The Truth Behind the Closing of Irwindale Speedway

IrwindaleSpeedway

I keep reading a ton of incorrect information online about the impending doom of Irwindale Speedway so I talked to several people close to the situation and built this story. The rumors of it all being a fancy ploy to sell tickets is flat out not true sadly and soon our beloved Irwindale Speedway will come crashing down from the Los Angeles County map. Here is a timeline of what happened and why the structure is still standing to this day. In fact, last season at Irwindale I helped produce an awesome tribute video to Irwindale Speedway with Mobil 1 that should be released shortly.

MichaelEssa

This first blip of news came to my attention in October 2013 just days after Michael Essa narrowly won his first championship in a BMW E46 chassis. A friend of mine sent me a link from CurbedLA indicating that a real estate group in Pasadena called Lindom Company purchased the 63.47-acre site of the San Gabriel Valley with plans to repurpose it. The company Nu-Way Industries sold the land to them who purchased it in 1966 and built the very racetrack that stands before us today.

2012.IrwindaleSPeedwayBankruptcy

The sun beginning to set on Irwindale Speedway probably started a little before this sale in 2013 so let me just rewind a little bit. In 2012, Irwindale Speedway was won back in US bankruptcy court from a company called Irwindale Speedway, LLC who had filed papers indicating it was more than $331,000 in debt. (Pasadena Star News) This is what would explain the lose of track sponsorship and the changing of the name to Irwindale Events Center. We first picked up the story in February 2012 when even Formula Drift didn’t know if the track would continue to operate per Jim Liaw (Formula Drift founder). The first hint of a property sale was mentioned in this exact Pasadena Star News story with “We would considered (selling) it, but we’re not actively pursing it right now,” Jay Garrett of Nu-Way Industries said.

IrwindaleSpeedway

Once the sale in October 2013 was complete we didn’t hear much about the track situation until March 23rd, 2015 when CEO Jim Cohan says Irwindale got a green light for a 2015 racing season that seemed to be in question until that announcement with the new landlords. The LA Times runs an article about the closure and creates panic among social media and shares some important nuggets of information. On March 25th, the city council voted to approve the rezone of the land for a stupid ridiculous 700,000 square foot strip mall. The plan was to break ground in 2016 on the stupid mall and be completed in 2017. This is documented in the LA Times piece.

Irwindale

I have no inside knowledge of how the $500,000,000 loan will work for the new stupid strip mall at Irwindale Speedway but I spoke extensively to an old friend who is in the business of $100 million+ commercial loans for a top five major bank. How these loans generally work is that the mall owners, Lindom Company, would need to get a certain percentage of commitments from stores to fill the place before a $500,000,000 loan would be issued for the property. That percentage could greatly vary on the existing relationship the company has with the bank or how much collateral they can put forth to leverage against the loan. I was told at a minimum he imagined they would need 20% of the units sold to break ground. This reality was clearly stated in the LA Times article as well.

“The existing lease at Irwindale Speedway will proceed until the owner secures a certain number of tenant shops for the outlet, Romo said, which means it’s possible the lease could be renewed for the 2016 season.” – LA Times

NateHamilton.IrwindaleSpeedway

As the Formula Drift Irwindale Speedway event in 2015 approached the track had no 2016 lease agreement or permission to continue into the next racing season. This stirred the speculation that the track was coming to an end and for quite some time it seemed that was reality. The great news for race fans is that after the bank did its own evaluations on the deal and it has gotten cold feet about the $500,000,000 million dollar loan for one reason or the other. This permitted a 2016 race season to take place. Assuming the bank and Lindom Company sort out their collective issues the track still wouldn’t close right away at this point. I have been told by a source that the racing contract is on a rolling 12 month agreement at this point. So, if the mall moved forward today – the racing season would continue and be available for 365 days from today. This ensures the 2016 Formula Drift event will happen in October. That also means the fate for 2017 should be known by the time Irwindale rolls around this year.

MattPowers.irwindaleSpeedway

So the sad reality is Irwindale Speedway will more than likely be closing down sooner than later for a stupid 700,000 square foot shopping mall. At a ridiculous cost of $500,000,000 I can only hope it goes bankrupt and we can get a new racetrack back by 2020 in LA county over the abandoned shopping mall land.

I attended my first drift event at Road Atlanta in 2005 while shooting for Import Racer Magazine (RIP). Since then I have produced drift content for PAS Magazine, Modified Magazine, Drifting Magazine (RIP), and many more publications. I was the producer of the movie Slide America and then helped found this website in 2007.

25 Comments

  1. EddiHughes says:

    Good read thanks Joey. Wonder how the global economy right now is going to effect that banks decision.

  2. mbp says:

    Thank you for clarifying Joey.

  3. Ghohnadell says:

    I would think a insecure global economy and an abundance of vacant shopping malls would at least hinder the development slightly.

  4. wesismyhero says:

    A strip mall next to a rock quarry is a great idea!

  5. wesismyhero says:

    Or we could build a football stadium and move the Raiders there! That’s never been tried before right?

  6. KPA says:

    Its a cool track. Hope it stay around for as long as it can.

  7. NUTTERBUTTER says:

    this piece should also include that the soil the track is setting on would need to be extensively sampled and studied in order for the banks to even consider this project as well. Given the history of the land and whats lying under that race track i highly doubt that once this has been placed into consideration they will no longer invest in this project. not to mention the requirements the city would have as far as power an sewer are considered, and in this regard I do not see any drawings that have been submitted to the city planning commission.

    this is a lose lose and as dollars are the major motivator for any city commissioner the company proposing to build dose not have the investment capital on there own to do such things.

    bring on another ten years of drifting in irwindale.

    now if only charly from just drift would host a round of top drift there it would be used more frequently to keep the facility as is open much longer.

  8. NUTTERBUTTER says:

    quick check so im not entirely on speculation shows this document posted about the soil and land rezoning http://www.ci.irwindale.ca.us/DocumentCenter/View/1123

  9. ToLiveNDieInNJ says:

    Next to a rock quarry and subject to occasional mass-macing (Huy Fong foods processes peppers there). Sounds like a great place to shop!

    Yes, I know they upgraded the sriracha factory to stop the pepper scent.

  10. Super says:

    Cool track? Lol it is an oval, lets get real here. The stupid strip mall sounds better than listening to Jarrod scream Doctor over the mic. Maybe now they will go to actual racetracks instead of having 3 events at an oval, but hey this is FD so I highly doubt anything will come of it besides another oval.

  11. Blaze1 says:

    I gotta side with super, I’ve moved on already. All this hype about it closing last year made me throw in the towel (the odd layout didn’t help either). This is from someone who hasn’t missed a single Irwindale event since 02.

    Has anyone been to the Santa Anita Mall during weekend!? I think the area could use another mall. Can’t even get a parking space over there. The place is packed back to back all year long!

  12. apieceobacon says:

    D1NZ Round 3 is this weekend at Taupo Park on January 27-29 for the USA viewers. Daigo Saito will be competing in the same GT86 that Ryan Tuerck drove last round. The livestream can be viewed on the D1NZ website at d1nz.com I’m not sure of the times though. If anyone has any corrections please say so.

  13. Eugene says:

    I say we don’t shop at that outlet mall if it was built. Southern California has no drag stops for enthauism to come and race there cars. They have irwindale on Thursday nights. So if they tear that down so cal has nothing. More street racers more accidents and more lives being taking because some greedy cowards wants a profit of an outlet mall. Support your auto enthauist and keep the track.

  14. KPA says:

    @Super

    I was referring to “cool” as part of fan experience. It’s one of the better tracks for watching and how hard the driver are pushing at the end of the year.

  15. Twitch_6 says:

    Thanks for the reminder @apieceofbacon. I’ll have to watch the highlights on YouTube when they come up.

    Remind me again why Joey made that post with all the upcoming drift events if he’s not going to make posts when the events come up? I’m tempted to start a thread on GTPlanet and just invite everyone there to actually have a real discussion about drifting.

  16. apieceobacon says:

    @twitch_6
    At this point that might be better. An update on the livestream scehdeule, it will start at 7PM EST and end whenever the event ends.

  17. KPA says:

    Wrecked is getting a little weak on the updates. Where’s the post Essa will be back in his BMW ?

  18. KPA says:

    LOL! nice just making sure you were a reader!

  19. Christofur says:

    http://d1nz.com/LIVE

    4pm PST Tomorrow, 1/30/16

  20. ALL HEART Steve says:

    “Stupid Strip Mall” “Stupid Strip Mall” “Stupid Strip Mall” You’re Great Joey, But Holy fuck you need an editor.

  21. Twitch_6 says:

    just got a chance to watch Taupo…that was an interesting one ;). Nico Reed calls out Daigo, and then beats him in style, basically by out initiating him. That doesn’t happen every day. Granted, Daigo was I a poorly set up borrowed car, but still…Reed’s win is not bad for a guy no one heard of from a series no one pays attentio to. Fanga Dan had a JTP/TMQ moment. I put this battle forward as an early entrant for 2016 tandem battle of the year. It wasn’t quite as #’merica as JTP vs TMQ from last year, but it was right up there with Logano/Kenseth NASCAR style shit, so how could it not be nominated for tandem of the year!?!?

    On another note, I’m starting to really dig Cole Armstrong’s 250GT. Happy to see him go to a RB30 from the V8 he used last year. And I love Taupo…the backdrop is too awesome. It wouldn’t make for great tandems, but I’d love to see someone slide T1 of the racetrack there. It’s a massive 180′ left hand sweeper…would take some balls for sure.

  22. Twitch_6 says:

    Fuck, got mixed up. I’m thinking of T1 at Teretonga. Still love Taupo though.

  23. apieceobacon says:

    Taupo was great. Didn’t really have a chance to watch it all as the 24 hours of daytona was on at the same time. There’s always next event though. Next round is at Hampton Downs on Ferbruary 28 and 29 for the US viewers. Anyone know who the next guest driver is going to be?

  24. Cody Brown says:

    Had a great race weekend here with my son, 1st time racers here and cannot thank the staff enough for all there hospitality with me & my family, major noticeable difference from other tracks.
    Keep up the excellent work.
    Cody Brown #88 Bandolero car
    Thank you

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