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R.I.P Irwindale Speedway

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, February 16, 2012


Irwindale Speedway in 2010 during the running of the NASCAR K&N Series.  When Toyota cancelled its sponsorship of the track it was the end for yet another oval track racing facility, one of the finest in the country
Getty Images for NASCAR
Despite all of the clues from a long string of rampant rumors, the recent announcement that said the Irwindale Speedway will be dark in 2012 was still stunning. On Monday, February 13th, a very simple, not to mention vague, statement was issued by Irwindale Speedway LLC CEO Jim Williams and track General Manage Bob DeFazio that said "the management of Irwindale Speedway today announced that the 2012 racing season has been cancelled." 

This official announcement flew in the face of previous, and equally vague, website and social network statements, published all through January and early February, claiming there will be a 2012 racing season and the Irwindale staff were busy working on a 2012 racing schedule.

The reason for the 2012 cancellation became clearly evident later that same day when it was revealed that the Irwindale Speedway management had filed official Chapter 7 bankruptcy papers at the United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District.

Some of the numbers in the bankruptcy petition displayed the real reason why the speedway wasn't going to be racing this year and included:

A total asset listing of $28,942 compared to total liabilities of $331,773.
Cash on hand, as of the February 13th filing date, was listed at a mere $1,500.
But the real hard hit came with the speedway's gross income numbers for the 2011 season. It was an approximate $600,000 drop in revenues from the 2010 season.

Some of the noteworthy outstanding corporate liability issues included:

Three different personal injury claims against the speedway. One of them, a debt of $150,000, accounts for nearly one half of the $331,000 in total liabilities. There are two other personal injury claims with no specified monetary amounts indicating that these cases may be pending adjudication.

There's also a $55,000 debt, for outstanding rent, to Nu-Way Industries Inc. This corporation actually owns the real estate where the speedway, and its administrative buildings, are located.

Other outstanding liabilities include a $16,379 debt owed to the Golden State Water Company.
The speedway also has an outstanding debt with the Irwindale Police Department in the amount of $8,093.
There's also an outstanding debt for newspaper advertising, to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, in the amount of $1,437.

There were a series of factors that greatly hampered the Irwindale Speedway's financial profile during the 2011 racing season. Certainly one of them was the harshness of the national economy. That led to the aforementioned sharp decline in gross income revenues last year. Track attendance, and the ticket sales that comes with it, were reported to be way down last year.

Also shrinking last year were the speedway's total car counts among the multiple racing divisions. This also was in direct proportion to harsh economics. But it was also related to reports of race teams disgruntled with frequent rule changes that often raised the cost of their operations. 

Track sponsorships, such as the billboard ads on the speedway's safety fences, also had a significant drop last year. But the really big sponsorship blow came late last year when Toyota announced its decision not to continue its contract with the speedway. In 2007, the car manufacturer purchased the naming rights to the speedway, with a ten year contract, that changed the name of the facility to Toyota Speedway at Irwindale. However, one of the reported provisions in this contract was a so called out clause which allowed Toyota to discontinue the agreement after a period of five years. That fifth year came into play this year just prior to what would have been the start of the 2012 racing season.

Yet another huge loss for the speedway came last August when NASCAR cancelled the annual All Star Showdown after seven years. This cancellation was also linked to Toyota when NASCAR announced they could not reach an extension of the sponsorship agreement with the auto maker. This racing showcase featured the talents of NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East and West divisions. The loss of this event to the Irwindale Speedway was staggering especially in light of the fact that it came with a lucrative national television contract.

During the final weeks of 2011 there were a plethora of rumors indicating there might be problems associated with Irwindale Speedway. These rumors were fortified by the speedway's decision to cut the 2011 season short by cancelling the final two races on the schedule. Also raising more than a few eyebrows was the cancellation of the traditional post season awards banquet.

This was followed by the fact that the speedway's presence was noticeably absent from NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Series' 2012 schedule which was released last December. The speedway has been a mainstay on the series' schedule since the track opened back in 1999.       

On the other extreme were some indicators that there might be racing in 2012 at the Irwindale Speedway. First there was the series of short and vague statements from management that said the new schedule would be released very soon.

This was supported by the release of 2012 schedules from racing series that said they would be making appearances at Irwindale. This included the Lucas Oil Modified Racing Series whose new schedule included races dates set for the months of June and August.

The Formula Drift Series, who has staged some wildly successful events at Irwindale in the past, was scheduled to conclude their 2012 season there in October.

Also set to go was one of the Irwindale Speedway's most prestigious annual events: the USAC Turkey Night Grand Prix which has been held there since 1999. This year's event was set for Thanksgiving night, November 22nd, however it's now being reported that event promoters are searching for a new venue.

There are also intense rumors regarding new ownership of the Irwindale Speedway. Linked to these rumors are Lucas Oil as well as Spears Manufacturing. There's even rumors that claims NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart, who is involved in track ownership, has expressed an interest in purchasing Irwindale. So far, there are no signs of confirmation to support these rumors. 

Sadly the brief announcement, from February 13th, has eliminated any hopes of racing at Irwindale this year. The speedway staff will now be looking for new employment venues. Concession stand operators, who depended on the Saturday night revenues from the fans, will now have to seek a new location to sell their wares. Also left in the lurch are race teams who will have to find a new speedway to support their sponsorship arrangements.

It's very easy for race teams and fans alike to point the finger of blame. That likely because management has been keeping an extremely low profile and has not been returning telephone inquiries. The only absolute confirmation of Irwindale's troubles have come from the bankruptcy court documents which are a matter of public record.

Despite the frustration of it all, it's important to remember that the Irwindale Speedway was once proclaimed as being one of the best short track programs in the nation. It's important to remember the 12 years of excitement we felt while attending races there. It's also important to hang onto the hope that this situation can be resolved. 

The question remains: is there a silver lining underneath this extremely dark cloud? It appears that it's extremely possible. There are already reports that Nu-Way Industries Inc, the property owners where the speedway is located, is very much interested in supporting the installation of a new promoter to continue the racing tradition at Irwindale.

Here's hoping that some arrangement develops soon. It's very hard to imagine racing not being held at the Irwindale Speedway. 

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