The year 2023 will be historic for Auto Club Speedway.
For the last time, NASCAR’s top drivers will be racing around Fontana’s two-mile oval. Then, after the Pala Casino 400 on Feb. 26, the facility is scheduled to be converted into a short track, and most of the property now occupied by the speedway will be transformed into a large area for commercial development.
So it will be a dramatic change — but is it a positive one?
Some fans who have been attending races at the speedway have been expressing their discontent with NASCAR’s decision to alter the track that had been the site of many exciting moments over the past quarter-century.
Other racing enthusiasts, though, are looking forward to the possibilities that the short track will bring.
Many of these mixed reactions could be seen in the comments on the speedway’s Facebook page last month.
“My interest in NASCAR will end with the loss of the track,” said one of the fans, Mark Sherfey, who called the reconfiguration a “terrible idea.”
Joseph T. Dilger commented: “The track is the best it’s ever been, and you’re gonna screw it up.”
“Should leave the track alone. Obviously they don’t listen to the fans,” said Jarrod Casteel.
Bill Newberry said: “So sad that this awesome speedway is being destroyed.”
“Tearing down the two-mile for a half-mile is NASCAR's dumbest idea yet. They must be stopped,” Mike Maher said.
David Marquez was emphatic: “Don’t don’t make it a short track!”
But while racing devotees like Roger Elliott said they “like it just the way it is, fast and exciting,” some other commenters said the short track will be even better.
Edward M. Corrado exclaimed: “I’m ready for the short track!” and Emily Burke added: “Me too!”
“Short track racing will be great, more action,” George Guzman said.
Richard Schwartz said he loves the current setup, but he is also pleased with plans for the future arrangement, saying he “can't wait to be there for the first race on the new track.”
Attendance totals for Fontana’s NASCAR Cup events have been declining in recent years, and some observers wonder how many people will be in the stands for the final driver showdown on the oval.
The speedway’s website said that demand for tickets is “high” for the race on the “two-mile surface known for its five-wide racing and legendary winners.”
Johnny Negrette definitely plans to be there. “Got my tickets!” he said.
Others such as Brenton Baderdeen, Robert Flick, and Laura Sanchez Page are also committed to being at the track on Feb. 26.
Chris Riley said he will remain a devotee of the speedway, both in 2023 and in ensuing years.
“Gonna be there and look forward to it being a short track,” Riley said.
For ticket information, visit www.autoclubspeedway.com.