Penske Speedway Commands Priority

Les Richter is here this week in his role as senior vice president of NASCAR, officiating over the Daytona 500, but next Tuesday he will be back in Southern California, working toward construction of Roger Penske's California Speedway.

The two-mile superspeedway, planned for Indy car and NASCAR Winston Cup racing, will be on the site of the former Kaiser steel mill in San Bernardino County between Fontana on the east and Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga on the west. The mill closed in 1983.

"We're about 30 days behind our projected schedule, but once we get through the environmental-impact-report stages, we can start demolition and cleanup of the property," Richter said. "If all goes well, we can start work on the track construction in June."

The EIR, which addresses the project's impact on air, water, sewers, traffic, safety and noise, is being studied by the state. Following its approval, a 30-day review period allows anyone to protest its findings.

"Once we get through the EIR, which should be in a couple of months, we can apply for a building permit from the county," Richter said. "Then we can proceed with demolition and cleanup of the acreage we expect to use for the track.

"We don't anticipate any problems with the county because no matter what the property is used for, it has to be better than what it once was."

The first phase of the project, rehabilitation of an eight-acre plot where toxic waste remained from steel-mill coke ovens, has been nearly completed. More than 350 truckloads of contaminated dirt and trash have been taken to toxic-waste dumps.

"The entire area, after it has been completely cleansed, will be paved over," Richter said. "It will be beneath the garage area."

The work is being done in partnership by Penske Speedway, Inc., which will construct and operate the speedway, and Kaiser Resources, Inc., owner of the property.

A CART Indy car race has been scheduled for the fall of 1996, and Richter said the 60,000-seat track should be ready. The first NASCAR race isn't planned until 1997, at the earliest.

Richter is on loan from his administrative duties with NASCAR to spearhead the California Speedway program.

"I'll go to some selected races on the Winston Cup schedule, but basically I'm full time in California," he said. "That should give some indication of how much people in racing want to see a track succeed in the Los Angeles area after losing Riverside and Ontario."

Ontario Motor Speedway, a $30-million facility located a few miles west of the new racing site, was razed in 1980 after 10 years of operation, and Riverside International Raceway's road course was closed in 1988 to make way for a shopping mall.

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