SCOTTSDALE, Az. - NASCAR's season kicks off in three weeks with the Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Florida, but several members of the industry gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona, today for its annual West Coast Media Day.
Held at Mountain Shadows Resort, the event was highlighted by a question-and-answer session with drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Erik Jones. It also featured an interview panel with ISM (Phoenix) Raceway Track President Bryan Sperber, Auto Club Speedway Track President David Allen and Las Vegas Motor Speedway President & General Manager Chris Powell. FOX Sports NASCAR Reporter Kaitlyn Vincie moderated the festivities.
A main theme of the day was excitement for NASCAR's three-week "west coast swing," which begins in Las Vegas on March 4, heads to Phoenix on March 11, then concludes in Fontana on March 18.
"We're definitely looking forward to coming out to the west coast, it's one of my favorite swings that we do in our sport." said Stenhouse who made the Playoffs for the first time last season after winning races at Talladega and Daytona.
Jones echoed Stenhouse's sentiments, adding that the quality of the three tracks on the west coast swing contribute to close, side-by-side racing.
"Phoenix (ISM), Las Vegas and Auto Club are three cool race tracks and three tracks that are fun to race on as well," said Jones, the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. "They put on a great show."
Stenhouse, 29, and Jones, 21, stand at the forefront of the youth movement taking over NASCAR. The sport has been infiltrated with millennial talents like Jones, who are competing for wins with established superstars like champions Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski.
"It's a neat era that I got to come into that I got to compete against a lot of unique and great drivers in our sport, I got to race against Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and now Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch," Jones said. "A lot of guys that I've gotten to race against, some would consider the best of all time.
"For me it's really about making our own mark and paving our own way now, and if we can just win at this point in NASCAR, I think it says a lot. It's probably more competitive than it's ever been.
The track presidents discussed many of their facility upgrades and campaigns that will enhance the track experience for fans. They include ISM's new grandstands over where its new start/finish line will be located on the dogleg, Auto Club's "Fastest Sunday of the Year" campaign promoting how fun it is to attend a race and Las Vegas' new NASCAR slate that includes two triple-header race weekends.
"The fans are the winners in what we've been doing," Powell said. "Not just in Las Vegas, but in Phoenix and Fontana. We're just happy to be a part of it."
Fans can follow NASCAR's three-week adventure out west using the social media hashtag #NASCARGoesWest.
--- NASCAR Wire Service ---