Irwindale Speedway to shut down, will be converted to outlet mall

IRWINDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- The Irwindale Speedway, which includes Los Angeles County's only 1/8-mile drag racing course, is being forced to shut down. It will be converted into an outlet mall.

"This is the last track in L.A. County, and it's going to go away. We're going to have no place to race," said Dave, an amateur driver.

Every Thursday night, the track hosts around 200 drivers for drag races.

Refugio Villaviciencio said driving in those drag races is one of the highlights of his week.

"You forget about everything, any problems, bills, and all that. You just forget it for a little while," Villaviciencio said.

The Irwindale Speedway also features drifting and hosts NASCAR events. The track could be closing as early as 2016.

The Irwindale City Council supported the decision to close down the speedway. Gustavo Romo, the city's community development director, said the new outlet mall will add 5,000 jobs to the area.

Romo said the mall will be 700,000 square feet and bring in $2.6 million in annual sales tax revenue.

"I think that's a good thing. There's a lot of people who need jobs out here that don't have jobs," said Covina resident Brandee Palacios.

Edgar Perez of Monrovio agreed.

"If its going to bring in that many jobs, its always going to be a good cause," Perez said.

The track provides a legal and safe place for drag racing at a time when illegal street racing is growing. A suspected illegal street race in Chatsworth in February left two dead. Just this week in Gardena, a man died when his car flipped over in what police called an illegal street race.

Irwindale police are concerned about the growing trend of illegal street racing in L.A. County.

"There's always that concern as to what could happen if there's no option or alternative available," said Sgt. George Zendejas of the Irwindale Police Department.

Doug Stokes, spokesman for the Irwindale Speedway, said he is hoping to find a new home for the 1/8-mile drag racing course.

"There must be some corporate property out there or something where this little strip can be put in," he said.

Stokes said the racing will continue on Thursday nights from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. until at least the beginning of 2016.

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