One of the longest-serving track presidents in NASCAR also has seniority among the Valley’s major sports entities.

One of the longest-serving track presidents in NASCAR also has seniority among the Valley’s major sports entities.

This month is Bryan Sperber’s 15th anniversary as president of Phoenix International Raceway, a tenure beyond any within International Speedway Corp., PIR’s parent company and the largest owner/operator of major U.S. racetracks. Sperber’s position as an ISC track boss is even longer when his 1997-2002 service at the legendary Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course is added.

Obvious PIR highlights under Sperber’s leadership include gaining a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series date in 2005, adding lights to allow night racing, track repaving in 2011 and a $178 million redevelopment of the facility scheduled to be completed in November 2018.

“There were people who chuckled when we suggested we might be a candidate for that (second weekend),” Sperber said Friday during a break in preparations for Sunday’s Camping World 500. “To have the process unfold the way it did, when we went from a laughing stock to a frontrunner, was really gratifying.”

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is among those happy with what Sperber has accomplished.

“I’ve always been impressed with Bryan from an execution standpoint,” Johnson said. “He’s always vocal about doing what’s right for drivers, teams and fans. I’m a big fan of his.”

RELATED:NASCAR’s Brian France taking racing in new direction

Added Scottsdale resident Danica Patrick: “One thing that I’ve noticed from living here is there is a very deep pool of advertising. People know that racing is in the Valley. I think that’s something that feels different than any other location we go to.”

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch recently said he thinks the Cup championship deciding event could move to PIR from Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It (redevelopment) gives you this impression that Sperber is doing what he needs to do to position himself to be our year-end finale and to see his track host the final Cup points race,” Busch said.

“That isn’t something that has been at the forefront of any of our plans,” Sperber said. “I will say that when the project is completed, Phoenix Raceway will be a Class A-plus venue to host championship events, should that opportunity arise. You never say never, but as of today, there are no plans for that.”

MORE:Roush sees retirement from NASCAR ahead

NASCAR qualifying 

Joey Logano capped a day in the spotlight with a fast late lap Friday to claim the pole for the NASCAR Camping World 500.

With the temperature in the low 90s and the sun beginning to set, Ryan Blaney qualified second to give Ford the top two spots to start Sunday’s race.

Logano and Blaney bumped Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Chevrolet out of the top spot he had held through most of the final five-minute qualifying round on Friday.

The day began for Logano with a meeting with Kyle Busch and NASCAR officials about the crash and subsequent scuffle late in last Sunday’s race in Las Vegas.

Logano won with a top speed of 137.321 mph on the Phoenix International Raceway track made slick by the heat.


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

McDowell update

There is good news for Glendale’s Michael McDowell, who last year became the first Arizona driver to win a NASCAR national series event.

His Leavine Family Racing team is committed to running the full 36-race Cup schedule. The team has a technical relationship with Richard Childress Racing, getting better engines and chassis. And he’s working with crew chief Todd Parrott, who won a championship in 1999 with Dale Jarrett.

The bad news: One of Leavine’s major sponsors left after last season, so they are funding almost essentially the entire program.

“We’re OK for the season, we secured a charter (which commits Leavine to run all the races and gives them access to various revenue streams from NASCAR) so you don’t have a choice but to run the full season or you lose the charter,” McDowell said. “Unfortunately, they are spending a lot of their own money right now. We’re working on sponsorship all the time, just like everyone else. It’s an ongoing battle.”

McDowell’s best finish this season in the No. 95 Chevrolet was 15th in the Daytona 500, where he ran out of fuel in the closing laps. It doesn’t appear he’ll get a chance to defend his Xfinity Series victory at Road America, though, as Childress currently has another driver scheduled.

First responders

Kevin Harvick expressed frustration at what he considered the inordinate amount of time Las Vegas Motor Speedway safety crews took to reach him after a flat tire resulted in a hard impact. Harvick wasn’t injured.

NASCAR has added a small group of medical personnel who travel to all the races. The IndyCar Series has had its own traveling safety team — doctors, nurses, paramedics and firefighters — for about 25 years.

PIR coordinates with NASCAR on a chase vehicle to go to the scene of an accident and well as provide local crews who handle track cleanup after an incident.

– Associated Press contributed to this report.