Renderings courtesy Phoenix International Raceway

Phoenix Raceway announces $178 million in renovations

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PHOENIX (AP) Come November 2018, the new finish line at Phoenix Raceway could produce some of auto racing’s more dramatic moments.

The start and finish line will be relocated to the oval track’s celebrated backstretch dogleg, a flat and wide corner where some of the sport’s wildest maneuvers and strategies have occurred.

The change in position will impact NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series and Verizon IndyCar Series drivers the most when the circuits arrive in Arizona for races. It’s a major part of $178 million in track renovations that break ground on Feb. 11 and are scheduled to be completed by November 2018.

“There is going to be high-energy restarts,” NASCAR driver Joey Logano said Monday at a formal announcement of the track project. “You see us pull that dive-bomb move and cut off the dogleg quite a bit, which makes Turn 3 pretty interesting. With where the start/finish line is now going to be placed … it’s free game. Do whatever you want.”

There will be a new 45,000-seat grandstand with individual seats positioned on top of the dogleg, with elevator and escalator towers on both ends to allow fans to access the upper level. Wireless Internet will be available throughout the seating bowl and the entire venue. New suites are being added and a 300-person, climate-controlled club area also is part of the remodel.

A fan zone is being planned for the infield, which means everything currently there will be replaced. A garage area is set to be the anchor of the fan zone, and a new Victory Lane is planned to allow fans to get closer to the drivers before and after races.

A new pre-race zone, medical center and media center also are in the works. The midway will become an interactive area with a new sports bar on site and a tunnel to access the fan zone on the infield.

“It’ll be like coming to a brand new race track,” NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton said, “but to a community that we’ve been very fortunate to be a part of for three decades.”

The Avondale track located west of downtown Phoenix was repaved two years ago and the apron coming out of Turn 2 was widened. IndyCar racing returned last year after an 11-year absence.

“It’s going to be very exciting for us, very exciting for the fans,” IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi said. “Everyone in a front-row seat right there, it will be pretty fantastic as well.”

Rossi hopes more tracks will follow suit in the future and be proactive in making races more fan-friendly.

The move in seating will bring fans closer to parking areas and put them in more shade, Phoenix Raceway president Bryan Sperber said.

He said he spoke to more than 30 drivers for their thoughts on changing the finish line position.

“It’s something that we’ve been looking at for many years,” Sperber added. “It’s an important market for motor racing, and I think we all felt that the track here should be our best foot forward as a sport and as an industry. So this project is an opportunity for us to really elevate our game and how we present motor racing in one of the top-10 markets in the country.”

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.