Could NASCAR race in Phoenix move ahead of the Daytona 500 on the schedule?

AVONDALE, Ariz. — Yet more change is coming to NASCAR and ISM Raceway could be part of it, especially after a disappointing crowd for Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500.

The NASCAR industry is in deep discussion about major revisions to the Cup Series’ marathon 36-race, February-to-November schedule once the sanctioning body’s existing five-year contracts with its host racetracks expires after 2020. One idea is to start before the Daytona 500, which would make the Avondale oval one of perhaps only three climatically-suitable venues.

A date change also seems in order considering the track’s 42,000 new grandstand seats appeared about 10,000 short of fully occupied.

“I wish I could tell you (why),” said Julie Giese, who succeeded Bryan Sperber as track president last November. “I think we’ll learn a lot after this event based on who’s coming. Are they new or old customers? I’m a data-driven person and my marketing background will help.

“One of the things I’d like to do with this event is create events within the event. November (NASCAR’s playoff semifinals) is very focused on the competition and we’ve seen a positive fan response for (ticket) renewals.”

Ryan Blaney (12) and Chase Elliott (9) lead the field to the green flag for the start of the TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway. (Photo: Stacy Revere, Getty Images)

Sunday was just the track’s second race weekend following a $178 million modernization. That investment by parent company International Speedway Corp. makes it virtually unthinkable that Phoenix would lose one of its dates if NASCAR reduces its number of events.

“Would I say it makes sense to come to a jewel like this twice a year?” said NASCAR President Steve Phelps. “I would say it does. If a decision was made to run before the Daytona 500, obviously weather plays a huge factor in that. Our options would be limited.”

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