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Auto Club Speedway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Auto Club Speedway
Auto Club Speedway.png
Location9300 Cherry Avenue
Fontana, California
Time zoneUTC−8 / −7 (DST)
Capacity122,000 (total)[1]
Broke ground22 November 1995; 26 years ago (1995-11-22)
Opened20 June 1997; 25 years ago (1997-06-20)
Construction costUS$100 million
(US$134 million in 2021 dollars[2])
ArchitectPaxton Waters Architecture
Penske Motorsports, Inc.
Former namesCalifornia Speedway (November 1995–February 2008)
Major events
D-shaped oval (1997–present)[3]
Length2.000 miles (3.219 km)
BankingTurns: 14°
Frontstretch: 11°
Backstretch: 3°
Race lap record30.900 (380.431 km/h (236.389 mph)) (Greg Moore, Reynard 97I, 1997, CART)
Interior test circuit (2001–present)
Length1.550 miles (2.494 km)
Race lap record0:47.5782 (Unknown, Unknown, 2009, Formula 2)
Sports car course (2001–present)
Length2.800 miles (4.635 km)
Race lap record1:29.322 (Didier Theys, Dallara SP1, 2002, LMP900)
Motorcycle course (2001–present)
Length2.360 miles (3.798 km)
Drag strip
Length1/4 miles (0.40 km)

Auto Club Speedway,[4] originally opened as California Speedway, is a 2.000 mi (3.219 km), low-banked, D-shaped oval superspeedway in unincorporated San Bernardino County, California, near Fontana. It has hosted NASCAR racing annually since 1997. It was also previously used for open wheel racing events. The racetrack is located 47 mi (76 km) east of Los Angeles and is near the former locations of Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside International Raceway. The track is owned and operated by NASCAR. The speedway is served by the nearby Interstate 10 and Interstate 15 freeways as well as a Metrolink station located behind the backstretch.

Construction of the track, on the site of the former Kaiser Steel Mill, began in 1995 and was completed in late 1996. The speedway's main grandstand has a capacity of 68,000, additionally it features 28 skyboxes and has a grand total capacity of 122,000. In 2006, a fanzone was added behind the main grandstand. Lights were added to the speedway in 2004 with the addition of a second annual NASCAR weekend. Since 2011, the track has hosted only one NASCAR weekend each year.

IndyCar previously ran a 500-mile race under Champ Car sanctioning from 1997 to 2002. The current IndyCar sanctioning previously ran a 400-mile race from 2002 to 2005 and a 500-mile race from 2012 to 2015.

Track history

Early history and construction

Main grandstand from pit road at Auto Club Speedway
Main grandstand from pit road at Auto Club Speedway

On April 20, 1994, Roger Penske and Kaiser Steel announced the construction of a racetrack on the site of the abandoned Kaiser Steel Mill in Fontana, California. A day after the announcement, CART announced it would hold an annual race at the speedway. Three months later NASCAR president Bill France Jr. agreed to sanction NASCAR Cup Series races at the speedway upon completion, marking the first time NASCAR made a commitment to run a race at a track that had yet to be built.[5] Community meetings were held to discuss issues related to the construction of the track and the local effects of events held. The local community largely supported construction of the speedway citing potentially increased land values and rejuvenation of the community. In April 1995, after having toured the sister track Michigan International Speedway, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the project.[6] The California Environmental Protection Agency gave Penske permission to begin construction after Kaiser agreed to pay US$6 million to remove hazardous waste from the site. Construction on the site began on November 22, 1995, with the demolition of the Kaiser Steel Mill.[5] The 100-foot (30 m) water tower, a landmark of the Kaiser property, was preserved in the center of the track to be used as a scoreboard. 3,000 cubic yards (2,300 m3) of contaminated dirt was removed and transported to a toxic waste landfill. To prevent remaining impurities from rising to the surface, a cap of non-porous polyethylene was put down and covered with 2 feet (0.61 m) of clean soil.[6] Construction of the track was completed in late 1996.[5]

On January 10, 1997, Marlboro Team Penske's driver Paul Tracy became the first driver to test on the new speedway. NASCAR held its first open test session on at the track from May 5–7. The official opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held on June 20, 1997, with the first race, a NASCAR West Series race, being held the next day.[5]

Auto Club Speedway

The track was named the California Speedway from the time it was built through February 21, 2008, when the Automobile Club of Southern California purchased the naming rights in a 10-year deal; thus the track became Auto Club Speedway and has remained such as of 2022, as the deal was renewed.

Expansion and additions

With early success following the opening of the track, the speedway began to expand reserved grandstand seating along the front stretch with an additional 15,777 seats. In May 1999, an additional 28 skyboxes were added to the top of the main grandstand. In 2001 the Auto Club Dragway, a 1/4 mile dragstrip, was built outside of the backstretch of the main speedway. That same year, the infield of the speedway was reconfigured to hold a multipurpose road course. On April 24, 2003, The San Bernardino County Planning Commission approved the changing of the speedway's conditional use permit to allow the installation of lights around the track. Later that year NASCAR announced a second annual NASCAR Cup Series race at the track for the 2004 season, with the second race being run "under the lights".[7] NASCAR ran two weekends of racing annually until the 2011 season, when the track returned to a single annual race weekend.[8]

In 2006, the speedway's midway, located behind the main grandstand, was overhauled. The new midway, called the "Discover IE FanZone", includes the addition of Apex (a Wolfgang Puck restaurant), additional shade and lounge areas, a retail store and an entertainment stage.[9]

In March 2014, the Las Vegas-based company Exotics Racing expanded to California by opening a new 1.2 mile road course at the Auto Club Speedway.


Attendance problems

Upon the addition of a second NASCAR weekend at the track in 2004, attendance at the races dropped off dramatically, by as much as 20,000. With such a large attendance swing, drivers and media began to doubt if the track deserved two dates, even if the track was near Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest media market.[10] Weather also became a concern with either extremely hot days or with rain threatening the races. All of this factored into NASCAR's decision to remove a second race from the track with the realignment of the 2011 NASCAR schedule. Former track owner Roger Penske said the track may be located in a one-race market. Track president Gillian Zucker cited bad weather windows and fans having other entertainment options as reasons for the attendance decline.[11]

Effective in the 2014 racing season, the grandstand capacity was reduced from 92,000 to 68,000. This was accomplished by removing approximately 12,000 seats near turn 1 and installing a hospitality area and a digital display showing speeds along the straightaway.[12] In addition, seats were further reduced as a result of modifying average seat width from 18 inches to 23 inches. The capacity quoted does not include luxury boxes and infield seating, which when added up reaches a capacity of approximately 100,000.[13]

Name change

On February 21, 2008, the Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) became the title sponsor of the raceway, making Auto Club Speedway the track's official name. The naming rights deal is for ten years and is worth an estimated $50 to $75 million. In addition to naming rights, the ACSC will have use of the facility for road tests for Westways magazine and other consumer tests. The money will be used for capital improvements to the track.[4]

In popular culture

The facility is often used for filming television shows, commercials and films. In 2000, portions of Charlie's Angels were filmed at the speedway,[14] and in 2005, portions of Herbie: Fully Loaded were filmed there.[15] In 2007, The Bucket List saw Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman drive a vintage Shelby Mustang and Dodge Challenger around the 2-mile (3.2 km) speedway.[16] The track was used as Daytona International Speedway in the 2019 film “Ford v Ferrari”.

A parody of the track was used in the 2006 Pixar film Cars. It is the venue for the Piston Cup tiebreaker race between the movie's main character Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), retiring veteran Strip "The King" Weathers (voiced by Richard Petty) and perennial runner-up Chick Hicks (voiced by Michael Keaton). The race is held at the Los Angeles International Speedway, which is a conglomeration of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena where the Rose Bowl is located, as well as the Auto Club Speedway.


During the 1999 Marlboro 500 CART race, Canadian driver Greg Moore died in a crash along the backstretch of the track. It was determined that after sliding along the infield grass, Moore's car hit the edge of oncoming pavement, which caused the car to flip into a concrete retaining wall. The incident prompted the track owners, ISC, to pave the backstretch of both Auto Club Speedway and its sister track Michigan International Speedway in an attempt to prevent a similar accident. Shortly after the crash, CART mandated the use of a head-and-neck restraint system on all ovals. The rule eventually became mandatory on all tracks.[17][18]

On April 5, 2002, Ricky Lundgren was killed in a qualifying session for a motorcycle race.[19]

On August 7, 2004, a police officer from San Diego, John Barr, died during an open track event after coming off his motorcycle.[20]

On June 2, 2005, two men died while participating in an event sponsored by the San Diego Chapter of the Ferrari Club of America.[21]

On October 15, 2010, a 24-year-old woman died while participating in a driving school at the track. The woman was driving a replica Indycar as part of the Mario Andretti Racing Experience when she lost control and hit the inside wall of the track.[22]

Planned reconstruction

On September 8, 2020, it was revealed that documents for the reconstruction of the facility as a half-mile high banked oval had been filed with San Bernardino County. As first reported by The Insider, the new short track layout would feature long straightaways like Martinsville Speedway and high banked turns like those featured at Bristol Motor Speedway. According to the published preliminary site plan, the new layout would fit inside the footprint of the current layout's trioval, and utilize much of the existing infrastructure such as the garages (which would be outside the new track), main grandstand and pit road suites (which would overlook the relocated backstretch). The work would be scheduled to start after the 2021 Auto Club 400, and was scheduled to be completed in time for the 2022 season.[23]

In December 2020, it was announced that the 2021 race weekend had been cancelled due to complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] On February 27, 2022, Auto Club Speedway president Dave Allen announced on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio that plans to convert the speedway have been put on hold.[25]

Racing events

Current races

Former races

Other events

  • Red, White and Cruise  — A July 4 festival consisting of a car show, various family-friendly entertainment and a fireworks show
  • Epicenter 2010 at the speedway's midway
  • Cardenas Festival —The annual Cardenas Festival is held in the parking lot. This is a festival where all the companies that sell food at the grocery store Cardenas give out free samples of new or upcoming food. There are also performances from many artists.
  • Hard (music festival) was held in 2016, 2018, and 2019 in the midway and parking lot of the speedway.

Track length of paved oval

The track length is disputed by CART and NASCAR that run at Auto Club Speedway. The NASCAR timing and scoring use a length of exactly 2.000 miles (3.219 km).[26] The IRL timing and scoring use also a length of exactly 2 miles since their first race in 2002.[27] CART measured the track as 2.029 miles (3.265 km) and used this length for timing and scoring between 1997 and 2002.[28]

Track records

The closed-course practice and qualifying lap records Arie Luyendyk had set in the run-up to the 1996 Indy 500 at 239.260 mph (385.052 km/h) and 237.498 mph (382.216 km/h) respectively were improved by Maurício Gugelmin at the 1997 Marlboro 500. He was clocked at 242.333 mph (389.997 km/h) and 240.942 mph (387.759 km/h) respectively, based on a CART-recognized track length of 2.029 miles.[29]

After Juan Pablo Montoya had narrowly missed Gugelmin's practice record,[30] Gil de Ferran set a new one-lap qualifying record of 241.428 mph (388.541 km/h) at the 2000 Marlboro 500, a CART event.[31] As of August 2018, this is the fastest qualifying lap speed ever recorded at an official race meeting.[32]

The 2003 Toyota Indy 400 was the fastest circuit race ever in motorsport history, with an average speed of 207.151 mph (333.377 km/h) over 400 miles (640 km), based on an IndyCar-recognized track length of 2.000 miles,[33] topping the previous record average of 197.995 mph (318.642 km/h) over 507.25 miles (816.34 km) the 2002 CART race had produced.[34]

Lap Records

The official race lap records at Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) are listed as:

Category Time Driver Vehicle Date
D-shaped Oval: 3.219 km (1997–present)
CART 30.900 Greg Moore Reynard 97I 1997 Marlboro 500
IndyCar 32.120[35] Scott Dixon Dallara IR-03 2003 Toyota Indy 400
Indy Lights 37.470[36] Jeff Simmons Dallara IPS 2005 California 100
NASCAR Cup 38.760[37] Kyle Larson Chevrolet SS 2017 Auto Club 400
NASCAR West 39.649[38] Mark Reed Pontiac Grand Prix 2001 Pontiac Widetrack Grand Prix 200
NASCAR Truck 40.220[39] David Reutimann Toyota Tundra 2006 200
NASCAR Xfinity 40.247[40] Joey Logano Ford Mustang 2018 Roseanne 300
IROC 43.800[41] Mark Martin Pontiac Trans-Am 1997 IROC Race 3
Sports Car Road Course: 4.635 km (2001–present)
LMP900 1:29.322[42] Didier Theys Dallara SP1 2002 Grand American 400
DP 1:31.790[43] Max Angelelli Riley MkXI 2004 Grand American 400
LMP675 1:33.448[42] Terry Borcheller Lola B2K/40 2002 Grand American 400
GTS 1:33.944[44] Boris Said Ford Mustang 2003 Grand American 400
GT1 (GTS) 1:35.682[42] Chris Bingham Saleen S7-R 2002 Grand American 400
American GT 1:37.788[42] Andrew Richards Chevrolet Corvette 2002 Grand American 400
GT 1:38.366[43] Tom Milner BMW M3 (E46) 2004 Grand American 400
SGS 1:42.065[43] Randy Pobst Porsche 911 (996) GT3 Cup 2004 Grand American 400
Modified Road Course: 3.798 km (2001–present)
Super GT (GT500) 1:24.287[45][46] Benoît Tréluyer Nissan Fairlady Z (Z33) 2004 Fontana All-Star JGTC round
Interior Test Circuit: 2.494 km (2001–present)
Super GT (GT500) 53.784[47] André Lotterer Honda NSX-GT 2004 Fontana All Stars JGTC round
Super GT (GT300) 57.740[47] Shinichi Takagi ASL Garaiya 2004 Fontana All Stars JGTC round
Record Year Date Driver Time Speed/avg. speed
NASCAR Cup Series
Qualifying (one lap) 2018 March 16 Kevin Harvick 38.147 188.744 mph (303.754 km/h)
Race (500 miles) 1997 June 27 Jeff Gordon 3:13:32 155.012 mph (249.468 km/h)
Race (400 miles)* 2012 March 25 Tony Stewart 2:39:06 160.166 mph (257.762 km/h)
  • Race was shortened from 200 to 129 laps due to rain
Race (400 miles, not rain-shortened) 2020 March 1 Alex Bowman 2:37:07 152.753 mph (245.832 km/h)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Qualifying (one lap) 2005 September 3 Tony Stewart 38.722 185.941 mph (299.243 km/h)
Race (300 miles) 2001 April 28 Hank Parker Jr. 1:55:25 155.957 mph (250.988 km/h)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Qualifying (one lap) 2006 February 24 David Reutimann 40.228 178.980 mph (288.040 km/h)
Race (200 miles) 2003 September 20 Ted Musgrave 1:22:14 145.926 mph (234.845 km/h)
NASCAR West Series
Qualifying (one lap) 2001 April 28 Mark Reed 39.649 181.593 mph (292.246 km/h)
Race (200 miles) 2001 April 28 Brendan Gaughan 1:28:47 152.316 mph (245.129 km/h)
Qualifying (one lap - 2.029 mi) 2000 October 28 Gil de Ferran 30.255 241.428 mph (388.541 km/h)[31]
Race (507.25 miles) 2002 November 3 Jimmy Vasser 2:33:42 197.995 mph (318.642 km/h)[34]
Qualifying (one lap) 2003 September 20 Hélio Castroneves 31.752 226.757 mph (364.930 km/h)
Race (400 miles) 2003 September 21 Sam Hornish Jr. 1:55:51 207.151 mph (333.377 km/h)[33]
Race (500 miles) 2014 August 30 Tony Kanaan 2:32:58 196.111 mph (315.610 km/h)

NASCAR Cup Series stats

(As of 3/1/20)

Most wins 6 Jimmie Johnson
Most top 5s 13 Jimmie Johnson
Most top 10s 18 Jimmie Johnson
Starts 27 Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick (tie)
Poles 4 Kurt Busch
Most laps completed 5906 Jimmie Johnson
Most laps led 990 Jimmie Johnson
Avg. start* 9.8 Austin Dillon
Avg. finish* 7.6 Jimmie Johnson

* from minimum 5 starts

NASCAR Cup Series race winners

Season Date Official race name Winning driver Car No. Make Distance Avg speed Margin of victory
1997 June 22 California 500 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 500 mi (800 km) 155.012 mph (249.468 km/h) 1.074 sec
1998 May 3 California 500 presented by NAPA Mark Martin 6 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 140.22 mph (225.662 km/h) 1.287 sec
1999 May 2 California 500 presented by NAPA Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 500 mi (800 km) 150.276 mph (241.846 km/h) 4.492 sec
2000 April 30 NAPA Auto Parts 500 Jeremy Mayfield 12 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 149.378 mph (240.401 km/h) 0.300 sec
2001 April 29 NAPA Auto Parts 500 Rusty Wallace 2 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 143.118 mph (230.326 km/h) 0.27 sec
2002 April 28 NAPA Auto Parts 500 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 500 mi (800 km) 150.088 mph (241.543 km/h) 0.620 sec
2003 April 27 Auto Club 500 Kurt Busch 97 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 140.111 mph (225.487 km/h) 2.294 sec
2004 May 2 Auto Club 500 Jeff Gordon 24 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 500 mi (800 km) 137.268 mph (220.911 km/h) 12.871 sec
September 5 Pop Secret 500 Elliott Sadler 38 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 128.324 mph (206.517 km/h) 0.263 sec
2005 February 27 Auto Club 500 Greg Biffle 16 Ford Taurus 500 mi (800 km) 139.697 mph (224.821 km/h) 0.231 sec
September 4 Sony HD 500 Kyle Busch 5 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 508 mi (818 km) * 136.356 mph (219.444 km/h) 0.554 sec
2006 February 26 Auto Club 500 Matt Kenseth 17 Ford Fusion 502 mi (808 km) * 147.852 mph (237.945 km/h) 0.338 sec
September 3 Sony HD 500 Kasey Kahne 9 Dodge Charger 500 mi (800 km) 144.462 mph (232.489 km/h) 3.427 sec
2007 February 25 Auto Club 500 Matt Kenseth 17 Ford Fusion 500 mi (800 km) 138.451 mph (222.815 km/h) 0.679 sec
September 2 Sharp AQUOS 500 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 500 mi (800 km) 131.502 mph (211.632 km/h) 1.868 sec
2008 February 25 Auto Club 500 Carl Edwards 99 Ford Fusion 500 mi (800 km) 132.704 mph (213.566 km/h) UC
August 31 Pepsi 500 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Impala 500 mi (800 km) 138.857 mph (223.469 km/h) 2.076 sec
2009 February 22 Auto Club 500 Matt Kenseth 17 Ford Fusion 500 mi (800 km) 135.839 mph (218.612 km/h) 1.463 sec
October 11 Pepsi 500 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Impala 500 mi (800 km) 143.908 mph (231.597 km/h) 1.603 sec
2010 February 21 Auto Club 500 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet Impala 500 mi (800 km) 141.911 mph (228.384 km/h) 1.523
October 10 Pepsi Max 400 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet Impala 400 mi (640 km) 131.953 mph (212.358 km/h) 0.466 sec
2011 March 27 Auto Club 400 Kevin Harvick 29 Chevrolet Impala 400 mi (640 km) 150.849 mph (242.768 km/h) 0.144 sec
2012 March 25 Auto Club 400 Tony Stewart 14 Chevrolet Impala 258 mi (415 km) ** 160.166 mph (257.762 km/h) UC
2013 March 24 Auto Club 400 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota Camry 400 mi (640 km) 135.351 mph (217.826 km/h) UC
2014 March 23 Auto Club 400 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota Camry 412 mi (663 km) * 132.987 mph (214.022 km/h) 0.214 sec
2015 March 22 Auto Club 400 Brad Keselowski 2 Ford Fusion 418 mi (673 km) * 140.662 mph (226.374 km/h) 0.710 sec
2016 March 20 Auto Club 400 Jimmie Johnson 48 Chevrolet SS 410 mi (660 km) * 137.213 mph (220.823 km/h) 0.772 sec
2017 March 26 Auto Club 400 Kyle Larson 42 Chevrolet SS 404 mi (650 km) * 136.359 mph (219.449 km/h) 0.779 sec
2018 March 18 Auto Club 400 Martin Truex Jr. 78 Toyota Camry 400 mi (640 km) 147.526 mph (237.420 km/h) 11.685 sec
2019 March 17 Auto Club 400 Kyle Busch 18 Toyota Camry 400 mi (640 km) 143.113 mph (230.318 km/h) 2.354 sec
2020 March 1 Auto Club 400 Alex Bowman 88 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE 400 mi (640 km) 152.753 mph (245.832 km/h) 8.904 sec
2021 Cancelled due to the state of California COVID-19 restrictions
2022 February 27 WISE Power 400 Kyle Larson 5

* – Race extended due to green-white-checker finish ** – Race shortened due to rain

Open wheel race winners

Season Date Race name Winning driver Winning team
1997 September 28 Marlboro 500 United Kingdom Mark Blundell PacWest
1998 November 1 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota United States Jimmy Vasser Chip Ganassi Racing
1999 October 31 Marlboro 500 Presented by Toyota Mexico Adrián Fernández Patrick Racing
2000 October 30 Marlboro 500 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi Newman-Haas Racing
2001 November 14 The 500 by Toyota Brazil Cristiano da Matta Newman-Haas Racing
2002 November 3 The 500 United States Jimmy Vasser Team Rahal
2003 November 9 King Taco 500 Canceled due to wildfires in the San Bernardino mountains[49]
IndyCar Series
2002 March 24 Yamaha Indy 400 United States Sam Hornish Jr. Panther Racing
2003 September 21 Toyota Indy 400 United States Sam Hornish Jr. Panther Racing
2004 October 3 Toyota Indy 400 Mexico Adrian Fernández Aguri-Fernández Racing
2005 October 16 Toyota Indy 400 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti Andretti Green Racing
2006 to 2011, Not held
2012 September 15 MAVTV 500 United States Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing
2013 October 19 MAVTV 500 Australia Will Power Team Penske
2014 August 30 MAVTV 500 Brazil Tony Kanaan Chip Ganassi Racing
2015 June 27 MAVTV 500 United States Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing


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  21. ^ > Sports - Two San Diego County men killed in Fontana speedway crash
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External links

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