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Phoenix International Raceway

Avondale, AZ

Home of the Phoenix International Raceway

4.1

4.1

Phoenix International Raceway (map it)
7602 S Avondale Blvd
Avondale, AZ 85323


Phoenix International Raceway website

Phoenix International Raceway website

Year Opened: 1964

Capacity: 67,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Phoenix International Raceway

Located in Avondale about half an hour west of downtown Phoenix, PIR is host to two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races each year, including one of the “Chase for the Sprint Cup” races. PIR has hosted NASCAR’s top series since 1988, when Alan Kulwicki won the first Winston Cup Series race held there. The second race each year was added to the NASCAR schedule in 2005 when lights were installed at the track so they would not have to race during the day in the extreme desert heat.

PIR continues to expand and change, undergoing a total track reconfiguration in 2011 between the April and November races. They also continue to add grandstands, but have kept the most unique feature about the track, “Rattlesnake Hill”, the hill in turns 3 and 4 where people can bring a picnic, roll out a blanket, and watch some exciting racing action. After the 2012 race, which included a brawl between Jeff Gordon’s and Clint Bowyer’s crews, the track will surely be known for the hill, and now the brawl.

4.1

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    5

Whatever kind of food you are in the mood for on race day, you can probably find it somewhere at Phoenix International Raceway. They've got your typical hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, sodas, and beers that you would expect at any sporting event. But when you start wandering around, you can buy some smoked turkey legs, giant sausages, noodles, Mexican food, and gelato. You'll find barbeque stands, an upscale American dining restaurant, wine, and even a full service lounge called Octane, where you can get the VIP treatment. They give you the option of sushi, other fine dining, hand rolled cigars, and a full tour of the garage before the race.

No matter what you have a craving for that day; chances are you will find exactly what you're looking for. Even though NASCAR is heavily sponsored by both major soft drink companies, Coca-Cola is the company of choice at PIR.

Atmosphere    4

If you are going to a NASCAR race, you have a pretty good idea about the kind of crowd that you will be mingling with for the day. Phoenix is no different. You're with about 70,000 other people who love the smell of burning rubber and gasoline, and are covered head to toe in their favorite driver's sponsors.

During the race, there is something lacking at PIR though. It was very difficult to tell who was at the front of the pack during a long green flag run, and the radio broadcast was not played loud enough at the track to hear it. There are a couple of "Sprint Vision" screens in the infield, but they are not visible to the entire grandstands. The only way you can tell who is where is by the scoring pylon, but it's kind of hard to see it and pay attention to the action at the same time.

The races themselves the last couple of years have not had very much action either, very few lead changes and good hard racing. It just left something to be desired. Also, smoking cigarettes in the stands is permitted, and that definitely made it less comfortable to sit and watch the race for non-smokers.

I definitely recommend getting a pre-race pit pass at the very least, if not a cold or hot pass for the garage area. The pit pass lets you out onto pit road, and in certain parts of the garage area up to an hour before the green flag. You can get right up to any driver's pit stall, talk to crew members that are out prepping for the race, and be right there when the cars go through pre-race inspection.

The cold and hot passes give you garage area access, letting you see even more of the behind the scenes stuff at NASCAR races. Cold passes let you in the garage up until an hour before the green flag and after the race, while hot passes allow you in the garage during the race as well as before and after the race.

Neighborhood    1

PIR is essentially built in the middle of nowhere, and you have to take service streets (Avondale Blvd. or Litchfield Rd. or Estrella Pkwy) south for about 20 minutes after you get off of I-10. Once you get out to the speedway, you pretty much have no options except for what is on grounds. But since they do have so many food and entertainment options, this doesn't really make it a bad thing.

Fans    5

NASCAR fans are truly one of a kind. Everyone seemingly knows everything about the history of the sport and definitely about the history of their favorite drivers. There is no mistaking who someone is rooting for that particular day.

During the middle of the race, there is a bit of a lull, but everyone is so friendly that you can just strike up a conversation about your drivers or talk about that one bobble that someone may have had coming onto the front stretch or if you think one driver dominating the championships is good or bad for the sport. There's always something to talk about at a NASCAR race, but you may have to scream it since the engines are a little noisy.

Access    5

Once you get out to the track, general parking is free, and there is a ton of it. It's a bit of a walk to get to the track from general parking, but you can join tailgate parties, or shop at the merchandise haulers the entire walk. You've also got the option of taking an RV out to the track and parking in the RV lots that they have just outside of turn 1 or at the Skyline at RV Vista between turns 2 and 3, where you can just set up camp for the entire weekend and not miss a minute of action.

There are bathrooms everywhere, both in the track and out in the parking lots, but most of them are porta potties. There can be long lines for the facilities at the track before the race, but this is to be expected when you've got almost 75,000 people in one place. Since there are so many bathrooms, this problem could be a lot worse.

NASCAR is extremely fan-friendly when it comes to access of the drivers and crews. As I wrote earlier, you can purchase a pre-race pit pass and get the chance to meet your favorite driver and their crew, and even learn a thing or two about the business from them. All of the people in the sport are so welcoming. It makes it a much more satisfying trip to a sporting event than most other sports because of the access. There are also tents from many of the sports' sponsors and manufacturers that have driver and owner appearances throughout the morning.

Return on Investment    4

NASCAR has done a good job with trying to make everything affordable to get the crowds to come back to the races instead of watching on TV. Pricing for the tickets is a pretty good deal, especially if you plan on spending the entire weekend at the track and get a full weekend pass. The food and drinks can be a little pricey, but some of these foods are also more upscale, so paying more is to be expected. There are also a lot of sponsor giveaways that you can find as you walk around throughout the day, so you can walk away from the race with a souvenir or two, and spend that extra money on another soda or beer.

Extras    5

All the little things that they have to keep people entertained during the day are fantastic. All the car manufacturers have their own displays where they have trivia contests and freebies for everyone that comes through. There are military demonstrations, you can go to the SPEED Channel stage and watch their pre-race show. There was even a little track where you can race other people with remote control cars and win prizes. There is a concert stage where you can sit and listen to some bands. It's pretty much just like a carnival that sets up right outside the grandstands, and you can spend your entire morning there before going to your seats to watch the best drivers in the world.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely loved everything about the stuff going on before the race. Having been to Daytona for a Nationwide series race in 2010, I wasn't sure what to expect from Phoenix, but I was extremely happy with how everything turned out. You can definitely show up right when the gates open in the morning and not get bored before the race starts in the afternoon with all the things that you can do.

They do need to help out the fans that are not right at the start/finish line with the in race updates, maybe putting up a giant video board somewhere in the infield or along the backstretch would help with that. I have now been to the last two November races (2011 and 2012), and both races have been filled with extremely long green flag runs, making most of the field fall at least a lap down, and making it kind of hard to follow the action. The weather has been great both times, not too hot and not too cold either time, making it a great time of year to visit Phoenix for a NASCAR event.

The drama at the end of the 2012 race with Jeff Gordon purposely wrecking Clint Bowyer and having the giant brawl in the garage area made it a very unique experience. Also, since it is the second to last race of the year, the points championship is always very intriguing when the Sprint Cup Series makes its way to Phoenix. In 2012, Jimmie Johnson essentially ended his bid for a 6th championship when he slammed into the wall, and eventual champ Brad Keselowski left the Valley of the Sun with a commanding lead. The experience is great and one that every sports fan should do at least once.

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Crowd Reviews

NASCAR in Arizona-Phoenix International Raceway

Total Score: 4.14

  • Food & Beverage: 5
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 1
  • Fans: 5
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 5

Located in Avondale about half an hour west of downtown Phoenix, PIR is host to two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races each year, including one of the “Chase for the Sprint Cup” races. PIR has hosted NASCAR’s top series since 1988, when Alan Kulwicki won the first Winston Cup Series race held there. The second race each year was added to the NASCAR schedule in 2005 when lights were installed at the track so they would not have to race during the day in the extreme desert heat.

PIR continues to expand and change, undergoing a total track reconfiguration in 2011 between the April and November races. They also continue to add grandstands, but have also kept the most unique feature about the track, the hill in turns 3 and 4 where people can bring a picnic, roll out a blanket, and watch some exciting racing action.

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Lodging

Crowne Plaza Phoenix Hotel  (map it!)

2532 West Peoria Avenue

Phoenix, AZ 85029

(602) 943-2341

http://www.cpphoenix.com/

Hilton Garden Inn Phoenix/Avondale  (map it!)

11460 West Hilton Way

Avondale, AZ 85323

(623) 882-0667

http://www.hilton.com

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