Since 1999, the 1/2-mile paved oval at Irwindale Event Center (its newer name) has produced great racing for open and closed-wheel competitors.
It was a home for the finals of Formula Drift, a backdrop for photo shoots, a place where anyone can drag race on an adjacent strip and a school to teach the nuances of circle-track motorsports.
That’s going to end the 31st of January 2018, when the facility must be closed. And that leaves the greater Los Angeles, California area with a single paved short oval (under a mile), albeit one that has to be accessed by crossing the mountainous Grapevine, a hazard at the best of times.
The property at Irwindale Event Center was sold a couple of years back, with the intent to make the facility into an outlet mall. This intent is being fulfilled at a time when malls everywhere are suffering, when people are making a majority of purchases through the internet, when retail is dying industry.
But close this facility will do, according to Team 211 Entertainment CEO Jim Cohan, which has been operating the facility the past five seasons. “We were notified this week,” he said, “that January 31, 2018 will be our final day on the Irwindale property,” he announced.
There won’t be a long and sad march to this finality, Cohan advised. “Everyone should know that we’ll continue to operate Irwindale Event Center right up to our finals weeks, as we’ve been doing for the past five years: providing great family motorsports and related entertainment in the most professional way possible.
“Our full 2017 schedule of NASCAR, Drag Strip, LA Racing Experience events, and special events will run as published,” Cohan continued. “In fact, we’re planning on adding a couple of extra events to the calendar to honor all of the competitors who raced and wrenched here at Irwindale since it opened in 1999.”
When he received this news, Cohan was in the midst of planning a complete schedule for the 2018 season of racing. “All that made the news very difficult for me to hear, and very hard on our whole team.”
As the definitive closing date became a reality, Cohan addressed the many sponsors and supporters who worked with the facility since even before it opened to the public. “Without them, we would never have been able to do what we’ve done. They’ve believed in us and we’ve believed in them. Those partnerships have meant a great deal to everyone involved.”
Cohan also tipped his hat to the sanctioning bodies that brought their shows to Irwindale’s multiple facilities over the years, including USAC, Formula Drift, NASCAR and NHRA. “Their confidence in our abilities was a high compliment; we always tried to make each show better than the last one.
“In the end I’m most proud of our whole extended team - right across the board. They’re a very dedicated group of people who picked up what was left when the original operators left in 2012. Working together,” Cohan noted, “these people rebuilt this facility’s reputation as one of the finest short tracks in the country, a great stock car driving experience and an exciting street-legal drag strip.”
Cohan intends to keep Irwindale Event Center “running strong all the way until midnight, January 30, 2018. We all wish we could have given our racers many more than the five years we were able to, and sincerely hope we have entertained all our guests along the way.”
Irwindale Event Center opened in March of 1999 and is comprised of a 6,000-seat twin oval track (there’s a 1/4-mile oval inside the half-mile) NASCAR stadium and the NHRA-sanctioned eighth-mile drag strip that opened a year later. LA Racing Experience, a popular stock-car driving school is on-site, as is Advanced Driving Dynamics, a hands-on safety course using the vast parking lot.
Irwindale’s multiple facilities have hosted many well-known events: USAC’s famed Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix, a variety of X Games competitions, Formula Drift’s season finale, various regional NASCAR tours and Global Rallycross competitions. There have also been concerts on the site, together with hundreds of feature film, TV and commercial photo shoots.