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Irwindale Speedway to closeUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Irwindale is closed. People with trailers on the track property (e.g.-Frank's Radios and King Taco) were told Friday to remove them from the track property ASAP. There was no 2011 awards banquet held and no 2012 schedule released. The wife of Rod Johnson, Sr. broke the news on her Facebook site. Other sites followed. Jeff Schrader (Racecar Factory) laid off shop foreman Bryan Harrell recently. Tim Huddleston doesn't know what to do with his fleet of HPR rental LM cars. We saw LA Racing School had four cars on the track and they were being worked on Thursday in the school garage bay. That school is probably out of business now too. Ryan Partridge worked as chief instructor there so he will be looking for a job. The closing of Irwindale will affect thousands of people.
Here is what we have learned. The track did not own the property and had a 99 year lease when it opened in 1999. The lease cost reportedly was $65,000 a month to the City of Irwindale and the track is in arrears on this bill. The withdrawal of Toyota Corp. was critical to the survival under Jim Williams. (Toyota had signed a reported ten year $10 to $15,000,000 naming rights agreement 5 years ago that had an escape clause after five years). Toyota's problems--car recalls, legal settlements, earthquake/tsunami damage & losses--led them to cut back in racing sponsorships. Toyota probably signed the deal five years ago to help them get NASCAR HQ approval for the Camry entry into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. In the absence of Toyota the monthly debt load became untenable. The track was for sale and it looked like Forrest Lucas of Lucas Oil was interested, but he declined to enter the picture without owning the land. Even Wayne and Connie Spears (Spears Mfg) and Jan's Towing (Jan Quackenbush) were possible successors to Jim Williams, but that lease is the killer to any deals as it was structured. Car counts and crowds on Saturday nights declined in 2010-11 seasons. With the bad US economy the outlook looked to remain the same in 2012.
The state of the art Irwindale track may not be dead. If the City of Irwindale management is wise it will lower the monthly lease cost to get a promoter in there who has a chance of making the track successful. It might take a year or two to accomplish. By the way, the half-mile paved Kern County oval (at the junction of I-5 and Hwy 43 Enos Rd) that went bankrupt in 2008 during construction is in the news lately. It came out of lengthy bankruptcy proceedings and has been purchased by James-(Kevin) Vernon et al. The Bakersfield Californian story said they plan to finish the track so practice sessions and a big race could be held before the end of 2012 and a full stock car season run in 2013. We heard that the track that sat idle for 3 years has developed sinkholes and will have to be re paved. Also Marion Collins (who was in the 2008 track development with the property owner) is angry with the Vernon group. We heard he is planning to build a similar track to his old Mesa Marin a mile or two away from the new Kern County half-mile. War for fans and competitors would follow if both tracks get built. We doubt it will happen. It would be the CART vs. IRL war of 1996-2008 all over again. People and racers never learn.
02/12/12 Stick a fork in another short oval track leaving some to wonder if the short track business may someday become extinct. Irwindale Speedway, considered by many to host the finest short track racing in the nation, appears to be history.
On Saturday, workers appeared to be closing down the facility, which has had the biggest NASCAR short track races on the West Coast for more than a decade.
Workers were dismantling the pit grandstand, which is adjacent to the first turn. They were also taking apart storage areas. The large billboard bordering the San Gabriel Valley River Freeway was not lit up for the first time in its history, barring power outages, and the track's web site was taken off the Internet.
"They went out of business," said a prominent Irwindale racer who did not want to be identified.
Vice president and general manager Bob DeFazio and some staff members were in the locked administration building Saturday morning, a moving truck backed up to the office's side entrance and a moving box stacked outside. DeFazio, through track operations director Bob Klein, refused to comment. Klein would only say an announcement would be made Monday.
Efforts to reach DeFazio were unsuccessful.
The track's eighth-mile facility remained intact on Saturday, but according to a source, workers were given a final paycheck after last Thursday's regular street legal session. LA Daily News
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