--- Home Page
--- What's New
--- Features
--- Features
--- E-mail

The latest update as of March 15, 2023

Where have all the race tracks gone?

With the 38th annual - and final - NHRA Arizona Nationals happening next weekend at Phoenix, that will mark four national event tracks that have ceased to exist as dragstrips in the past six years. Stated another way, it's three tracks gone in three years. At this point, there's no new facilities on the immediate or long-term horizon, and several more tracks are in jeopardy of joining the Drag Strips That No Longer Exist list. In almost every case, it's business decisions that value the land much more for purposes other than motorsports. Englishtown still has a motorsports facility that caters to everything other than drag racing. In that case it was a noise abatement issue that the raceway tried to overcome but finally gave in to the inevitable.

Here's the list of NHRA national event tracks that have closed down in the past six years:

Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (Chandler, AZ) - closing in 2023
Houston Raceway Park (Baytown, TX) - closed in 2022
Atlanta Dragway (Commerce, GA) - closed in 2021
Old Bridge Township Raceway Park (Englishtown, NJ) - closed the dragstrip in 2017

Two NHRA national events that are currently running have faced the reality that one or even two major events a year are not enough to offset the cost of keeping the gates open. For three years (2020 - 2022) Route 66 Raceway was off the national event schedule, but has returned to the Camping World Series this year. Admittedly, their 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic, but the track remained closed in 2021 and only reopened with a Lucas Oil series event last year. Virgina Motorsports Park has also dropped off the NHRA calendar, possibly permanently after hosting last year's Virgina Nationals. The track only ran the event three times, including 2022, and has decided the cost/benefit analysis doesn't work in their favour any longer.

There was a report on Competition Plus yesterday about how the track manager at No Problem Raceway (Belle Rose, LA) is working towards redeveloping the track into a national event worthy facility in the near future. With the closing of Houston Raceway Park and no national event caliber tracks in Louisiana, there is certainly room for No Problem Raceway to join the "fraternity" of NHRA national tracks.

Looking at how track closings are happening to all forms of motorsports leads me to a local story. Last September, after 69 years in continuous operation, Westshore Motorsports Park, formerly known as Western Speedway, (Langford, BC) closed down. It was a 4/10-ths of a mile banked oval that hosted literally thousands of races and exhibitions over nearly eight decades of operation before closing. The land is already cleared and will be used for a business park and residential housing, while the track operaters search for land suitable for a new facility.

And as that suitable land bank is always shrinking, the new location will most likely be much more remote than the now closed speedway. When it opened in 1954, Langford seemed far away from the much larger city of Victoria, and wasn't a nuisance to the small number of residents near the track. When we moved to Langford in 2016 we were surprised to hear how close we lived to the track when the cars fired up on our first weekend in our new home. The sound of the cars wasn't a bother but in the three years we lived close to it, a residential building boom drew closer and closer to the speedway. Eventually, the value of the land outweighed it's use for motorsports and that led to the closure of the track.

NHRA Top Alcohol points standings as of March 13

It's obviously very early in the 2023 season, with just one of the 14 national events on the Top Alcohol schedule completed, and only three of 24 regional races run. In other words, it's going to be a couple of months before the points standings turn into the championship chase. So far, there have been three events in the eastern half of the country, and just one in the west. THat's reflected by the fact that just two of the Top Ten dragsters and Funny Cars are from the west. That imbalance will swing slightly in the other direction over the next month as the next three events on the schedule, two national and one regional will be run at Pomona and Las Vegas. Except for the events in the final month of the season, participation by eastern racers at Pomona and Vegas doesn't usually happen. After the Las Vegas regional in April, we'll have a more balanced look at who the strongest runners and championship contenders will be this year.

NHRA TAD Points - March 13, 2023

With back-to-back wins at the Gainesville regional and national events, Julie Nataas has jumped into a solid lead in the standings, but is being closely chased by the not-quite-a-rookie phenom from Florida, Cody Krohn who lost to her in the final round of both Gainesville races. Not far behind Krohn is the 2021 runnerup for the championsip, Jackie Fricke who has a runnerup at one regional race and two semifinal finishes to her credit so far.

On the blown alky side of the class, the only two seriously competitive blown cars are last year's NHRA champion, Joey Severance, who took his fifth title in a great comeback season. Sitting four spots above him in the standings is perennial second place finisher (five times!), Canada's Shawn Cowie, who dominated and won the Phoenix race last month.

NHRA TAFC Points - March 13, 2023

In Funny Car, there hasn't been an appearance yet by one of the new A/Fuel (injected nitro) Funny Cars, despite several being built and nearly (?) ready to compete. Other than last year's one-off attempt at a Funny Car Chaos event by the Randy Meyer team, with Julie Nataas driving, and former dragster pilot Mick "The Real Deal" Steele has his new Mustang-bodied A/FC almost ready to go, no one has appeared in one so far this season.

Last season's #5 finisher in TA/FC, Matt Gill is off to a strong start, sweeping both Gainesville events to take a solid lead in the standings. Not far behind, but with one more race run, is Bob McCosh, who was runnerup at the two regional events before taking a tough first round loss at the Gatornationals. Winners of the first two regional events, Kyle Smith (Belle Rose), and Ray Martin (Phoenix), are in the Top Ten but neither racer has shown an inclination (or budget) to run a full schedule and compete for a championship.

Top Alcohol World Champions of the past five seasons, Doug Gordon (2020 & 2022), and Sean Bellemeur (2018, 2019 & 2021), have only competed once so far this year, with Gordon taking a runnerup at Phoenix to sit #8 in the standings, while Bellemeur was a suprising first round loser at the Gatornationals and is sitting #17 - last - in the standings. Those positions will certainly change very soon for both racers as they will be battling to keep the championship on the west coast for a sixth consecutive season.

Funny Car Chaos

With an ambitious nine race schedule this year, and an expanded four race Nitro Chaos companion series, the FCC promoters, Chris & Tera Graves will be busier than ever. Hoping to start the season with a barn burner event at the Texas Motorplex, the FCC team, in collaboration with the Motorplex folks, made the very difficult decision to postpone the season opener one week to avoid the dismal weather forecast this week. The racers understood the situation and to date, just one Funny Car entrant has dropped off the list, along with four of the Outlaw Fuel Altered competitors. That still leaves 54 funny cars and 16 fuel altereds, in addition to a host of support series to entertain the Texas fans next weekend.

With pre-entries now open for the first four races on their schedule, a total of 64 racers have signed up for at least one event. At this rate, the total of 83 racers that competed at least once last season will be topped well before the season finale on Labor Day weekend. And the all-time series record of 87 competitors in 2021 could well be in jeopardy. The Funny Car Chaos series has proven that it's not a flash in the pan operation, as it continues to grow in stature year by year. Real proof of it's strength is the number of former NHRA stalwarts that are competing on a part or more likely, full-time basis in the FCC. The reason is simple: the purses are better, the entry costs lower, the race distance shorter - hence less parts damage, and the fun factor is higher. It's a simple business model that works for the series organizers, the track promoters, the racers, and most important of all in the long run: the drag racing fans.