Barring a sudden change of heart, the Pala Casino 400 on 26 February will be the final NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in its two-mile configuration. As the track prepares for its long awaited redevelopment into a half-mile short track, speedway president Dave Allen said Saturday that he does not expect it to appear on the 2024 calendar due to construction.
“Even with the most aggressive timeline, we will not race in 2024 on the new track,” Allen said. “The timeline beyond that still has yet to be determined. There are just milestones we need to get through, not the least of which is the design of the race track. We’re still working on that. There are a lot of iterations we’re still designing, both on track and off track.”
Although Fontana is one of the fastest tracks on the schedule, declining attendance since the early 2010s and the aging track surface prompted NASCAR, who owns the track via International Speedway Corporation, to initiate renovation talks. NASCAR also hopes to sell off the surrounding area formerly part of the larger oval to outside interests like businesses to stimulate the local economy.
While Fontana’s temporary removal means Southern California loses a points race, there have been musings about the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is hosting the Busch Light Clash exhibition this weekend, being upgraded to a points-paying event in its place.
“I think NASCAR whatever deems is important to them. I’m sure having a race in this area is very important with the talk of the two-mile oval in Fontana, you would have no more and they may be taking a year off while it rebuilds,” said Cup driver Denny Hamlin on Saturday. “Certainly, I think they’re going to be open to options and maybe this does fall in that slot or we go somewhere else.”
The renovation was originally supposed to take place in 2021, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fontana had also been the final race before the 2020 season was frozen by the pandemic before being removed from the 2021 calendar. Kyle Larson won the return race in 2022.