DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Daytona International Speedway is getting another facelift, this one considerably bigger than the last.
Three years after a complete repaving project, the famed track is overhauling the frontstretch to enhance the "fan experience."
International Speedway Corp., which owns Daytona and 12 other NASCAR tracks, announced funding approval Tuesday. ISC estimates the redesign with cost between $375 million and $400 million. Daytona had hoped to get some public funding, but the Florida House of Representatives declined to even vote on a bill that would have provided financial assistance to several sporting venues in the Sunshine State.
ISC pushed forward anyway, scheduling the project to begin July 5 and be completed by January 2016 - in time for the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Daytona 500.
The redevelopment will give Daytona's aging grandstands a modern look and feel. It will include expanded entrances and a series of escalators and elevators to transport fans to three different concourse levels, each featuring spacious and strategically-placed social "neighborhoods" along the nearly mile-long frontstretch. Those 11 neighborhoods, each measuring the size of a football field, will allow fans to meet and socialize during events without ever missing any on-track action.
"We are truly creating history with this unprecedented endeavor," ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy said. "I commend the board's decision to move forward on our plan to redevelop the company's signature motorsports facility, thereby shaping the vision of Daytona for the next 50 years.
"The decision was made with strong consideration of the current macroeconomic condition and a clear view for our long-term growth. This significant private investment is a strategic use of our capital that will ensure the long-term viability of the iconic speedway, and when completed, will contribute favorably to the company's revenues, as well as to our community and the sport as a whole."
Backstretch grandstands will be removed while wider and more comfortable seating will be installed throughout the frontstretch. When the project is complete, Daytona will have reduced its capacity by 46,000 seats to 101,000.
"The redevelopment of Daytona International Speedway reaffirms its status as the 'World Center of Racing' for years to come," France Kennedy said. "It is imperative that we build upon my grandfather's vision to create a world-class facility with premium amenities to provide unparalleled experiences for our guests and partners. Doing so will ensure that the Daytona 500 and all our other events continue to drive our business while serving as a significant economic engine for the region."
NASCAR driver turns himself in on charges
SHELBY, N.C. (AP) - NASCAR driver Mike Harmon has turned himself in to authorities in North Carolina after warrants were issued for him and a business partner.
Sheriff's deputies in Rowan County say warrants were issued for Harmon and the business partner on Monday. Authorities say the men are charged with breaking and entering and larceny after breaking and entering.
Investigators say the men allegedly stole at least seven vehicles from NASCAR's truck racer Jennifer Jo Cobb last year. Harmon once was the team manager for Cobb's Nationwide racing team.
The charges are a result of search warrants executed at a storage shed at a North Carolina location and at Harmon's shop in Mooresville on May 28.
Car won't start; Johnson still wows school kids
EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) - Ready to thrill a few hundred school kids, Jimmie Johnson hopped into a replica of his No. 48 car to fire up the engine.
The battery was dead.
He and some members of his group tried to bump start the car. That just led to some odd grinding noises and the car started leaking oil.
The NASCAR star jogged through the parking lot to the grass plot where the kids were gathered, chanting his name.
It was an appropriate entrance, considering that Johnson was at Chase Avenue Elementary in his hometown to check out a jogging track that was built with money from the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/Lowe's Toolbox for Education Champions Grant.