It’s actually happening – we think. Irwindale Speedway, first slated for demolition in 2011 but reopened in 2013, is now scheduled to close January 31, 2018.
Opened in March of 1999, Irwindale Speedway holds several excellent tracks, including a 1/8 mile drag strip. It has been a host for a multitude of exciting NASCAR races and Formula Drift events, and is something of a staple for racing fans in California. The scheduled closing came as a bit of a surprise to those working at the speedway, who had expected it to continue operation into its 20th year. While the developers hoping to use the land have been open about their plans, the schedule has been unclear and delayed for so long that the declaration of this concrete date was jarring.
“In all honesty, we were here and in it for the long haul; in fact, we were in the process of putting out our complete schedule for the 2018 season,” said Jim Cohan, CEO of Team 211 Entertainment, who operates the facility. “All that made this news very difficult for me to hear, and very hard on our whole team.”
Plans to close Irwindale Speedway began with a declaration of bankruptcy in 2011, but construction of the proposed replacement outlet mall was delayed due to lack of committed stores. This low level of interest, perhaps also responsible for the speedway’s declining success, allowed the tracks to continue hosting events even through a second closing scare in 2015. It’s not clear whether a mall will still fill the space cleared by the speedway’s destruction, or whether something else will take that place, but either way, the value of the land is clearly proving very attractive to someone uninvested in the venue’s use for racing.
Residents in the area of the speedway, along with long-time racers, have expressed concern that the tracks’ closure will lead to an increase in dangerous and illegal street racing as displaced drivers resort to unwise measures in their search for speed.
The closure of one track may not seem like that much of a problem, but as tracks across California are bought out and destroyed, the availability of venues for high-speed motorsports continues to decrease. Time will tell whether this causes more serious issues than a lack of convenience among fans and drivers; we hope that those who love racing out in California stay safe.