Freeway construction will close Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park after nearly four decades of NHRA operation

Nicolas Hodel

Cronkite News

A drag racing tradition at Chandler’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park that dates back to the 1980s is about to end.

The Wild Horse Pass Development Authority announced Friday that the 2023 NHRA Arizona National Championships will mark the event’s final year at the venue.

A new overpass planned for the multi-mile widening of Interstate 10 will occupy the space that currently occupies part of the facility, according to a statement from Wild Horse Pass.

“Arizona has been an incredible supporter of the National Hot Rod Association and Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the past four decades, and we are so grateful for this tremendous fan support,” Elizabeth Antone, Acting General Manager of the Wild Horse Pass Development. Authority, said Friday in a statement. “We know this final race will be a celebration that NHRA fans are famous for.”

The Arizona Department of Transportation’s draft five-year transportation facilities construction plan released March 18 shows a plan to add capacity to a 26-mile stretch of I-10 leading to the racetrack.

ADOT documents reveal that a consumer lane and a HOV lane will be added in each direction. Construction would not begin until fiscal 2025. The construction project is expected to cost nearly $140 million.

All funding for this project, according to ADOT’s draft five-year plan, will come from the Regional Road Fund. This fund comes from the Maricopa County Transportation Excise Tax, which is a half-cent sales tax in effect since 2004.

ADOT said in a statement that funding for the project is provided by the Maricopa Government Association.

“MAG has worked closely with the GRIC to advance plans for additional access to the Wild Horse Pass area and any future improvements will follow the review and approval processes required by the state, federal and the GRIC,” the association said in a statement.

Future additions to Interstate 10 may not be the only thing forcing an end to drag racing at the Chandler site.

Last year, the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority announced plans to develop the area with help from Sunbelt Holdings, a property development company. The master plan showed a plan to develop the area where the drag race track and Firebird Lake are currently located, with additional hotels, corporate offices, mixed-use commercial buildings, and new restaurants.

This proposal was made with the existing I-10 frame. It’s unclear if the additional development is part of the reason, along with future work on Interstate 10, to halt the Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

The NHRA has raced in Arizona every year since 1985 with the exception of 2021 due to COVID-19 protocols. From that first year until 1989, the event was held in October and was known as the Fallnationals.

Arizona’s stop in the NHRA schedule was moved to its current February slot in 1990.

“The NHRA National Championships in Arizona have provided NHRA fans with countless memories for many years, and our race teams, partners and NHRA officials look forward to celebrating the track in 2023 as we Let’s close this chapter in NHRA history,” said NHRA President Glen Cromwell. a statement on Friday.

The Chandler site isn’t just home to the NHRA, though. Firebird Lake hosts drag boat races on an annual basis. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park hosted a round in the inaugural season of Nitro Rallycross, a rallycross series, on its off-road course last year.

Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park also has two asphalt road courses which can be used for drifting events in addition to normal track days and races.

The exact dates for the final NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park next year are yet to be determined.

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