Nestled in the foothills of Arizona’s Estrella Mountains, ISM Raceway is one of America’s most challenging ovals. Though originally built for open wheel racing, over the past two decades the desert flower has become even more famous for stock car competition.
With its short front straight and asymmetrical layout – including a trademark left-hand dog leg on the backstretch — this demanding one mile circuit has been a favorite with top driving talent since it opened in 1964. That fall Mario Andretti got his big career break when he manhandled an old front engine Offy “roadster” IndyCar around the tricky track. Other legendary Indy shoes including A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, numerous Unsers, Michael Andretti, Sam Hornish, Jr and Dario Franchitti all competed successfully at ISM Raceway, as did Dutchman Arie Luyendyk.
NASCAR first came to the Valley of the Sun in 1988 and stock car drivers have since found ISM Raceway every bit as challenging as their open wheel counterparts. The list of NASCAR winners reads like a Who’s Who of stock car racing including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, the father and son Earnhardts, Bill Elliott, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, Kurt and Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.
In 2012, the International Speedway Corporation completed a major overhaul of ISM Raceway that widened the front straight to 62 feet (19 meters), repaved the pit stalls with concrete and moved the dogleg outward by 95 ft (29 m) while increasing its radius to 500 ft (150 m) and changing its banking to 10-11 degrees. In addition, the track changed to progressive banking in Turns 1 and 2 while Turns 3 and 4 were changed to 8-9 degrees in banking and an infield road course was removed, making PIR an oval-only facility. Although iRacing remodeled its digital version of ISM Raceway to reflect those changes, the oval’s previous layout was also retained as “Phoenix International Raceway circa 2008” and includes the 13 turn, 1.51 mile (2.43 km) road course that hosted professional sports car racing events from 2000-06.