Auto Club Dragway Killed: So Cal’s Only 1/4-Mile Dragstrip
The last remaining public quarter-mile dragstrip, where drag racing was born, has closed permanently. Auto Club Dragway. It was part of the Auto Club Speedway venue in Fontana, California. Open for more than a decade, it was announced over the weekend the dragstrip won’t reopen.
Is there a dragstrip left in So Cal?
Yes, the quarter-mile track at the Pomona Fairplex in Pomona, California, is still a functioning facility. But it is contractually only allowed to open so many days a year, as agreed with the cities of Pomona and La Verne. So racing can only take place for a few days in February and November.
There are also two eighth-mile dragstrips still in operation in So Cal. The Barona Dragway on the Indian reservation outside of San Diego, and Irwindale Speedway, in the shadows of the old San Gabriel Dragstrip and Irwindale Raceway. Now the closest quarter-mile dragstrip is Famoso in Oildale/Bakersfield, California.
“The difficult decision has been made to permanently close Auto Club Dragway”
NASCAR’s statement: After careful consideration on the best direction forward for Auto Club Speedway, the difficult decision has been made to permanently close Auto Club Dragway. We thank all of the competitors, fans, and corporate partners who made so many wonderful memories at Auto Club Dragway through the years, and we look forward to making new ones as we embark on our 25th Anniversary Season at the 2-mile oval in 2022.”
This is really sad news for fans of amateur drag racing and amateur racers. Consider that in an area with over 24 million residents, there won’t be a quarter-mile strip for Saturday night specials and weekday events. Besides catering to individual drag racers, the Dragway hosted the NHRA Pacific Division 7 gathering, the NMCA WEST series, and the Pacific Street Car Association events.
Auto Club Dragway has had a bumpy existence
NASCAR owns the facility, and it is unknown what led to it shutting the track down. We may never know. But the track early on had issues that shut it down for more than two years. Opened in 2010, residences adjacent to the dragstrip were successful in shutting it down in 2012 over noise issues.
An environmental impact report was ordered by the court. A sound wall, estimated to cost over $1 million, was proposed. With the help of SEMA, Lucas Oil, K&N, the NHRA, and the So Cal Auto Club, the new sound wall was constructed. Also, the strip itself was moved from the south end of the property to the north end to further comply with the order.
So Cal almost lost the 1/8th-mile Irwindale dragstrip, too
Around this same time, the eighth-mile strip at Irwindale Speedway was racing toward bankruptcy in 2011. The property was slated to become an outlet mall in 2015 and was scheduled to be demolished then.
Incredibly, the ground was determined to be too unstable for the structures proposed. A new group of investors came in and reopened the site as the Irwindale Event Center in 2018. But for a time, it was looking like the eighth-mile strip at Barona would be the only dragstrip left in Southern California. Thankfully, that was not the case.
But this news does close a big chapter for drag racing in California. Drag strips continue to be shuttered throughout the country. If you enjoy drag racing, support it, or you too may lose it.