Last fall, the last strip of rubber was laid, the last hamburger served, and the lights turned out one final time by Cindi McMillan at the fabled Texas Raceway, closing a 55-year chapter of drag racing in the town of the Kennedale, Texas. A staple in the Southwest, the closure was met with sadness not only by McMillan and her husband, Dave, but by racers all across the Lonestar state and beyond. With a plan in place to re-develop the property upon its closure for residential and commercial use, the drag strip was soon to be but a distant memory, joining many of the iconic dragways of yesteryear that had perished without a trace before it.
But, it turns out there may be one chapter left in the works yet.
McMillan confirmed to Dragzine this week that, despite considerable challenges in her negotiations with the Kennedale city government, she is working diligently to reopen the Texas Raceway by September.
According to reports, the city has long shown interest in the land the drag strip, along with the neighboring Kennedale Speedway Park, also situated along New Hope Road, would provide in tax revenue to their coffers. And so McMillan, reluctant to do so but citing she and her husband’s age and the many years of being “beat up” by political red tape, came to an agreement with the city of Kennedale, in conjunction with the operators of the neighboring but unaffiliated oval track, to close permanently on October 31, 2016. As McMillan shares, the developers were only interested in the properties under the agreement that both were shuttered, and so McMillan complied. However, in a move that has presented the McMillan’s with their share of hard-fought battles to date, the Kennedale Speedway Park was allowed to re-open in the spring and has continued operation throughout 2017, causing the developers to, at least for the time being, rescind their purchase offer on either parcel of land.
And so, earlier this year the McMillan’s, with their hand forced, decided to follow suit, issuing a racing schedule and forging ahead with plans to re-open for the season while negotiating a deal with the city council. But, as Cindy shared, the city threatened to “harass” her racers and spectators in a forceful opposition to the track’s opening, and an emotionally difficult decision was made not to open the gates.
McMillan confirmed that she has a legacy agreement in place with the city of Kennedale that has allowed her to operate the drag strip despite strict ordinances in place— an agreement that would not transfer to another party should she attempt to sell the track to another operator. As such, drag racing operations can only continue under her ownership, and with the redevelopment plan on the shelf at present, she says “we’re going to race,” despite a city government vehemently opposed to it. But, in her words, it’s their unfair decisions regarding the agreement as it pertains to the oval track that led to the gridlock.
In essence, the city’s decisions have lave left McMillan with a racetrack she can neither open the gates at nor sell.
McMillan already published a date of September 3rd on the track’s Facebook page, and she insists that while she’s been hesitant to do so and has plenty of reasons both to re-open and not to, she plans to move forward with drag racing—perhaps breathing a little bit more life into the track once owned by her father, the late Bill “Mr. Bardahl” Hielscher.
The track means a lot to me, and it means a lot to a lot of people. This is the Hielscher in me, but we’re going to open. – Cindi McMillan
“If you’ve got a big fat check, come to see Cindi, but you know what, until that happens, we’re going to race,” she says. “It’s all coming back to haunt me, but what do I have to lose?”
McMillan has already signed Painless Performance as a sponsor at the track, which will allow her to apply for NHRA sanctioning, with plans to field an NHRA Division 4 Bracket Finals team. She’s also been in ongoing discussions about bringing the Texas Outlaw Pro Modified Association in for a show later in the year.