There will be 23 races on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series calendar, as Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ has decided to shutter its entire drag racing operations.
The track-owning Napp family, who have operated the facility since 1965, made the announcement that it would cease operations of its quarter-mile and one-eight-mile drag racing facility while continuing to hold other auto- and motorcycle-related activities.
The stated intention is to reorganize the company’s business operations, the family said.
“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands, and continue most of its operations,” according to a statement from the track organizers. This will include “spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more.”
The family intends to keep running Old Bridge Township Airport, a wholly owned and operated flight facility on its premises.
This year’s intended NHRA Summernationals event would have been NHRA’s 49th visit to E-town, as it’s widely called. The racing facility is home track for current three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Eddie Krawiec and for three-time Top Fuel title-holder Antron Brown, both of whom have celebrated victories at this venue. It’s also the site of an accident that changed the face of NHRA’s nitro classes, after Kalitta Motorsports’ driver Scott Kalitta perished in a top end crash in June of 2008. NHRA adopted 1,000-foot track distances shortly thereafter, deeming the quarter-mile too dangerous at many venues, particularly older tracks like Raceway Park.
“The Napp family wishes to express their most sincere gratitude to the NHRA and the many thousands of racers and fans, without whom would never allowed Raceway Park to become the iconic and nationally recognized drag racing facility it has over the past five decades,” their statement said.
Newly promoted NHRA president Glen Cromwell stated: “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part in our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another one of our events.
“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”
NHRA’s most successful Funny Car racer, 16-time champion John Force is “really sad to hear about the loss of Englishtown. That is a great market and the fans were amazing,” he said.
“I won a lot of national events and match races there. This is a major loss. I want to thank the whole [Napp] family for helping me kick-start my career. I will always treasure them.”
Former driver Darrell Gwynn added, “This makes me sick to my stomach; I cherish my wins there.”
The nation’s most prominent drag racing series now has no activities in the NY/NJ mega-market. The closest venues for fans in those states to witness NHRA would either be Reading, PA, Epping, NH or Norwalk, OH.