Little more than a year ago, information came to light regarding proposed redevelopment plans by the The Wild Horse Pass Development Authority (WHGPDA) for the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona. The group had drawn up plans for a 3,300-acre development project, and had even chosen a developer, sharing that the new commercial development would “provide new revenue streams to the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) by responding to current market demand.”
The redevelopment process would raze the entire multi-purpose motorsports venue, which includes a world-class 1/4-mile drag strip, various road courses, and one of just two purpose-built boat racing lakes in the country and replace it with such things as a sports and entertainment district, hotels, an outdoor amphitheater music entertainment venue, sports facilities, outdoor recreation and parks, restaurants, retail, and an office park, along with a stadium for the Phoenix Rising Football Club. Wild Horse Pass officials, however, reportedly suggested the development could take upwards of 10 years to bring to fruition, giving the motorsports park at least a few more years of life.
Well, as the old saying goes, time sure flies.
On Friday evening, Wild Horse Pass officials shared rather unceremoniously via its social media channels that a new overpass/roadway for the I-10 extension will use the space now occupied by the track, with construction presumably set to begin sometime in 2023. Mind you, this highway overpass was not part of the The Wild Horse Pass Development Authority plans shown to the public last January, so this is clearly a recent development, and one that vastly shortened the time that Arizona locals thought they had left to enjoy the facility.
Said the track in its statement: “Wild Horse Pass Development Authority (WHPDA) has announced the final National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) race in 2023. This final race will celebrate the 40th year of NHRA racing at the Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.For nearly 40 years, the NHRA, in conjunction with the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, has wowed Arizona spectators and fans at the fastest 1/4-mile in Arizona. Wild Horse Pass Development Authority is excited to celebrate the final race of this storied racetrack, February 2023.”
Added Elizabeth Antone, Interim General Manager: “Arizona has been an incredible supporter of the NHRA and Wild Horse Pass Motorsport Park for the past four decades, and we are very grateful for this tremendous fan support. We know this final race will be a celebration that NHRA fans are famous for.”
“We want to thank Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park and the Gila River community for their dedicated commitment to drag racing,” NHRA President Glen Cromwell said. “The NHRA Arizona Nationals have provided NHRA fans countless memories for many years, and our race teams, partners, and NHRA officials look forward to celebrating the track in 2023 as we close out this chapter in NHRA history.”
Per the NHRA’s statement, “As NHRA looks toward the future, it will focus on venues not currently on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series circuit to fill the spot of the Phoenix event starting in the 2024 season.”
“Our focus remains on making the NHRA an incredible experience to our fans, race teams and partners, and we are working on several new destinations,” Cromwell said. “With interest from multiple NHRA member tracks within each region across the country, we are excited about the possibilities for a future NHRA national event.”
NHRA’s longstanding national event became a Southwest fixture starting in 1985 and the NHRA Arizona Nationals have been a favorite for race teams and fans throughout the years. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park has also been home to several historic and record performances during its extensive history, including Tony Schumacher’s historic 330-mph run in 1999 and his record-setting pass in 2018.
According to an ABC15 report, local law enforcement officials say street racing is an ongoing, growing problem — one that area racers say will only intensify with the loss of one just two drag strips in the state.
“I think a lot of young people are going to inevitably go to the street. I mean, with production vehicles continuing to get faster and faster. Everybody wants a GTR, a Tesla, they want to go out and they want to see what it can do,” says Kyle Fritz, driver.
Fritz, 25, has been racing at Wild Horse Pass since he was 15. He says the track is a loss to those who make a life out of this popular family sport and it’s something many racers aren’t willing to give up. Instead, they may take their chance on city streets.
“If they close this place, people will have to do that because they are not going to stop. People are not going to stop,” says Fritz.
Some forms of progress are great. Other kinds, not so much.