The bad news? As unknown entity with unknown intentions has reportedly approached Epping, New Hampshire’s New England Dragway (NED) with an offer to acquire the land…lock, stock, and barrel, it seems. The good news? The facility is not actively for sale (so there is no intent or desire to sell) and it will be much harder to transfer ownership than almost any other drag racing venue in the country.
Why is that, you ask? Well, unlike the vast majority of drag racing facilities, both big and small, that are family-owned or jointly owned by a small group of partners, the New England Dragway is a private corporation with shareholders, and while the exact number of outstanding shares is not known, it’s thought to be in the hundreds, if not more.
In 1963, the member clubs that comprised the New England Hot Rod Council pooled their resources to locate land and construct a permanent racing venue in the region. The initial shareholders put in countless man-hours to build the track, and in September of 1966, it was ready to fling open its gates. In the decades since, as major improvements have been needed, new shares have been issued to raise capital. Over the last couple of decades, and particularly since the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series placed NED on its schedule, the numbers of shares have ballooned — and thankfully, many of those shares were purchased by local racers and racing-focused individuals. A large number of shares also belong to the descendants of some of the now-deceased founding members and early shareholders.
For those shareholders — and the racers of NED — this inquiry is nothing new nor particularly alarming. Offers have been made on several occasions, and in at least a couple of instances, parties attempted to corner large swaths of shares in cases that ultimately went all the way to the Supreme Court.
The offer is expected to go before the shareholders, where a majority vote would presumably determine the fate of drag racing altogether at NED. Fortunately, despite the potential payoff of a share buyout, the track may have power in numbers — of supporters who value history and the continuation of drag racing over dollar signs.
As one source commented, given the structure of the corporation and the historical legal challenges, it would be a “mess” to try successfully selling the place, and that should be comforting for the racing community. We’ll bring you more information on this developing story as it becomes available.