Houston Raceway Park, the site of the NHRA SpringNationals for 35 years, is shutting down in 2022. Located in Baytown, Texas, the facility has hosted many drag races over the decades supporting the Houston area. Four-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders started her drag racing career at the famous track in 1992.
A Belgium logistics company bought the Houston Raceway Park property
Katoen Natie, a Belgium-based logistics and port operations company, owns a five million square feet warehouse facility adjoining Houston Raceway Park. It wants to expand its operations and has purchased the drag racing facility sealing its fate. The business currently receives, stores, and distributes petroleum-based products; as well as housing an engineering process center and other ventures.
Seth Angel, the HRP operator, told Autoweek, “This is no surprise, no surprise to NHRA. We’ve been in constant communication with them as to where things sat for us. Back in 2018, we engaged with some folks that were interested in purchasing the property, and it led to a deal that closed in 2019. We were not interested in departing the sport in a manner that was detrimental to the sport. And we weren’t going to just jerk the rug out from underneath the NHRA, from our fans, from our racers. We wanted to do it the right way. So part of that was we were going to lease back the property for four years to fulfill all of our obligations with NHRA and with our partners. That’s what we’ve done. So that deal comes to a close in April of next year.”
What is NHRA doing about this fourth major track closure in three years?
This is now the fourth significant drag racing track in the last three years to close shop. Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, better known as “Englishtown drag strip,” was bulldozed in 2018. From there we’ve seen Route 66 Raceway in Chicago stop racing last year, and Atlanta Dragway ends operations by this year’s end.
It’s a stunning blow for drag racing enthusiasts, and calls into question what NHRA, the sanctioning body for drag racing, is doing? All of the professional classes have seen dwindling qualifiers, its Pro Stock racing category looks to be on thin ice, and it is selling its Glendora, California, headquarters. Now, with another track retrenchment, everyone is wondering what, if anything, NHRA plans to do?
HRP has always been considered a nectar spot being at sea level. And it services an area rich in drag racing interest and history. It pulls fans not only from the Houston area but also from Oklahoma and Louisiana. Veteran drag racer Don Gay and the Angel brothers co-owned the 500-acre facility since the 1980s. The Angels bought out the Gay family in 2004.
Angel says, We’re going to go out on top. It’s just the ‘going out’ part that puts the ‘bitter’ in ‘bittersweet.”