I thank Pima County for not pursuing plans to build a Formula One track somewhere in the outskirts of the Old Pueblo. However, instead they are considering the construction of a 3-mile NASCAR track. Before they inflate their dreams any more, let me provide some facts.
NASCAR runs 36 races in their premier division, Sprint Cup. No more, no less. They will not add more. To get a race from NASCAR, one of the existing tracks must give up a race. That doesn't happen.
Kentucky Speedway was built in 2000. In 2006, they asked NASCAR for a race. Six years later, in 2011, they had their first Sprint Cup race. Rockingham Speedway, which had two races on the schedule, gave up both races. One went to Texas Motor Speedway, which then handed that race to Phoenix International Raceway. Their other race went to Kentucky Speedway.
The reasons for loss of the two Rockingham races was financial. They didn't have sell-outs. They could accommodate 60,000 people but their last race only put 50,000 fans in the seats. Add to that, there were no tourist attractions in the local area and two bigger NASCAR tracks were within easy driving range.
Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale hosts two races per year. The first is early spring when racetracks in the east aren't dependable because of weather. The second race is part of the Championship series referred to as The Chase. This is a very important part of the season. Phoenix will not give up either of the races. Phoenix is also a huge market for NASCAR compared to what Tucson could do.
A 3-mile track? NASCAR has two superspeedways, Daytona and Talledega. Daytona is a 2-mile track and Talledega is 2.66 miles. NASCAR will not race on a 3-mile track. It's too hard to see the race when it's so far away. The back stretch at Talledega is almost a mile away from the main viewing stand. The best place to watch this race is on television.
What would this track cost? I don't know what the current cost of asphalt is but at a minimum it would take four lanes of asphalt, each three miles long, to make a 3-mile racing surface. That's 12 miles. Then the accessory tracks, parking, hauler parking, fan parking, garage area, buildings, land and other infrastructure, would drive the cost astronomically high.
If the county supervisors really want to blow some money, spend some of what this would cost on the existing racetrack, formerly named Tucson Raceway Park.
Up until eight years ago, I would go out there for an evening of racing and have a great time. Since then the track has undergone different managers and the racing quality has either declined or become non-existent.
And if that isn't a good idea, then what about fixing 12 miles of country roads?
But at least do some research before you start throwing pie-in-the-sky dreams around.
Tom Garrett of Tucson is retired and a NASCAR fan.