No this isn’t a story about one of my favorite groups of all-time, Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Motorsports news during the winter months is slow and usually we’re left to be abused by supposed news such as Taylor Swift winning People’s Choice Awards and where in the world is Kim Kardashian’s butt this week. By the way, did you know she has workout videos for ‘fitting in your jeans’? Can Kim actually fit her buttocks into a pair of jeans? Okay, well, anyway, I digress.
So I was panning through some stories from the past week or so and to my surprise, found out that Firebird International Raceway near Chandler, Arizona, was closing after all. Sure their had been rumors for some time that the lease was up, but these things usually work there way out and though the track has started readying themselves for closing the facility, with the NHRA coming back another season (in less than two months from now), it appeared there was plenty of room for hope. But apparently I may be wrong in my assumption.
Firebird always had a soft spot for me because it was also home to drag boats which I love almost as much as drag racing. Plus the fact it is a track out here in the west, making it accessible for us Californians. However, it looks like the 30 year old facility is going to close after all. According to this news story, the Gila River Indian Community has decided against renewing the lease.
Now, there’s still hope as the NHRA is currently fighting to keep the track on their calendar for 2014 and beyond according to Peter Clifford who is EVP and GM at the NHRA saying (source – Ahwatukee Foothill News),
“NHRA continues to have meaningful discussions with the Gila River Indian Community regarding the facility and hopes to finalize the agreement in the coming weeks.”
But with that aside, when you combine the fact that Speed World Drag Strip in Surprise is rumored to be closing after this year; future drag racing in the Valley of the Sun appears dismal at this point.
The drag racing community and its fanbase is one of the largest and most loyal in all of sports but representation in the Southwestern U.S. is continually shrinking. When you consider how few tracks there are in California, especially of the quarter-mile variety, certainly the sport needs to make a stand for the value that drag racing brings the regions they’re in. The safety factor is never far away and every time tracks disappear, illegal street racing blossoms.
So as winter drags on while you’re being bombarded by who Paulina Gretsky is dating (Wayne must be so proud), here’s hoping Firebird is allowed to run another year or more. My new mantra is “Free ‘Bird”.