrew Charman is a regular contributor to PMW. He has been working in motorsport for more than 35 years, specialising in Touring Cars and US motorsport, particularly NASCAR.

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