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New Arizona law hints at big changes for Phoenix International Raceway

The Profit On CNBC 500

AVONDALE, AZ - MARCH 02: Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series The Profit On CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 2, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law Thursday a bill that provides more than $40 million to promote races at Phoenix International Raceway from fiscal years 2022-2051 provided the track incurs projects costs of at least $100 million beginning next year.

Lesa France Kennedy, chief executive officer of International Speedway Corp., which owns Phoenix International Raceway, stated in February that the 1-mile track is targeted for upgrades now that the company’s $400 million improvements at Daytona International Speedway are complete.

During FS1’s broadcast of Sprint Cup practice at Phoenix International Raceway in March, broadcaster Mike Joy stated that “the rumor now is that ISC is going to take and flip-flop (the frontstretch and backstretch at) this track as has been done at Atlanta and Darlington.’’

Bryan Sperber, president of Phoenix International Raceway, told NBC Sports then that “we’re starting to put together plans now, but it’s a long way away from any kind of announcement.’’

Officials Phoenix International Raceway did not return messages for comment Thursday from NBC Sports. A spokesperson from International Speedway Corp. referred the matter to Phoenix International Raceway officials.

HB2495 requires that Phoenix International Raceway has incurred the requisite project cost between Dec. 31, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2020.

If that is done, HB2495 requires $1.5 million to be appropriated annually to the Arizona Office of Tourism to promote the track’s races, beginning July 1, 2021 (when fiscal year 2022 starts). A spokesperson with the Arizona Office of Tourism told NBC Sports that to their knowledge this type of budget allocation has not been done before.

The money from the Arizona Office of Tourism would be used to promote any event at Phoenix International Raceway “that is sanctioned by a nationally recognized premier national auto racing series governing body.’’

The track annually hosts two NASCAR Sprint Cup weekends and hosted a Verizon IndyCar Series race in April for the first time since 2005.

Project costs incurred by the track are listed as including “construction, reconstruction, improvement or renovation of improvements … of a host facility for a special sporting event.’’

The East Valley Tribune reported that the track spent an estimated $55 million for such items as multiple expansion of the Bobby Allison grandstand, reconfiguring Turn 2, adding a tunnel, adding lights and adding 40 suites. The Phoenix Business Journal reported that the track underwent a $15 million repaving project in 2011. Phoenix also added variable banking when the track was repaved and pushed out the curve in the dog leg between Turn 2 and Turn 3 by 95 feet.

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