NASCAR's Steve Phelps discusses interest in Dodger Stadium, charter status

AVONDALE, Ariz. — NASCAR President Steve Phelps told NBC Sports on Saturday that looking at Dodger Stadium as a possible race site is a part of the sport’s creative approach to its schedule and that he also feels good about the proposal NASCAR presented teams on the next charter agreement.

Phelps said at Phoenix Raceway that he is “excited about where we’re going from a schedule standpoint in ’25 and beyond.”

Sports Business Journal reported this week that NASCAR had held discussions with officials from Dodger Stadium, the home to the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team, to host a NASCAR race there. Phelps said in an interview with Fox Sports before the Daytona 500 that NASCAR would be racing in Southern California in 2025.

“We are committed to the market,” Phelps told NBC Sports on Saturday about the Los Angeles market. “It’s important. What it looks like at this point next year, I don’t know. Was there an exploration with the Dodgers, working with Formula E and creating a potential joint opportunity there? Yeah.

“That should not be a surprise. It’s just due diligence. If something hits, great, and if it doesn’t so be it, but I think we need to continue to push the boundaries, not just from a schedule standpoint. I think we’ve seen that, or fans have seen that and media have seen that. We have a willingness to think differently and it’s working.”

NASCAR has held the Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum the past three years to begin the season. NASCAR’s contract with the coliseum expired with this year’s race and no announcement has been made if NASCAR will return there.

“It’s still on the table,” Phelps said of returning to the Coliseum.

NASCAR is looking for a site in the LA area with the speedway in Fontana, California, not likely to be ready until 2026 or 2027. NASCAR sold most of the land around the track, keeping enough to reconfigure the speedway from a 2-mile track to a short track. Such a project is expected to take 18 months but work has not begun. That’s left NASCAR’s plans in Los Angeles uncertain.

“My opinion, whether this happens or not, I think the Inland Empire is still a very viable opportunity,” Phelps said of where the Fontana track is located. “If we were not interested in building a racetrack there, ultimately, we should have just sold the other 100 acres. Why hold it? It doesn’t make any sense.

“We could have gotten a premium if we’d sold them all in one fell swoop, but we didn’t. Would I like to see us go back there and build that track? I would. We have to look at debt and different other things. It's a business that we need to run and be smart about it. Given my druthers, that’s what I’d like to do.”

Phelps explained how the business climate could impact the start time for work on the Fontana track.

“I think as interest rates go down, it looks like they will, the cost of capital goes down, too,” he said. “Right now, it’s high. It’s really expensive.”

Also, NASCAR’s charter agreement with teams expires after this season. The agreement sets the financial payments to teams.

In October 2022, Cup team executives stated that the economic model was “broken” for teams. No extension has been agreed upon. Jeff Gordon, vice chairman of Hendrick Motorsports and a member of the negotiating group for Cup teams, talked last month of “frustrations” with talks not leading to a deal, although he said he remained optimistic.

Phelps acknowledged differences with the teams but also remained optimistic of a deal.

“They desire to get something done, too,” Phelps said. “It's a negotiation. It probably depends on what lens you’re looking through. We’ve got some things to close the gap. The gap is not a chasm. It’s just a gap. I think there are some things that both sides would like to see as part what an extension would look like.

“What I do know is that it’s going to be a fair deal, and it’s going to put our teams in a better financial position, a path to profitability, for sure. I think it’ll increase their enterprise value. It’ll be more competitive on the racetrack, which is really the objectives they had talked about.

“Even the proposal on the table right now, I think, it does that. Maybe not to the degree that the teams would like. We’re in a good position.”