Welcome race fans

For nearly 10 years, California Speedway in Fontana has been welcoming race fans to Inland Southern California. However, local officials admit Fontana — and the region as a whole — hasn’t fully capitalized on the racetrack’s success and popularity by giving fans something else to do while in town, particularly within the area immediately adjacent to the speedway.

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2001
California Speedway

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2001
California Speedway

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2001
Former Kaiser Steel

For those not familiar with the venue, California Speedway sits on a portion of the former Kaiser Steel Mill, once a mighty presence within Southern California. Needless to say, the area surrounding the large mill grew into a harsh industrial landscape. And although nearly all steel production in the area has since ceased, numerous industrial remnants remain. In general, the immediate area is not very hospitable and offers few places to shop, dine or lodge, leaving fans to search elsewhere for such activities. This equates to lost tax revenue for both Fontana and, to a lesser extent, San Bernardino County.

Complicating matters is the fact the raceway sits within an unincorporated island of San Bernardino County surrounded by the city of Fontana, meaning jurisdictional issues — such as zoning — between the city and county are not always on the same page. Thus, local officials are looking at using a similar city-county partnership employed to develop an area adjacent to the five-year-old Kansas Speedway:

“What they’ve done in Kansas City is exemplary,” said Ken Hunt, Fontana’s city manager. “We would love to see more hotels and entertainment facilities and would enjoy working with the county to capitalize on the speedway’s presence here … their success is certainly tied to our success.”

Riverside Press-Enterprise – September 1, 2006

Let’s hope they succeed. In the long run, what’s good for California Speedway is good for Inland Southern California, which, with the exception of 1988 – 1997, has had a long-standing history with NASCAR and racing in general via the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway and Ontario Motor Speedway.

(2024 Update: In 2008, the track’s name was changed to Auto Club Speedway following a naming rights deal. In 2011, the track began hosting only one major NASCAR weekend (versus two since 2004). Declining attendance over the years affected the track’s viability. And as early as 2020, plans were floated to redevelop the track into a smaller race facility along the lines of Martinsville and Bristol raceways. Plans were soon put on hold, however, reportedly in part due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As of 2024, NASCAR states they are still evaluating their long-term plans for the Southern California market.)

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