Will Irwindale Speedway follow the fate of other defunct California tracks?

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Irwindale Speedway, a half-mile paved oval track and an eighth-mile drag strip located just east of Los Angeles, has been pronounced dead almost as many times as actor Abe Vigoda (who finally, actually died in 2016). But Irwindale persists, though a new threat has arisen.

Irwindale Speedway opened March 27, 1999, with a seating capacity of about 6,500–nowhere near enough to attract NASCAR Cup or Xfinity races (NASCAR had the Fontana two-mile oval for that), but it should have been able to draw a crowd with weekly late-model shows, drifting, and other events, including dozens of TV commercials and movies filmed inside its walls. Numerous present day NASCAR drivers, from Joey Logano to Kurt Busch, have sharpened their skills on the progressively-banked oval.

Irwindale was built on a narrow strip of rocky land squeezed between a gravel quarry and the 610 freeway, which, at the time, seemed like a piece of crappy real estate no one would want. But suitors began showing up at Irwindale government offices almost from day one. In March of 2015, developers proposed a 700,000 square-foot outlet mall on the property. Yet Irwindale hung on as one of the last tracks in the Los Angeles area. Ascot, Riverside, Ontario and Saugus have all fallen to the steamrollers, and NASCAR is currently trying to decided what to do with its underperforming track in Fontana, Auto Club Speedway.)

Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Enter, new property owner IDS Real Estate, and a proposal for a five-unit industrial park called Speedway Commerce Center. Could this finally be the end of Irwindale?

Not so fast.

It isn’t IDS Real Estate, but the City of Irwindale that is proposing the Speedway Commerce Center, with the purpose of “increasing employment opportunity in the City of Irwindale.” Tim Huddleston, the Speedway’s president, published a piece on the track’s website headlined, “No Checkered Flag in Sight!”

September 29, 2001: Law Enforcement Appreciation Day invited celebrities to compete against police officers at the Irwindale Speedway’s drag strip. Sebastian Artz/Getty Images

He continues: “I would like to welcome IDS Real Estate Group to these hallowed grounds. The feedback and support we have received from them throughout the process has been great and we look forward to the operation of Irwindale Speedway and Irwindale Dragstrip for years to come.” So, we wait, with fingers crossed that the new proposal isn’t a death blow to the famed bullring.

“The saga of Irwindale Speedway is a strange one,” understated Doug Stokes, who handled public relations for the track for years. And thus, another chapter begins in this track’s curious story.

The scene prior to a NASCAR regional series race. Joshua Blanchard/NASCAR/Getty Images
Formula Drift frequently invades Irwindale. Kohjiro Kinno/Sports Illustrated/Getty Image

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Comments

    Matter of time. The property values are just too much to let it remain a race track. It has killed greater venues like Riverside.

    I raced there about 20 years ago. Great track. It was a yearly event on the Southern Cal Cycling Assoc. kind of cool to race our bikes on the low banking. I was glad when I was able to finish in the main pack.

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