Sunday, February 12, 2012

Irwindale Speedway Closing Due to Declining Attendance

One unconventional place to keep an eye out for signs marking the continued deterioration of the economy is in the world of sports. Attending sports events represents the ultimate frivolous household expense that can be cut back or eliminated by families looking to economize. Here is the latest example of distress in the sports world, as reported by the Pasadena Star-News:
Irwindale Speedway, considered by many to host the finest short track racing in the nation, appears to be history.
On Saturday, workers appeared to be closing down the facility, which has had the biggest NASCAR short track races on the West Coast for more than a decade.

Workers were dismantling the pit grandstand, which is adjacent to the first turn. They also were taking apart storage areas. A large billboard bordering the San Gabriel Valley River Freeway was not lit up for the first time in its history, barring power outages, and the track's web site was taken off the Internet.

"They went out of business," said a prominent Irwindale racer who did not want to be identified.

Vice president and general manager Bob DeFazio and some staff members were in the locked administration building Saturday morning, with a moving truck backed up to the office's side entrance and a moving box stacked outside. DeFazio, through track operations director Bob Klein, refused to comment. Klein only would say an announcement would be made Monday.
The article goes on to describe what did the racetrack in:
Opened in 1999 amid much fanfare, it featured a state-of-the-art track surface which cost several million dollars. Track CEO Williams, a former owner of Golden States Foods which supplies food to McDonald's and a friend and car builder for Roger Penske-driven IndyCars, said at the time he wanted to rival the draw of the Dodgers.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip, in a visit to the track, called the facility the finest short track in America.

It gained national attention when Stewart won the 2000 Turkey Night Grand Prix and then even more praise when NASCAR bestowed its tour racing Grand National series all-star event, the Toyota All-Star Showdown, to the track.

But it all came unraveling last season. Car counts were down significantly and nearly every division had the fewest racers since the track opened. More important, attendance was down. There were roughly 900 people in the stands for a Saturday, May 14 race.

Attendance over the past two seasons gradually has dwindled since the heydays of the early 2000s. The track does not release attendance numbers, but they averaged about 2,700 people at 28 races last year.

The track averaged more than 5,000 attendees in a 6,500-seat stadium for four consecutive seasons, starting in 2001.
This is just the beginning, of course. When the day finally comes that Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association teams start to fall by the wayside, you'll know that a full blown economic collapse is drawing near.

Bonus: Instead of speed, we now have the sound of loneliness


  1. The good news is local sports like soccer, and track & field will endure. That's because they require little in the way of equipment, and are accessible to a broad range of the public.

  2. Irwindale Speedway's average paid attendance was NEVER anywhere near 5,000 per event. During its very best times paid attendance averaged around 2,000, probably a little less. Last season (2011) was likely less than 1,000 per event. (Note--they used to publish attendance numbers during the first few seasons. but they were grossly inflated.) There were always a lot of "freebies" in the grandstand, but it is only "paid" attendance that counts. Car counts and paid pit area attendance was generally very strong in the early days.