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The future of the Auto Club Speedway still a hot topic after Kyle Busch wins Sunday’s final NASCAR Cup race on the current track

Drivers at the Auto Club Speedway put on a five-wide salute to the fans Sunday Feb. 26,  prior to the last cup race at the two-mile track.
John Palminteri
Drivers at the Auto Club Speedway put on a five-wide salute to the fans Sunday Feb. 26, prior to the last cup race at the two-mile track.

FONTANA, Calif -  Central Coast racing fans have been as outspoken, and maybe more than those across the country,  about the future of the Auto Club Speedway property. 

The track had its final races over the weekend in the current configuration. It was built in 1997 and has lived out its acceptable surface life. NASCAR has not released the future of the two-mile track but if a replacement project goes through, it has been said to be a future short track, typically a half mile,  with multiple uses. So many variables are still being worked out.  That's given time for unbounding speculation from fans at the track, on national radio talk shows and social media sites.

Track President Dave Allen has been speaking out about the facility since the Busch Light Clash in Los Angeles about a month ago but has not been able to release specific details. Designs and decisions are ongoing.

That's been concerning for race fans who, since the 1970's have seen other tracks in Riverside and Ontario go away.The Sports Business Journal referenced public documents in a recent story that said 433 of the 522 acres at the speedway have been sold to an entity called Speedway SBC Development LLC. 

The first word of this for many people came from a tweet by  reporter Adam Stern.  The price is estimated at $544-million. 

Fans have widely speculated what will happen next with the remaining land and whether or not a raceway will eventually be built, especially with the sale price in the current property deal.

Sunday's Pala Casino 400 was won by Kyle Busch in a Lucas Oil Chevy for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), a new team for Busch, a former series champion.   He won his first NASCAR race at this speedway and his 61st win has also come at the same facility.
After the race he said, "the race track is pretty racy but honestly when you get about eight laps into a run you don't bother with the bottom anymore." He said drivers go for  lanes "three, four and five."

Looking ahead Busch says, "just hope the next track that we have puts on the show that we have been able to see here for the last ten years, 12 years."

Busch was flashing a resparked personality about the status of the sport, his RCR team, the fans and the year ahead.

There's a lot to be energized about. NASCAR was the most-watched sports event on TV this past weekend. The Sunday afternoon race on Fox had an estimated 4.315 million viewers.

Among those who decided not to watch the race on TV was Charles DiMauro from Santa Barbara. He was at the speedway in person and bought a pit pass to have access prior to the race.  He said, "this is really awesome. I'm right down here next to the cars."  Hearing the track is going away he said  "I am so sad they're going to be tearing this track up."   He was on site Saturday and Sunday by 6 a.m.along with other excited fans looking to be present for the historic finale.   

The Saturday Xfinity race was delayed until Sunday night due to rain. That race was won by John Hunter Nemechek who claimed the trophy and will forever be the last driver to score a victory at the current track.

Ryder Epson from Long Beach was with brother Hunter, and his cousin Rally Odell from the Santa Ynez Valley.   He said, "has been coming here since we were four or five years old."  He had access to the pits and was steps away from the track and cars.Hunter Epson said hearing that the facility was running its final races in 2023 he said, "it's kind of a bummer we have been coming here forever."

Odell was also in the pits prior to the race, "it's so nice to be up close and it is a really cool fan experience."  She went to the Clash in 2022.

Alan Salter from Santa Barbara said it was an experience he will never forget.    He said, "I think this is awesome.  The last race before it becomes a short track.  We love NASCAR." 

He has been coming for years, and the long morning drive was worth it to have up close access and a seat on the front stretch. Nearby and looking at the cars and pit boxes just moments from the start of the race, Stew Moore from Solvang said,  "I am a new NASCAR fan, about five years.    I don't know if they will ever open up a track again but I wanted to be here for this one."

It was also a special celebration. "It's my birthday weekend and it's the final race on this two-mile track". 

With raining and snowy weather off an on and a long drive from home to the track 60 miles east of Los Angeles, he said "it was worth it no matter what the weather was."  

NASCAR continues its swing to western states tracks, normally offering better weather this time of year, with a trip to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend.

That will be followed by a race at the Phoenix International Raceway.

As the drivers and public left the Auto Club Speedway, they left behind many unanswered questions about what it will become in the future, but anxiously await the next announcement.

There will be no race at the facility in 2024.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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