Phoenix International Raceway has always been missing the one thing that all other major motorsports venues have: a tunnel.
But PIR president Bryan Sperber decided to change that. Construction on a tunnel under Turn 4 has begun and Sperber says it will be completed by the end of September.
"We are pleased because you look at PIR and its place within the industry and we certainly want to be considered to be a premiere motorsports venue and I think it is difficult to be considered that without a tunnel," he said.
"With construction of the tunnel I think that moves us a notch higher on the national landscape of the motorsports landscape."
That notch could mean a second Winston Cup race, but track officials won't know for some time. NASCAR is expected to announce a new race for 2004 in a couple of weeks and the announcement for a new race in 2005 isn't expected for at least a couple of months.
"We think all (the changes) will contribute to our position in the marketplace," Sperber said. "That makes us more attractive to NASCAR for a second race."
The new tunnel will have two-way traffic for transporters that includes haulers and a lane for pedestrians. The construction will remove the recognizable Goodyear bridge because it will no longer be needed. The removal will improve the sight lines for fans down the front stretch. Some grandstands have been removed to clear the way for the tunnel, but those will be reconstructed once the tunnel is complete.
Besides the tunnel, the $10 million construction project will include changes to Turn 2. The exit to the turn will be widened and the wall will be moved back to allow for three-wide racing, but the signature dogleg will not be removed.
"We are going to create a wider exit which should make for a little bit faster track," Sperber said. "(That will) create a new passing zone and more exciting on-track action."
PIR also toyed with the idea of repaving the entire track, but Sperber said that there will only be repaving work done in turns 2 and 4.
Sperber also said other changes to the track, such as adding lights and putting in soft walls or safer walls, have been put on hold for now.
"It is a full plate," he said of the project.
The next event scheduled is NASCAR's doubleheader weekend Oct. 4-5 featuring the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series and NASCAR Winston West Series.
PIR's main event, featuring NASCAR's Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Trucks series, is Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.