Nascar

Phoenix International Raceway provides a fast fix for those with a need for speed.

A popular attraction for local race car fans and visitors to Arizona, PIR was built in 1964 around the Estrella Mountains outside of the Phoenix-adjacent city of Avondale. The raceway was originally constructed as a home for open-wheel racing from which a driver by the name of Davey MacDonald emerged as the winner of the first PIR race on Feb. 16, 1964.

The first stock car race staged at PIR took place almost four years later in 1968 with Don White winning the challenge. It wasn’t until 1978 that the first NASCAR races began testing the track and not until 1988 that NASCAR’s premier race series, now known as the Sprint Cup Series, went full throttle at PIR.

Here are some more stats and facts about Phoenix International Raceway.

1. Specs and Spectators

PIR’s unique tri-oval race track is 1 mile in length and includes a winding 1.5-mile road course with 11 turns for professional drivers. There is also plenty of room for spectators to take in the action with a reserved seating capacity of 65,000 in the grandstands and general admission seating at PIR Hillside — an actual hill where fans can bring chairs and blankets to sit on while viewing the races.

2. Fast Fun For Families, Friends

Designated kid zones make PIR a fun place for the whole family. Kids can check out interactive displays and show cars in Zoomtown U.S.A. Revved up revelers can also enjoy NASCAR nightlife just outside of PIR’s Turn 2 where the SPEED Cantina bar and grill offers up live music and racing-themed food.

3. A Green Machine

A study conducted by the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU in 2006 credited Phoenix International Raceway for pumping $473 million annually into Arizona’s economy. The study also found that out-of-state visitors attending PIR events spend $160 million annually on goods and services including lodging, dining, entertainment, recreation and shopping.

4. Record Holders

Kevin Harvick is the top NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver in the history of the Phoenix International Raceway with seven wins to his name. Meantime, retired race car driver and Arie Luyendyk, also known as “The Flying Dutchman,” holds the one-lap record on a true one-mile oval at PIR, having traveled at speeds over 183 mph during a 1996 IndyCar Series event.

5. Danica’s Debut

Racing star and part-time Valley resident Danica Patrick made her PIR NASCAR stock car debut in November 2010 after participating in a number of IndyCar races on the track. Patrick also filmed a commercial at the raceway for Scottsdale-based Web hosting company GoDaddy.

6. Star Power

Phoenix International Raceway has opened its gates to members of Hollywood’s jet set and others over the decades. In 1970, actor and race car enthusiast Steve McQueen won a sports car race on the track’s then-2.5 mile road course. Rockers Guns N’ Roses and Metallica amped up fans when they brought their joint stadium tour to PIR in 1992. The raceway has also found its way into a few scenes for several Hollywood productions including the 1994 crime adventure “The Getaway,” starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger and the 2004 comedy “Taxi,” with Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.

7. Tribute Track

Phoenix International Raceway honored Jeff Gordon’s stellar career in November 2015 by renaming the track the Jeff Gordon Raceway for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500. The one-day name change followed Gordon’s retirement announcement earlier in the year. It marked the first time that a track was renamed for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race.

Visit Phoenix International Raceway at 7602 S. Avondale Blvd., Avondale, AZ 85353

– Suzanne Wilson, Phoenix.org