Houston Raceway Park, a regular springtime stop on NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series tour, will hold its final – and 35th – race next season. The track, near Texas’ southeastern border, has seen the best of the best competition in drag racing history over the past third of a century, but new property owners have elected to make the drag racing complex into an industrial park.
“Our family is extremely proud to have showcased the top level of professional drag racing for 35 wonderful years,” said track operator Seth Angel. “It’s been a dream come true to meet and work with all the incredible drivers, team owners and NHRA executives who come together each year to entertain the millions of racing fans in our area.
“From pre-season tests, to years where we had two national events, to the scores of legends who have raced here, on to the championships decided on our grounds, it’s been an incredible high-speed ride,” he said. “Our family is forever indebted to the sport of NHRA drag racing and will cherish the amazing memories we’ve made when this chapter closes next spring.”
Houston Raceway Park’s sea-level location is renowned for creating an oxygen-rich environment for both amateur and professional straight-line racers. From hosting its first national event in 1988, the 500-acre facility, then co-owned by the Gay family of Dickenson, Texas, together with longtime friends of brothers Greg, Gary and Glen Angel (the latter deceased), the track has hosted some magical moments in drag racing. The circuit was purchased wholly by the Angel brothers in 2004.
Gene Snow executed the NHRA’s first four-second run of 4.99 seconds at the inaugural, 1988 race. Fellow Texan Eddie Hill topped Snow by running what was at the time a staggering 4.93-sec in the same race’s final round of Top Fuel to take the win. Those two passes set off an advanced interest in the sport.
Another racing moment that captivated fans was “The Burndown,” in which bitter rivals Warren Johnson and Scott Geoffrion sat in the pre-stage beams for more than a minute trying to unnerve one another. The track hosted first-time victories for a pair of future multi-time world champions: Scott Kalitta and Jeg Coughlin Jr. Larry Dixon, a three-time Top Fuel titleholder, ran the first quarter-mile pass under 4.5-sec in 1999, when he posted a 4.48-sec pass. Michael Phillips became the first Black racer to win in a pro category at Houston in 1997, when he won the Pro Stock Motorcycle Wally trophy.
“Drag racing has given us so many wonderful memories and created scores of friends for our family,” said Seth Angel, Glen’s son. “It really is a close-knit group of people and you definitely connect with them on a personal level. The same could be said of tens of thousands of faithful fans who have spent time with us through the years,” he said.
“We’re forever grateful to the city of Baytown, Chambers County and the state of Texas for all the assistance they’ve provided,” Angel continued. “There is also an impressive list of corporate sponsors that were all instrumental in making this race possible each season. We feel very honored to have held this event for 35 years.”
The 35th and final running of the annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil is scheduled for April 22-24 at Houston Raceway Park. NHRA is looking for a replacement circuit to fill the spot of the Houston event in future NHRA seasons.
“We at the NHRA want to thank Houston Raceway Park and the Angel family for their commitment to the sport of drag racing,” said Glen Cromwell, president of NHRA. “Our race teams, partners and NHRA officials look forward to celebrating the track as we close out this chapter of NHRA history.”