By now you have read all the rumors and “reports” on the demise and rebirth of Irwindale Event Center and the rescheduling of the 2018 Formula Drift Pro and Pro2 Season.
Who, What, Where, When, Why?
Let’s start with how this all came about because the story is far older than people either realize or care to think about. See, since March of 1999, the 1/2-mile oval was a NASCAR weekly racing site, including when Toyota bought the naming rights in 2008. However, in late 2011, NASCAR dropped the track from their schedule and Toyota didn’t renew its naming rights to the speedway. While it had the 1/8-mile dragstrip and Formula Drift, Irwindale Speedway, LLC was in trouble and in February of 2012 it filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Over and Over Again, Like A Bad Dream
On January 2013, the track re-opened as Irwindale Event Center when Nu-Way Industries, who owned the property, sold it to Lindom Company, a real estate investment and development firm. At first, it looked like the speedway was saved, but it was also announced that racing would only continue through 2014. In 2015, the speedway was to close and be demolished for a strip mall. 211 Enterprises would act as the managing company for the facility.
When 2014 ended, the track was given a reprieve by the land owners for the 2015 racing season. Then again in 2016. However, on August 9, 2017, the word was final. Jim Cohan, CEO of Team 211 Entertainment, officially announced that Irwindale was done and would close for good on January 31, 2018.
Many thought that Irwindale would be saved by the team over at Formula Drift. People assumed that it would be announced that they had bought the rights to the property and would save it from demolition on the final round of the 2017 season. While James Deane would take the Championship, the lights went out at Irwindale with no message, no saving grace, and no hope to keep the speedway alive for another year.
Many expected the announcement would come during the 2018 Championship Calendar announcement at the 2017 SEMA Show. However, when it was finally released to the press and public, Irwindale was gone. Reality had finally hammered home that the House of Drift was going to be torn down. In it’s place would be a return to Las Vegas, which hadn’t seen a Formula Drift round since 2012. While those who wanted Irwindale to come back were disappointed, they were also excited to see Las Vegas come back to the schedule.
The Announcement Heard ‘round The World
It was a regular Thursday Night at the drag strip, with street cars running down to set fast times, test and tune, or just have fun in a legal environment. Suddenly, an announcement came over the loud speakers. “Literally 30 minutes ago, a deal was made to keep Irwindale Dragstrip and Irwindale Speedway OPEN. More details to follow in upcoming days,” and suddenly, the automotive circles of the social media world were lighting up. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more were all excited and spread the news like a surprise late Christmas gift. A miracle to some, relief to others.
It was then officially marked with a Press Release detailing that the facility would remain open as everyone wanted and be there for at least another five years. It was all thanks to Tim Huddleston, a former racer himself, and the Justice Brothers, a family owned brand of oils and treatments for automotive, agricultural, industrial, and semi-truck markets. Huddleston is also a distributor of Justice Brothers products.
Upcoming days turned into several weeks, however on January 22, the details on a 2018 Schedule were released. One thing was missing: a Formula Drift event at Irwindale. Was this it? Was it true that the speedway wouldn’t be back on the schedule despite it staying open for five more years? It appeared so, but rumors were abounding by the end of January.
It would be another 35 days before we saw it. A press release was sent out by Formula Drift. Irwindale had replaced Las Vegas. The House of Drift was back on the schedule to close out the 2018 season for both Pro and Pro2. Not only that, it was announced that it would be a three-year contract signed by the speedway and Formula D.
You Can’t Please Everyone
You would think that the announcement of retaining the House of Drift, a historic facility in terms of American Drifting, would be welcomed by all in the sport with open arms. That, unfortunately, wasn’t the case. Fans had been worn down by the constant bemoaning of “the final Irwindale Ever” since 2015, some even speculating that this was created by Jim Liaw and Ryan Sage – co-owners of Formula Drift – to create hype for the sport and the speedway.
However, much of that speculation was shot down by Liaw in the live broadcast of Maximum Driftcast. Everything that had happened with the speedway was last minute. Formula D had deals already struck by the time the track officially announced it would remain open for five more years. You can’t just up and cancel something like that. However, it turned out that a Las Vegas return possibly couldn’t happen anyhow. The Las Vegas Motor Speedway location, the Bull Ring, needed major renovation of the infield.
They couldn’t also just pull the trigger and just go back to Irwindale blindly. The issue of Irwindale’s past where it would say it would remain open but threaten to close each year weighed in. However, with the deal with the Bull Ring not working out in time, the confirmation of a five-year deal to keep the speedway open, and the new owners being very receptive of drifting, Liaw and Sage agreed to go back to the speedway for three more years.
While that may quash a few detractors of Formula Drift on the non-competitive side, drivers, teams, and sponsors also had issues with the news. Many times, budgets and travel plans are set up far in advance. Some as early as SEMA and others as late as January of the upcoming season. One team, who wished to remain anonymous, stated they had already booked a full house and purchased plane tickets for their team for the original Las Vegas location.
Those are non-refundable, “It is going to impact us because we are going to have to make cuts at other events to off-set the lost money,” the source said. Other competitors have echoed a similar sentiment, though all have stated it is wonderful that Irwindale is back. It’s just an expensive win for them.
More Good News
A recent staple of Irwindale Speedway back in June of 2014 was Thursday Night Drift. (Disclosure: I had worked with Formula Drift and Irwindale Speedway as announcer at the second event.) It was a night of drifting for everyone, from daily drivers to pro drivers, provided their cars would pass tech. For $75, you got as many runs as you wanted provided you had the tires for it. Pro drivers would come every so often for testing and greeting fans who would hang out.
There was also an announcement that a new Formula Drift Pro-Am series, which is how a driver gains their Pro2 license for the next year, would be forming and running exclusively at Irwindale. At this time, there has not been any further details on this new Pro-Am. However, it is interesting to learn as Top Drift, a series that tours the various tracks of Willow Springs International Raceway, is the Formula Drift licensing Pro-Am for drivers from Los Angeles, San Diego, and many other parts West. It will be interesting to see who this new Pro-Am is and how it will affect Top Drift. (Disclaimer: I also worked with Top Drift as an announcer for two years.)
Where Do We All Go From Here?
While it is great news to hear that the speedway is away from death’s door for five more years, it’s a mixed bag for drifting. We get the House of Drift back on the schedule, but at the cost of fan exhaustion and unrecoverable expenses for the teams and sponsors. We get Thursday Night Drift back, but a staple of Formula Drift’s Pro-Am series is getting a very close and new competitor. Will we get the door busting crowd for the return of Irwindale at the end of the 2018 Formula Drift Season? Possibly and hopefully.
In the meantime, we can celebrate the fact that a racetrack has beat the odds and will remain open in California. All in a time when more and more tracks are closing as we speak.
New Patreon Rewards
Carbage doesn’t rely on sponsor funding and ads that could dig into your computers power for cryptocurrency mining. We rely on you and your monetary support on Patreon. To incentivize you, I’ve changed how a few of the rewards work and deleted one. Starting today, at just $1/month and above you get access to a Dropbox link that will have some of my best photos at high-resolution that you can download each month! Each month, these pictures will rotate as new ones come in. However, I’m adding a special bonus.
Between the 1st and 15th of the month you can choose a single picture that you want a 10″ x 13″ print made and I will send it to you. That’s right, you’ll get a physical reward for all donations from $1 per month all the way to $100 per month. Follow the link in this post and choose which one you want and I’ll send it to you along with a USPS tracking number when it’s sent. That way, you’ll know it’s on the way.
@jb27tt on Instagram or RacerBanner on Facebook and Twitter
You want to see us do more then we need your support by your subscription!If you enjoyed what you’ve read, please consider supporting CarbageOnline.com by subscribing as a Premium Member with an Annual or Biannual Subscription. This allows Carbage to stay independent and not rely on ads, sponsors, or paid posts.