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Motor Press Guild Exclusive: Inside the Auto Club Speedway

It’s not everyday that the Motor Press Guild gets an exclusive invite from Auto Club Speedway, President Dave Allen. Sure most of us MPG members have reported, watched or participated in various events that his facility hosts but a hands on with the organizations brass, well that was an honor not to be missed.

It would be a full afternoon with a VIP tour of the entire facility plus a few full speed laps around the 2-mile track in an official NASCAR Toyota Camry Pace Car. Then “the crème de la crème”, we would be able to drive our own cars on the track. Needless to say, I was prompt for the 12 o’clock start time.

Our adventure started with lunch at the Speedway’s marquee club. Originally built to house scoring, its pit road setting offers incredible views overlooking the start finish line. A short one-hour power-point presentation by President, Dave Allen, and Director of Communications, David Talley, followed the delicious all you can eat meal. Their message dealt with every aspect of the large 568-acre facility, its point, stop thinking of us as a racetrack cause what we are is an entertainment facility.

Auto Club Speedway, President Dave Allen

Once we were full, fat and happy, Dave Allen took us for an on track drive and orientation. Being one of the fastest tracks on the NASCAR circuit he pointed out lines and bumps and how the car seemed flat even in the 14-degree banking turns as long as you were running at speed.

Our adventure continued as Communications and Social Media Manager, Hillary Angel, took us on a tour of the 568-acre site. I won’t bore you with too many facts but did you know the Speedway has 300,000 tons of asphalt paving, 17 miles of fencing and that it’s structures took 230,000 concrete blocks to build? The public address system has 25 amplifiers with 175 speakers and over 600 video monitors not counting the ones the TV people bring in when they are covering an event. Yes, if I’m ever on Jeopardy, host Alex Trebek will be amazed at my Auto Club Speedway trivia knowledge.

Communications and Social Media Manager, Hillary Angel

The Auto Club Dragway was an interesting stop. A full 1/4 mile NHRA Drag Strip it hosts numerous pro events along with the popular “Wednesday Nights Lights” where anyone can race their street legal cars. It is also home to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School. Once in danger of being permanently shut down the facility constructed a 1,800 foot long, 25 feet high sound wall with aid from the NHRA, Auto Club, SEMA, K&N Filters and Lucas Oil for about $1 million. A partial list of their 2018 schedule includes: NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series; NHRA Summit ET Series; Open Test & Tune; Bugorama; Bug-In; Antique Nationals; Hot VWs Drag Day and a multitude more.

Another year round favorite on the Auto Club Speedway grounds is the CalSpeed Karting Center. Located just outside the high banks of turn four it features a world class multi-configuration 3/4 mile, 15 corner purpose-built kart racing circuit that allows drivers to reach speeds of up to 90mph. CalSpeed is popular with the pro organizations as well as the beginner. Rentals and a kart driving schools are available.

Conference centers skid pads, garages, showers, kitchens, “Fun Zones” our tour covered it all before we returned to the Speedway’s marquee club for some desert and drink before we were given the green light to drive out on the track.

So what did I learn? Well, there was plenty. The Speedway rents out for over 300 days a year. Movies, television, commercials and various four and two wheel organizations that include Bimmerfest, SCCA, Porsche Club of America, Festival of Speed, Fastback Riders Motorcycle School, Speed Ventures, NASCAR Racing Experience, Rusty Wallace Racing Experience, Fast Toys, and Weekly Vehicle Testing Groups keep the place busy.

Then there are the concerts. Big names, big sponsors, big crowds. Lets not forget the charity work they do. The “Light the Night" track walk celebration to end cancer, Festival Cardenas. Fund drives - Community Involvement gives $250,000 to support local fund drives. Nearly 26,000 families are enrolled in “Lefty’s Kids Club”. “Lefty’s Reading Challenge” gives free literacy programs to 150,000 student and more than 250 elementary schools.

Auto Club Speedway brings in more that $105 million in economic activity to the Inland Empire each year, $148.7 million in economic output in Southern California and $156.2 to the state. Large numbers by anyone’s count. Thank you Auto Club Speedway for your philanthropy.

More Auto Club Speedway information at: https://www.autoclubspeedway.com/

Closing Text: 

Thanks for Listening

Harald “Howie” Zechner

Motor Press Journalist

Trailblazer