ISC bumps portfolio with Phoenix purchase

Monday, July 14, 1997 – The battle for track ownership took another step forward as International Speedway Corp. announced the purchase of Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway. The facility boasts a 1-mile asphalt layout and has hosted one NASCAR premier series event annually since 1988. According to reports, the purchase price was $46 million. It was announced that track owner and president Buddy Jobe would remain as president of the facility.

The purchase increased ISC’s track ownership to five facilities. In addition to PIR, at that time the Daytona Beach, Fla. group also owned Daytona International Speedway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The company also had an 11 percent interest in Penske Motorsports, which owned three facilities, including two that hosted NASCAR premier series events.

In making the announcement, ISC chairman and CEO Bill France Jr., acknowledged interest in possibly building tracks in Chicago, Kansas City and Sacramento, Calif.

The move evened track ownership for Cup facilities. Speedway Motorsports Inc., founded by Bruton Smith, owned Charlotte Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. In addition, his group held co-ownership of North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.

PIR executives said the sale would allow grandstand seating at the facility to be increased from 65,000 to 90,000. Estimated attendance for the ’96 NASCAR event was 102,000.

Isaac finds trouble, Pearson nets win

Sunday May 7, 1972 – Davie Pearson managed to swing around trouble when it struck race leader Bobby Isaac and the result was a victory in the Winston 500 at Alabama International Motor Speedway for the Wood Brothers Racing driver. Pearson was trailing Isaac with two laps remaining when the leader hit the wall after contact with the lapped entry of Jimmy Crawford.

Isaac, who still managed to finish second in spite of his skirmish with Crawford, had ignored a black flag from NASCAR due to an unattached gas cap as the final laps wound down. He was allowed to keep his runner-up finish but fined $1,500. NASCAR president Bill France Jr. said afterward that officials had the option of penalizing, disqualifying or suspending Isaac for the infraction. “It isn’t easy inspecting a car going 190 mph,” France told reporters.

Asked how the call could have differed had Isaac won the race instead of finishing second, NASCAR Vice President Lin Kuchler said, “I guess we’d still be meeting.”

Richard Petty finished fifth and earned a $10,000 bonus for leading the points standings after the season’s 11th event. Another $10,000 was split among the drivers second through fifth in the standings after the race.

Country music star and sometimes racer Marty Robbins finished 18th in the race to earn Rookie of the Race honors. However, officials stripped Robbins of his finish for an improperly installed carburetor, leaving him last in the 50-car field.

The race saw the debut of Darrell Waltrip in NASCAR’s premier series. Waltrip qualified 25th and finished 38th in the No. 95 Terminal Transport Mercury. It was the first of 809 career starts in the series for the three-time champion and NASCAR Hall of Fame member.

Ford stands ground, calls for series exit

Thursday, April 21, 1966 – After two days of meeting with factory-backed teams, officials with Ford Motor Co., remained steadfast in their decision to pull out of NASCAR due to weight restrictions put in place with the new overhead cam engine. John Cowley and Jacques Passino met with the various parties in Charlotte, N.C. to discuss the company’s stance. NASCAR’s Bill France and USAC competition director Henry Banks approved the SOHC engine in March but stipulated teams using the engine must add 427 pounds to the overall weight of the car.  Ford officials called the additional weight an unfair disadvantage.

According to reports, five of the seven factory Ford drivers agreed to stand behind the boycott. Refusing to go along with the move were Curtis Turner and Junior Johnson

Several Ford drivers were considering a move to drag racing, including Turner, Fred Lorenzen, Dick Hutcherson, Cale Yarborough and Ned Jarrett.

Ford officials discussed several options with the factory-backed teams at the time: releasing the drivers and allowing them to operate as independents while still using Ford equipment; paying drivers for the remainder of the years while withholding parts and equipment going forward; and allowing drivers to compete as independents while allowing various Ford dealers to bear the brunt of the costs.

By the time the annual Southern 500 rolled around, most if not all Ford factory teams had returned to NASCAR competition.