One might really be tempted to say that the famous Mark Twain "rumors" quote applies here:
After an explosively-enthusiastic weekend event that sold out even before the gates opened, and that the newspapers estimated an on-site attendance of 12,000 (in a facility that's grandstands are rated at 6,500): the 2012 Formula Drift Finals ... One might be further be tempted to say that Irwindale was "back".
Of course Irwindale never really left; there's been plenty of activity on the drag strip, with the on-site stock car driving school, in film and commercial shoots, swap meets, and at special gatherings like hotVWs Drag Days, The Eibach Springs Honda Show, The El Camino Motorcycle Show, numerous enthusiast magazine shoots, and other uses.
But then, there's really nothing like filling the Irwindale grandstands to the brim (and then some) to get people's attention. Bear in mind that the last public use of the oval track stadium had been nearly one year before on Thanksgiving weekend 2011; so a full house of happy fans was something that everyone took notice of and that the faithful, hardworking staff who pulled it off took great pride in.
On that same Saturday the announcement that professional stock car racing would return to Irwindale in March of 2013 was not only well received, but well understood. Stock car racing would be the final item on the track's long list of restoration projects.
"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, who's 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, 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."
Although Cohan and his dedicated team had quietly succeeded in working the facility for many months, it took the final event of the 2012 Formula Drift season to cast the brightest lights on Irwindale Speedway. "When you sell out this place, and you get to put that up on the freeway reader board very early in the day of a night event, well, it's something that we want to do more often here," Cohan went on. "This is an incredible facility, in a superb location, with great fans, and a staff that I could not be prouder of. I get the compliments, and they deserve all of them ... I'm proud to be on THEIR team."
There's a new name to go with the new attitude at Irwindale. Now Irwindale Event Center will stand above all of the various uses to better report the nature of the facility. Racing is a big part of the package, but so too are the concerts, trade shows, feature film and TV shoots, automotive events, testing, training, and other widely-varied activities that can use a 20-acre paved facility with daylight-bright Musco lighting, 6,500 seats and 10 luxury skybox suites.
Individual names like Irwindale Speedway, Irwindale Dragstrip, and LARacing Experience etc. will not go away, but will each be part of the broad range of potential usage that the new name Irwindale Event Center can speak to and offer.
There' s no arguing that Irwindale underwent some trauma in recent months, but the Irwindale that emerged from the turmoil is one that's not only stronger, better-managed, more dedicated, and that's much more in tune with what the fans, competitors, and sponsors all need: the right venue for the right show.