Fans were always invited to meet racers before competition - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The rumors circulated all weekend that Los Angeles' Taj Mahal of open- and closed-wheel short track racing was about to close.
On Monday Irwindale Speedway officials announced a cessation of its 2012 schedule--but nothing more.
The paved half-mile track with a quarter-mile track within it has hosted NASCAR weekly racing since it opened in 1999.
It's also been the site of the famous Turkey Night Midget Grand Prix for USAC sprint and midget cars promoted by the Agajanian family, together with Toyota's Showdown for NASCAR late model drivers aspiring to advance their careers. The Speedway has been the site of Formula Drift's final race each year, always well attended.
The 6500-seat facility also includes an eighth-mile dragstrip that has been an active test-and-tune site for manufacturers in the area, including Gale Banks' diesel-powered race trucks and cars. For the past several years the track has been known as Toyota Speedway at Irwindale as the locally-based manufacturer enjoyed the naming rights to the facility; it was understood that funding went away at the end of last year.
While weekly NASCAR racing has been the public face of Irwindale's race track, it has also been the site of film making and commercial shoots, driving schools and private testing. It's unknown whether the L.A. Racing school on-site, an enterprise not owned by the track, will continue. According to the school there were 12 classes planned within the next month, the operator told the local San Gabriel
On Saturday, workers began dismantling the pit-side grandstands normally used by crew members to keep track of their cars and be prepared to meet a car should the need arise for repairs in the middle of a race.
Among the more famous commercials filmed at the facility, racing themed ads with 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1978 Formula 1 champion Mario Andretti for Honda and Firestone, and a Hyundai commercial that aired during the recent Super Bowl were shot at Irwindale Speedway.
A state-of-the-art facility with excellent lighting and great viewing lines from any seat in the house, Irwindale Speedway opened amidst much fanfare in 1999. While it had good success in the first few years, attendance had dwindled toward the end of the last decade making the decision to cancel the 2012 easier than it might have been a few years ago. At any rate, it's a great loss to the race fans in the greater Los Angeles area.