Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) is a 1 mile, low-banked tri-oval race track located in Avondale, Arizona.
It is named after the nearby metropolitan area of Phoenix. The motorsport track opened in 1964 and currently hosts two NASCAR race weekends annually. PIR has also hosted the IndyCar Series, CART, USAC and the Rolex Sports Car Series. The raceway is currently owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation.
The raceway was originally constructed with a 2.5 miles (4.0 km) road course that ran on both the inside and the outside of the main tri-oval. In 1991 the track was reconfigured with the current 1.51 miles (2.43 km) interior layout. PIR has an estimated grandstand seating capacity of around 67,000. Lights were installed around the track in 2004 following the addition of a second annual NASCAR race weekend.
Phoenix International Raceway is home to two annual NASCAR race weekends, one of 13 facilities on the NASCAR schedule to host more than one race weekend a year.
|Location||7602 S Avondale Boulevard
Avondale, Arizona 85323
|Owner||International Speedway Corporation|
|Major events||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Verizon IndyCar Series
NASCAR Xfinity Series
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Phoenix International Raceway was built in 1964 around the Estrella Mountains on the outskirts of Avondale, Arizona. Because of the terrain and the incorporation of a road course and drag strip, designers had to build a "dogleg" into the backstretch. The original roadcourse was 2 miles (3.2 km) in length and ran both inside and outside of the main oval track. The hillsides adjacent to the track also offer a unique vantage point to watch races from. "Monument Hill", located alongside turns 3 and 4, is a favorite among race fans because of the unique view and lower ticket prices. At the top of this hill lies a USGS bench marker known as Gila and Salt River Meridian, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Long before PIR existed, this spot was the original land survey point for all of what later became the state of Arizona.
PIR was built with the goal of being the western home of open wheel racing. Sports cars and USAC began racing at the track in 1964, and the track quickly became a favorite of drivers and soon replaced the old track at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. In 1977, the first Copper World Classic was held, a marque event for USAC midget and Silver Crown cars.
NASCAR began racing at PIR in 1978. However, it was not until 1988 when NASCAR's premier series, now the Sprint Cup Series, began racing at the track. Following the announcement of NASCAR being added to the track schedule, PIR built a 3-story suite building outside of turn 1 and increased grandstand capacity to 30,000. A year prior, the track's main grandstand was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, reconstruction was finished in time for the first NASCAR cup race. That first race was won by Alan Kulwicki where in his celebration he performed the first "Polish Victory Lap".
In 1991, the old 2.5 miles (4.0 km) road course was removed and replaced by a 1.51 miles (2.43 km) infield road course. In 1996 the grandstand capacity was increased to 65,000. International Speedway Corporation (ISC) officially took ownership of PIR from Emmett "Buddy" Jobe in April 1997. Racing at PIR began to dramatically change in 2003. Turn 2 was reconstructed by pushing back the outside wall to make racing safer. The wall originally came to an end where the old road course crossed the oval track. At the same time, an access tunnel was built under turn 4. Previously, vehicles had to use crossover gates and pedestrians used a crossover bridge. In 2004, NASCAR announced it would give a second annual race weekend to PIR starting with the 2005 season. Following the announcement, the track installed lights to allow the newly scheduled NASCAR race to be run in the evening. The addition of a second NASCAR racing weekend had dramatic effects on the economy of the state of Arizona. A study at the Arizona State University estimated that PIR brings in nearly $473 million annually to the state of Arizona. 2005 would also become the last year that a major open-wheel racing series would race at PIR, until it was recently announced that the track will return to the schedule for the 2016 IndyCar season. Despite the 2006 departure from the schedule, the track was still used by IndyCar for testing purposes.
In 2006, the Allison Grandstand was expanded from turn 1 to turn 2, increasing the reserved seating to 76,800. Included with the expansion is "Octane", an exclusive lounge on top of the grandstands overlooking turn 1. In 2008 PIR added the SPEED Cantina, a one-of-a-kind at-track sports bar and grill, outside turn 2. In early 2010, some of the grandstands along the backstretch were removed to allow additional room for recreational vehicles, thus the seating capacity dropped to around 67,000.
In November 2010, ISC and the Avondale City Council announced plans for a $100 million long-term development for PIR. $15 million would go towards repaving the track for the first time since 1990 and building a new media center. The plans also include a reconfiguration of the track. The front stretch was widened from 52 feet to 62 feet (19 m), the pit stalls were changed from asphalt to concrete, the dogleg (between Turn 2 and Turn 3) was moved outward by 95 feet (29 m), tightening the turn radius of the dogleg from 800 feet to 500 feet (152 m). Along with the other changes, progressive banking was added to the turns: Turns 1 and 2, which had 11 degrees of banking, changed to 10 degrees on the bottom and 11 degrees on the top. Turns 3 and 4, which had 9 degrees of banking, changed to 8 degrees on the bottom and 9 on the top. Project leader Bill Braniff, Senior Director of Construction for North American Testing Corporation (NATC), a subsidiary of PIR’s parent company International Speedway Corporation, said "All of the changes – including the adjustment of the dog-leg – will be put in place in order to present additional opportunities for drivers to race side-by-side. We’re very confident that we’ll have multi-groove racing at Phoenix from Day 1 because of the variable banking that will be implemented.” The infield road course was also sealed off and removed from use, making PIR an oval-only facility. The reconfiguration project was completed by mid-August 2011, and on August 29–30, five drivers tested the new track, describing the new dogleg and backstretch as a "rollercoaster" as now when they enter it dips, then rises on exit and dips down going into turn 3, due to the elevation changes. On October 4–5, several Sprint Cup teams tested the oval which was open to the public. Seven–eight million dollars went towards connecting the track property to the Avondale water and sewer systems. Work began following the 2011 Subway Fresh Fit 500.
On June 11, 2015, PIR announced the track would be renamed to "Jeff Gordon Raceway" for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 in tribute to Gordon, who was contesting his last NASCAR season as a full-time driver in 2015.
After a 2016 INDYCAR Test in the West, INDYCAR measured the track as 1.022 miles.
Just before the fall Sprint Cup race in Novemeber 2016, it was reported that there would be a $200 million renovation to the track that would take around 2 years to complete.