In recent years, NASCAR fans have wanted more short tracks and road courses on the schedule. Unlike intermediate tracks where cars can go fast but get spread out, short tracks and road courses bring cars closer together and things can get physical. While it’s tough to add new locations to the schedule, NASCAR is trying to do the next best thing to give fans what they want.
According to Jeff Gluck and Jordan Bianchi of The Athletic, NASCAR submitted plans to convert Auto Club Speedway into a half-mile short track. The two-mile speedway, located just outside of Los Angeles, has hosted NASCAR races since 1997.
Called “Next Gen in California,” the plan submitted to San Bernardino County consisted of a track that combines the long straightaways of Martinsville to the banked turns of Bristol. NASCAR executive vice president and chief innovation officer Craig Neeb told The Athletic it’s “still very early in the process,” but it’s gotten some attention. If all goes to plan, Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass revealed that NASCAR hopes to start construction in 2021 for a race in 2022.
— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) September 8, 2020
In a variety of ways, this plan will benefit lots of groups. The obvious is it’ll add another short track to the schedule but it’s more than just giving fans another short track. For fans of Michigan International Speedway, the conversion of Auto Club will raise the profile of races in Michigan and make the track more unique. Initially a top choice to maybe lose a Cup Series date, Michigan now looks better if they’re the only D-shaped two-mile oval. Although, if this becomes a hit, NASCAR would probably want a second race at the Fontana short track so maybe that means a track loses their date as a result.
For NASCAR, Auto Club’s location will benefit them if they were to convert the track. A two-mile oval takes up a lot of space and with property values going up in an area that’s about 50 miles outside of LA, NASCAR can sell off the excess land they don’t need for a huge cash infusion. Over NASCAR’s history racing in LA, Ontario and Riverside underwent similar scenarios but those tracks were completely torn down in order to sell off all the land. This at least saves part of the track and NASCAR can still have a presence in one of the biggest US markets while making a bunch of money on the land they own.
It’s too early to guarantee any of this will happen but if it does, I’m sure a lot of fans are going to tell NASCAR that if they are actually able to convert the track, don’t have progressive banking in the corners.