Friday, August 11, 2017

Goodbye to Irwindale Speedway


Doug Stokes recently shared the sad news that the last official day of occupancy at the Irwindale Event Center (aka Irwindale Speedway) will be January 31 2018. Irwindale Speedway opened on March 27 1999, and from 1999 through 2011 the lightning fast progressively banked   ½-mile paved oval hosted the Turkey Night Grand Prix for the United States Auto Club midget division in a program supported by the USAC Western States sprint cars
Through the years, truly legendary midget car drivers raced and won the Turkey Night Grand Prix on Irwindale’s asphalt - Tony Stewart and Bobby Santos each won there, and the Bryan Clauson won back to back in 2009 and 2010. Jason Leffler won twice in 1999 and 2005, while David Steele won in 2001 and 2003.

While those were all great victories, for the author the most memorable race win came with the 2011 Turkey Night Grand Prix, when New Castle Indiana’s Caleb Armstrong led the last 81 laps as he withstood challenges from Kody Swanson, Bryan Clauson, Darren Hagen and a young kid named Kyle Larson. Clauson, denied his third straight Turkey Night win, finished third to claim the 2011 USAC midget title his second straight championship.

That November night in 2011, rumors swept the pit area that Irwindale has lost its title sponsor Toyota and was closing; sure enough, in February 2012 the Speedway declared bankruptcy. Nearly a year later, the track reopened as the Irwindale Event Center on a year-to-year lease but the Turkey Night Grand Prix never returned as the track focused on stock cars, "drifting," and figure eight racing.

Goodbye to Irwindale, we will always have its great racing memories        

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