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In this blog, I will give my thoughts on various forms of motorsports all around the world. Race results, driver changes, rules changes, and of course controversies! Covering all forms of racing, including (but not only) NASCAR, Formula 1, IndyCars, Aussie V8 Supercars, ALMS, Grand Am, and more!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Phoenix International Raceway Reconfiguration Announced

Phoenix International Raceway, my home track, announced today that after the NASCAR weekend later this month that they will be undertaking a $10 million renovation and reconfiguration. They will be adding variable banking to turns 1 and 2 (10-11 degrees), 3 and 4 (8-9 degrees), and also reconfigure the backstretch and change the dogleg into more of an actual turn with 10-11 degrees of banking. I am very happy that they aren't changing the turns very dramatically, only adding a tick of banking to each of them. I am also very curious about the changes to the dogleg. Picturing it in my mind, it sounds like it will make the racing there very entertaining.

Drawing of the changed configuration courtesy of AZCentral.com

The changes to the dogleg include changing the angle of the corner, as well as the banking leading into it (10 degrees), banking at the apex of the dogleg (10-11 degrees), and banking exiting the dogleg (8 degrees). Basically the entire backstretch is going to have banking to it, and the dogleg is going to be more of an actual corner as opposed to a slight kink as it is now.

Unfortunately, all of this comes at a price. The infield road course, which I have traveled around as a passenger in my friend's 2005 Ford Focus, will be removed as part of the project. The PIR road course is a crown jewel of club racing in Arizona, and it's demise leaves a large hole in the diversity of tracks available for those clubs. I personally was looking very much forward to running on the new asphalt later this fall with my own personal car with the HPDE program run by the National Auto Sport Association. Unfortunately, that opportunity will never come. The decision by PIR to remove the road course, which is used year round, to benefit the oval, which is used by NASCAR two weekends of the year, is a poor one in my opinion. I understand that the NASCAR weekends bring in a large majority of the revenue for the track, but surely there must be a way to save the road course or reconfigure it through the infield to accommodate what they want to do with the garage area for NASCAR. The loss of the PIR road course is a terrible blow to all club racing organizations in the state. Many drivers loved the rush of going through NASCAR 3 and 4 at wide open throttle and seeing what sort of speeds they could reach, then diving down off the frontstretch into the infield with all of the g-forces pulling you to the right. With the loss of the PIR road course, this leaves Firebird Raceway and its three road courses as the only "unlimited" road course venue in the entire Phoenix metro area. Arizona Motorsports Park is working towards reopening for club racing, but it's use will most likely be heavily restricted due to its proximity to residential areas. Club racers have now lost one of the most popular club racing venues in the entire Southwest. Word on the street is that PIR could take another look at road course racing a couple years down the road, but that is a very uncertain possibility. While I would like to remain cautiously optimistic, I am certainly not holding my breath. 

I look forward to enjoying the new oval configuration for NASCAR this November, but my excitement will certainly be tempered by the somber mourning of a great road course venue that will be lost to the sands of time. RIP Phoenix International Raceway road course, may you stay strong in our memories.

Link to the Phoenix International Raceway website with specifics about the reconfiguration.

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