NASCAR festival coming to Tucson

Phoenix International Raceway completed negotiations Monday to bring an interactive NASCAR fan festival to the Tucson Mall on June 27.

Defending Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch, NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan and Fox Sports analyst Jeff Hammond will meet fans, sign autographs and answer questions in the mall's center court, PIR communications manager Mike Prusinski said Monday. NASCAR 101, as the track is billing the event, will be free to the public.

"We're excited to bring this event to Tucson," Prusinski said. "We want NASCAR to know we have passionate fans everywhere in the state.

"Tucson is an important market because we have two NASCAR weekends in Arizona, and we want to keep two in the future."

PIR held its first NASCAR 101 at Superstition Springs Mall in Mesa in April and drew 2,000 fans, Prusinski said.

"Everyone tells us we will have at least that many in Tucson, especially since Kurt Busch will be there," he said.

Busch attended the UA for two years before leaving Tucson to drive in the NASCAR's Featherlite Southwest Tour and Craftsman Truck Series. The Las Vegas native joined the Cup Series full time in 2001.

Busch won the 2004 championship in the first year of NASCAR's Chase for the Championship. He's 11th in the points standings, finishing out of the top 10 in four of six races since winning at PIR on April 23.

Gaughan returned to the Truck Series this season after driving in the Cup Series last year. Gaughan finished fourth in the 2003 Truck standings, leading the points race until the final race of the season.

"We think NASCAR 101 will be fun for people who know auto racing and for people who don't," Prusinski said, adding that PIR is hoping to bring in the Nextel Cup trophy and Fox's cutaway car as part of the event.

"NASCAR is very popular in Tucson. We think this event will be very well received," he said.

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