Auto Club Speedway may be one of the few places in Southern California where digital billboards don’t cause controversy.

When the Fontana speedway hosts the Auto Club 500 on Feb. 21, fans will be able to see video on new LED boards that measure 16 feet tall and 28.5 feet wide.

The screens were installed out of necessity when an original message board on turn one was damaged last year during a storm. International Speedway Corp., the Daytona Beach, Fla.-based parent of the track, provided a budget for the fix that turned out to be adequate to buy two new ones. The second has been installed on turn four.

“We’ve started to replace the video boards because they are old and we can’t get replacement parts. If they break, we can’t fix them, so this is a much needed upgrade,” said Mike Yurick, vice president of operations at Auto Club Speedway.

The sound system at the track also has been overhauled. Forty speakers were purchased and installed for the grandstands. Yurick said that both the message boards and speakers hadn’t been upgraded since the track opened in 1997.

The annual race is generating more excitement than usual. IndyCar star Danica Patrick will compete in her first stock car race, the Stater Bros. 300, a lower level Nationwide Series race that will be held the day before the main race.

Patrick has raced at the speedway one other time. She was a rookie at Auto Club Speedway in 2005 when she finished 18th in the IRL Toyota Indy 400.

Track officials have seen an uptick in media interest after the announcement that Patrick will be racing and expect an increase in ticket sales. General admission tickets start at $30 and parking is free.

Seat Holder

The Los Angeles Dodgers had unexpectedly high turnout at its annual Select-a-Seat event held last month at Dodger Stadium. The event was open to full- and partial-season ticket holders. Banners were still hanging on the outfield walls – either a subtle reminder to fans the team played in the National League Championship Series in October or a sign that the grounds crew has yet to report for spring training.

The two-day event gives fans an opportunity to visit the stadium and choose different season seats based on availability and price. About 3,000 people attended this year.

One longtime ticket holder, Larry Cohen of Cheviot Hills, found two seats available in a section that was much closer to behind home plate and decided to upgrade seats.

“This was the first time that I’ve attended Select-a-Seat and I decided to move from section 28 to section eight for a marginal cost increase,” Cohen said.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers launched an initiative focused on its top 75 clients. The “Platinum Lineup” had its first event last month at the Stadium Club, where business partners and sponsors were invited to dinner. About 100 people attended the event, where they were able to hear from and interact with Dodgers executives, coaches and broadcasters including owner Frank McCourt, General Manager Ned Colletti, Manager Joe Torre and broadcaster Vin Scully. Among others on hand were Tommy Lasorda, Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Garvey and Hall of Fame Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrín.

Brand Extension

Super Bowl champion coach and television broadcaster Jimmy Johnson has signed on as an endorser for Extenze, a male enhancement product. Extenze is manufactured and distributed by Monrovia’s Biotab Nutraceuticals Inc. and has annual revenue greater than $150 million.

“Jimmy Johnson is a powerful and very credible endorser for Extenze,” said Robert Yallen, chief executive of Inter/Media Advertising, the Encino-based ad firm that represents Extenze and hired Johnson.

Johnson will appear in several commercial spots that begin running this month during Nascar races. Biotab Nutraceuticals also sponsors an Extenze racing team on the Nascar circuit with driver Kevin Conway.

Box Score

The Northern Trust Open held at Riviera Country Club on Feb. 4-7 drew the smallest crowds in a decade. The tournament was hampered by rain and stiff competition from the highest-rated Super Bowl game in history. Next year’s event will be held during the weekend after the Super Bowl. … Rock Star Energy Drink became the official energy drink for the 2010 AVP Tour. The L.A.-based tour also partnered with the California Beach Volleyball Association, making the CBVA the grassroots partner for California events. The organizations will run qualifier events for spots in local events like the Manhattan Beach Open.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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