PEORIA, Ariz. — Last year, Arizona Speedway closed following the final night of the Copper Classic on Nov. 27, with Brock Zearfoss winning the final feature at the track located south of Apache Junction.
A year later and Canyon Speedway Park has closed with the two-day event scheduled for this weekend canceled. That means the last race at the track was Oct. 1 and Zachary Madrid claimed the final main event in the IMCA stock car division.
Both tracks were closed for the same reason. The tracks were on land owned by the state of Arizona and operated by leasing the property. Also in both cases, the state declined a lease renewal due to expected future construction in the general area. Jonah Trussel built and ran Arizona Speedway with some clay and stands coming from Manzanita Speedway, which closed in 2009. He built the track’s prestige over time and the third-mile oval hosted major events for years.
Doug Gabbard was the last owner of Canyon Speedway Park and he ran the track himself some of the years and had someone else promote other years. The track once hosted live televised sprint car races as well as the Western World Championship.
Both tracks also had adjacent motorcycle facilities and they also were shut down for the same reason.
At one point there was hope that a track would be built at Wild Horse Motorsports Park located at the south edge of the Phoenix metropolitan area but now it is closing following the final event in March of 2023. A drag strip, road course, and other facilities are on the 400+ acre parcel but an oval track was never part of the complex.
It will see a massive construction project following closure and no type of racing will be included.
The dirt track in Tucson opened and closed on a regular basis it seemed, but that property was sold for another purpose and the track is gone. While operative oval race tracks in Arizona have dwindled, there are still active facilities that do not face such an uncertain future.
The Tucson fairgrounds has a paved track that races a full schedule with 26 events planned in 2023 and Lake Havasu City is home to Havasu 95 Speedway with a 10-race schedule at the paved quarter mile, running from October to April. Summer heat leads to tracks taking time off. Avondale is home to the one-mile paved Phoenix Raceway.
Mohave Valley Raceway is owned and operated by Ron, Bill and Misti Meyer and the track is on 40 acres of land controlled by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. Seventeen events are schedule for 2023 with the obligatory summer break avoiding that July average of 110 degrees. The third mile track is IMCA-sanctioned and those classes provide the majority of their cars.
The USAC-CRA sprint cars made an appearance this year.
The busiest track in Arizona next year will showcase 41 events at Adobe Mountain Speedway, located on property owned by the Flood Control District of Maricopa County in the Adobe Dam Regional Park. Ted Williams is the promoter and managing partner and Aaron Miller is facility manager.
Months were spent rebuilding the property following a July 2019 acquisition with a 25-year lease. This coming January will be the beginning of their official third year running the fifth-mile oval with a tenth-mile on the infield. Separately is an R/C track which is not included in the 41-race schedule.
The track features micro sprints, flat track motorcycles and the Western Midget Racing cars on the fifth-mile while the tenth gets used by numerous kart classes, including the outlaw kart divisions that are very big in Northern California.
The other two active dirt tracks in the state are both promoted by Brad Whitfield. Cocopah Speedway, a large three-eighths-mile, and Central Arizona Raceway, also a three-eighths, will keep him very busy with big events at both facilities filling the January calendar.
Cocopah will have the huge Winter Nationals for two weeks featuring IMCA divisions followed by the rebirth of Early Thaw for late models and other classes at Casa Grande. Ernie Mincy created Early Thaw years ago at the Central Arizona Raceway high banks and that developed into what is now called the Wild West Shootout, held the first two weeks in January at Vado Speedway Park in New Mexico.
It was Mincy’s efforts that started the late model winter racing in the state with an event that has now become nationally recognized.
Both of Whitfield’s tracks seem on solid ground as Cocopah Speedway is on land controlled by the Cocopah Indian Tribe and Central Arizona Raceway is at the fairgrounds east of Casa Grande. Arizona dirt track teams and fans have taken a hit for consecutive years but none of the remaining tracks are on leased state-controlled land.
That should bring stability to the Grand Canyon state.