Irwindale Event Center. Photo courtesy Google Maps.
The Irwindale Event Center, which encompasses the Irwindale Speedway and the 1/8-mile Irwindale Dragstrip, opened its doors in the Los Angeles, California, suburb in 1999 and has since played host to countless motorsports events, from NASCAR oval racing to Formula D drifting events. After years of rumors about the facility’s demise, Irwindale Event Center has announced that January 31, 2018, will be its final day of operation.
The news came as track operator and Team 211 CEO Jim Cohan was busy working on next year’s motorsports schedule. In his words, “In all honesty, we were here and in it for the long haul, in fact we were in the process of putting out our complete schedule for the 2018 season. All that made this news very difficult for me to hear, and very hard on our whole team.”
Irwindale Speedway opened as a paved and banked half-mile oval track in March of 1999, and immediately saw action from NASCAR-sanctioned stock car series. In September of 2001, a 1/8-mile drag strip was added in the facility’s southeast corner, and the venue was soon promoted by local law enforcement as an alternative to illegal street racing. In 2008, Toyota purchased naming rights to Irwindale, and until 2011 the track played host to The Toyota All-Star Showdown, which featured the best drivers from NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series, Late Models, and Super Late Models.
Irwindale also played a role in introducing the sport of drifting to a broader American audience, and in 2003 hosted the first D1 Grand Prix held outside of Japan. The track soon became a favorite stop for Formula Drift competitors (and fans), earning it the “House of Drift” nickname and delivering sell-out crowds for such events.
This isn’t the first time Irwindale has faced closure. In 2012, parent company Irwindale Speedway LLC filed bankruptcy, but the track re-emerged (as the Irwindale Event Center) a year later. The same year, 2013, the facility was sold to Lindom Properties and, as the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports, in 2015 Irwindale Outlet Partners, LLC received permission to build a 700,000-square-foot outdoor mall on the property. The track has been operating on a year-to-year schedule since then, with the understanding that the start of construction would mark the end of the venue’s motorsports days.
Irwindale’s 2017 schedule still shows 36 events listed, sanctioned by NASCAR, the NHRA, and Formula Drift, and Cohan pledged to keep the facility going until the very last minute. “I simply want everyone out there to understand that this team is going to work just as hard to keep this a great fan-friendly facility running strong all the way until midnight January 30, 2018,” he said in the press release announcing Irwindale’s closure, “We all wish that we could have given our racers many more than the five years we were able to and sincerely hope that we entertained all of our guests along the way….”
Also displaced by the track’s closure are stock car racing school the LA Racing Experience, and vehicle safety school Advanced Driving Dynamics. There’s no word on when demolition will begin.