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Auto Club Speedway-Fontana

Fontana, CA

Home of the Auto Club Speedway

3.9

3.6

Auto Club Speedway-Fontana (map it)
9300 Cherry Avenue
Fontana, CA 92335


Auto Club Speedway website

Auto Club Speedway-Fontana website

Year Opened: 1997

Capacity: 91,200

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Roadside Excitement

With by far the largest population in the United States, land in California comes at a premium. Consequently, when Roger Penske wanted to bring a racetrack to the state, he had to use some creativity on the location. In 1994, the site he eventually chose was that of the Kaiser Steel Mill, which had been out of operation since 1983.

Construction would begin in 1995 and the D-shaped track would reach completion in 1996. When the California Speedway hosted its first race in 1997, the 100 foot water tower from the steel mill would still stand in the middle of the track. To the dismay of the locals, due to safety reasons the historic Kaiser Steel water tower was recently dorn down. Less than a decade later, lights were added to the venue and NASCAR granted a second race beginning in 2004.

2017 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Auto Club 400 in Fontana. The Auto Club Speedway, formerly known as the California Speedway, was built for $120 million. Throughout the last 20 years, attendance for NASCAR and IndyCar races has risen and fallen. With both the rise and fall in attendance, the Auto Club Speedway, opened with 72,000 seats, has both expanded and reduced its seating capacity to 92,000 to its current capacity of 68,000.

The track would later be sold to its current owner International Speedway Corp., the entity controlled by the France family that also controls NASCAR. In that time, among those with a history of success in the IE are Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. Auto Club 400 is not the first motor sport venue in the IE. Prior to 1997, the Ontario Motor Speedway would host not only NASCAR, but the USAC (now the IndyCar Series), NHRA drag races and FIA for Formula One.

3.9

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

There are just way too many options to list here. Every type of food item that you crave will most likely be there to your liking. When purchased in advance, for $35 the All You Can Eat pass entitles you to the following food venues throughout the day: Drivers Cuisine Cantina, Woodies, RPM BBQ, All American Grill, West Coast Sliders, Gordon Biersch, and Pit Road Café.

The AYCE option allows for one entrée, one snack and one non-alcoholic beverage each time through the line at the listed locations. The pass upon entry to the speedway must be exchanged for a designated wristband.

Along with the listed options, if arriving to the speedway hungry, just think "County Fair," you know, your standard hot dogs and burgers, turkey legs, lemonade, Coke and Anheuser Busch products, as well as philly cheesesteaks, kettle corn, elotes (grilled corn on the cob drenched in butter and sprinkled with parmesan and lime), and many other over the top food items, along with several on-site food trucks.

Perhaps due to the large crowd and vast dining options, there were a few vendors that were offering 2 for 1 specials after the race. While vendors in most any venue close at the final buzzer, most all of the vendors here remained open.

Atmosphere    4

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is a weekend event, with practice runs, pole positioning, the Service King 300 matching NASCAR's biggest stars against the up and comers, all the way to the main event, the Auto Club MENCS 400.

Many of the fans show up for the entire weekend. All weekend long the fans socialize, tailgate, spectate, partake in the free games and pre-race entertainment in the Fan Zone, and cheer on their favorite racer at every glimpse. Walking through the parking lot through the pre-race tailgates many of the fans present fly flags of their favorite driver. While these fans may have their favorite, the cheering is not limited to any one particular driver.

With Fontana certainly being away from the hustle and bustle of the coastal cities, it is also a rather relaxing setting, often with blue skies and towering mountains surrounding the track.

Of course, the most exciting part of the weekend is the hour or two leading up to the race. The introduction of the racers emits plenty a cheer from the crowd as they eagerly await the famous "start your engines" line that comes over the PA system. All fans are on their feet as the pace car leads the field around the track.

Neighborhood    3

There is some of the most beautiful scenery beyond the speedway, including the often snow capped Mount Baldy.

As you may expect the surrounding neighborhood does not offer much pre and post race options. Most fans choose to tailgate before and after the races. Fans are not far from any post race dining and entertainment options with Ontario Mills and Victoria Gardens located nearby.

While Fontana and the Inland Empire may not be as nationally known as some of the larger California cities, it still contains one of the largest population bases in the country. If referenced on a map, fans will find it surrounded by some of the largest markets in the country: Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Fans    4

Despite the perceived glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Californians, the fans of this state do love their racing. From the Grand Prix in Long Beach to the many Supercross events hosted annually, it is not difficult to fill a venue with racing fans.

Many Californians are transplants, so it's difficult to pinpoint them into any specific group or having any special traditions. To get a good sense for the fans, I'd recommend walking the parking lot and taking in the IE FanZone as attendees will get one of the more diverse crowds in all of the state.

Access    4

The speedway is easily accessible via Interstate 10 and 15, but both will back up closer to race time. The 15 is the same freeway that many Southern California fans use to get to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

All parking is free, so fans need not concern themselves with many of the overpriced parking fees associated with Southern California. Be warned however, that there are some serious fans who get there as early as early as possible and the late arrivals will have more of a hike to get to the grandstand.

Though many of the fans like to attend all the weekend's events, should you choose to only attend the main race on Sunday, Metrolink offers race fans free train rides from points as far as Oxnard, Lancaster and Oceanside. To obtain the free offer, you must order your train tickets in advance online, otherwise, Metrolink tickets are $19 roundtrip.

Once inside the venue, fans will not have a difficult time finding their seat as a single large grandstand hugs the track. Caution should be given that there are several steps just to get to the lower levels, and several more to get to the upper levels.

Return on Investment    4

$45-$155, seats in the upper middle of the track are the most expensive.

NASCAR breaks the trend of closer seating being more expensive as the higher seats allow for a much better vantage point of the track, not to mention the beautiful surrounding settings.

Of course there are pit passes ($55 for the weekend) and all sorts of add-ins that fans can take advantage of. On the Auto Club Speedway website, there are numerous packages and discounts that are available to fans.

There are simply too many tempting food & merchandise options available for fans to ignore, so prepare to have a little extra spending cash available.

With so many events taking place, many fans like to make a weekend out of it, from the practice runs to the preliminary trials to the festivities outside the track, including the Q&A sessions with past and present race legends to the free concerts.

Extras    4

The Discover IE (Inland Empire) FanZone provides an entertaining experience for fans of all ages prior to the race. There are all sorts of merchandise, food, and vendor stands; many even offering free promotional items for stopping by. Two of the more notable stops are the concert stage where 90s acts Smash Mouth and The Spin Doctors performed pre-race concerts during the 2017 event.

At Gate 12, fans can take a look at the Auto Club Speedway's Walk of Fame. Racers such as Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, and Rusty Wallace have been enshrined in the past.

Lastly, being just an hour away from Hollywood, the track has had its time of the silver screen. Movies such as The Terminator, Charlie's Angels, and Herbie: Fully Loaded all had scenes filmed on this track. Even well-known actors Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman took a lap around the track in the movie The Bucket List.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the direction fans come from, the drive into Fontana is certainly breathtaking and the weekend-long party is one of the best events in the Southern California. There are numerous entertainment options in Southern California, but everyone should carve out a weekend to visit the Auto Club Speedway.

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Crowd Reviews

Roadside Excitement

Total Score: 3.57

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 3

With by far the largest population in the United States, land in California comes at a premium. Consequently, when Roger Penske wanted to bring a racetrack to the state, he had to use some creativity on the location. In 1994, the site he eventually chose was that of the Kaiser Steel Mill, which had been out of operation since 1983.

Just a few months later, NASCAR would do a first; committing to a race prior to a track’s completion. Construction would begin in 1995 and the “D-shaped” track would reach completion in 1996. When the California Speedway hosted its first race in 1997, the 100 foot water tower from the steel mill would still stand in the middle of the track.

Less than a decade later, lights were added to the venue and NASCAR granted a second race beginning in 2004. More races created a need for more fan interaction and the IE Fanzone was added in 2006 behind the grandstand. In 2008, the track was renamed as the Auto Club Speedway, with the naming rights creating more capital for future improvements to the venue.

With the track’s capacity over 90,000, an economic downturn made it difficult to fill the stands for two races annually. With fans also having options to attend the relatively nearby tracks in Phoenix and Las Vegas, Fontana was reduced to a single race annually.

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Local Food & Drink

California Pizza Kitchen  (map it!)

12517 North Main Street

Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739

(909) 899-8611

http://www.cpk.com

Local Entertainment

Victoria Gardens  (map it!)

12505 N Main St

Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91739

(909) 463-2830

http://www.victoriagardensie.com/

Ontario Mills  (map it!)

1 Mills Cir

Ontario, CA 91764

(909) 484-8301

http://www.simon.com/mall/ontario-mills

Lodging

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