After a long period of downtime following its bankruptcy in February, the former Irwindale Speedway recently re-opened as Irwindale Events Center. Coincidentally, another paved half-mile Southern California oval – Kern County Raceway Park – is set to re-open in Bakersfield, some 125 miles to the north after a long delay, having gone through its own bankruptcy owing to the recession in the midst of construction. The two tracks might seem to have conflicting agendas, but in fact look poised to benefit from their concurrent relaunches.
Since re-opening, Irwindale has hosted a variety of activities including an on-site stock car driving school and special gatherings like hotVWs Drag Days and The Eibach Springs Honda Show. However, the track plans to bring stock car racing back on its shallow banked half-mile oval in March of 2013.
“When the former operators filed for a Chapter 7 (dissolution of business) bankruptcy in early February of this year, there was great cause for concern,” said Jim Cohan, of Team 211 Entertainment, whose company has operated the facility for the owners, Nu-Way Industries, since the bankruptcy. “Our driving school (LA Racing Experience) had been the only on-track operation at Irwindale for some months [but] we immediately started work directly with Nu-Way to preserve and protect the facility as well as helping to keep the revenue stream open. Our objective was to not only keep our business operating, but, at that point, to keep the entire facility viable.”
Construction of Kern County Raceway Park, located along Interstate 5 near Bakersfield, was halted in 2008 after the housing bubble burst. With the resulting bankruptcy settled, the opportunity arose for the racing community to rise and take ownership of the facility. Through an ownership group of area racers and businessmen, led by James Vernon, the track is now set to finally open.
“It just broke my heart to drive past the speedway everyday unfinished,” Vernon said. “This was an opportunity to both bring racing back to the area but also complete the project with the original vision in mind. We can't wait to go racing!”
KCRP's management group plans to begin open testing at the facility this month, with a full schedule of racing in 2013. Cohan, meanwhile, says his group looks forward to a fraternal association between the unaffiliated tracks.
“We've just had some productive and very positive preliminary meetings with the owners and management of the new Kern County Raceway Park,” said Cohan. “We were given a tour of the facilities and were impressed by the overall design and the good progress that has been made in recent days.
“Our talks with the KRCP management team were wide-ranging and included subjects relating to operations, scheduling, racing divisions, events, and other points of mutual interest. We came to the conclusion that our business philosophies are very similar and totally compatible. We like each other, we respect each other, and we understand what we each have at stake. We agreed that our common goal is to bring back and expand regularly scheduled motorsports and other forms of allied outdoor entertainment to Southern California.”
The former Irwindale Speedway
Cohan added that he is convinced that the two tracks will be able to help, rather than compete with, one another.
“Happily, our two tracks are about as different and challenging as any two half-mile paved ovals could be, and we fully expect that distinction to be something that fans from all over the country will want to come and witness for themselves,” he said. “Our talks included ideas for co-promotion and cross-promotions of special attractions, and events, publishing a unified set of competition rules and classes, as well as considering the idea of establishing a highly trained stock car racing tech inspection team that would serve both tracks.
“There's much, much more, and a lot of work ahead for both facilities. Both tracks could be said to be in a ‘rebuilding' mode. The truth is, with the sort of teams that we have in place, and the sort of support we've been offered from our fans, sponsors, racers, suppliers, and even the sanctioning bodies; we know that we're teamed up and embarking on a exciting new era in motorsports entertainment. We want to invite everyone to come and join us.”