I wrote an article last week about the future of Irwindale Speedway which you can read here if you want to know what the facts I was able to gather from various sources on what the future holds for the House of Drift. For the time being, the track is standing and operational but the future is not promising for this icon of American drifting. I put some serious thought into what Formula Drift will do once the track turns into a shopping mall and came up with these six realistic options.
1. California Speedway in Fontana, California
The reality is that California Speedway is the only other large racing venue in Southern California that can house 20,000 people and provide a track event. California Speedway has been host to a D1GP Drivers Search back in 2004 and a JGTC weekend drift event on the infield. I think this is the most likely alternative for Formula Drift but it will be far from a turn key operation for them. The place needs grandstands moved onto the infield regardless of where they want to drift and the walk from the parking lot will be a HIKE. Let’s also not forget about how much hotter the weather can get in Fontana even though the tracks are 35 miles apart. My guess is they would setup a course on the infield (hopefully not the old JGTC course because it sucked) and build the event around whatever area they want to use.
2. Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Arizona
If I made this list before the 2015 SEMA Show I wouldn’t of had this track on my 12 Places to replace Irwindale Speedway list. However, Formula Drift added the Pro 2 finals here for 2016 and you have to consider they are test piloting this race facility for future expansion. Why else would they be rolling into Arizona and splitting off Pro 2 to have its own final? I have the least amount of personal knowledge with this venue but it seems like successful events have happened here such as the Turbo by Garrett event called Boostfest. Not sure how setup and layout would work but I imagine this venue is near the top of the list regardless of these issues. Saying this venue has proximity to Southern California is a stretch at a solid 6 hour drive for most fans in the area.
3. Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada
A grand return to the City of Sin seems like a natural fit for the series. By their own records, they pulled in around 16,000 fans to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the past before leaving the venue and region for Texas. The event took place at night during August and still maintained a heat index of well over 100 degrees. I was always a voice shouting for an earlier in the year Las Vegas drift event but who knows what the cards would hold if they return. The Vegas scene is a strong one with frequent events hosted by Vegas Drift and now Street Driven Tour is throwing down every September at LVMS. I can see fans traveling to this one with the couple hour drive from SoCal along with the added bonus of a fun weekend in Vegas.
4. Turn the Motegi Drift Challenge into Another Formula Drift Pro Round
If you had to double down on a weekend in the Formula Drift calendar, the Long Beach weekend isn’t a bad choice. Right now, the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend is done as a $25,000 demo during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend and run at night. The Formula Drift Long Beach Round 1 weekend keeps selling out so why not just make these events Long Beach Round 1 and 2 of the series. Round 1 run during the day and Round 2 run at night the week afterward. It wouldn’t be as glamorous as the setup now but it keeps two Southern California drift events in a prime location moving forward into the future. The big problem I see here is the logistics of the LBGP weekend and complications with ticket sales/parking/vendors since another major event is already happening at the same time. If Formula Drift really wanted to make it work then I think they could sort out this option.
5. A Return to Northern California with Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California
I was personally never a fan of this track configuration when Formula Drift ran it but with the powerful cars of today it might be an interesting return. The only perfect qualifying run in Formula Drift history was done here by Tanner Foust so the track has some pedigree. I also think with the help of NorCal locals such as Faruk Kugay and Matt Field the area has grown as a drifting community. Sonoma Raceway does weekly drift events in the parking lot, runs a competitive drift series, and hosts an end of year event called Winter Jam that brings in a ton of drivers. If you look at it distance wise, this venue is about the same as the Phoenix venue travel wise for Southern California fans. I wouldn’t mind seeing this as an option as I love the area and venue but the hotel prices are unreal due to the track being smack in Wine Country.
6. Convert a Sports Stadium in Southern California
The last and least likely option I think Formula Drift has is to convert a local sports stadium into a track for the weekend. They have been doing it in China and from a visual standpoint it looks pretty amazing. Part of me thinks that Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is the best option since the place is dead during the summer. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium I think are out the window due to baseball season running during the same time as Formula Drift. Perhaps they can use some of the other random venues around Los Angeles like the Coliseum? This is by far the most exciting prospects on my list but carries the highest cost to execute. This idea seems far fetched to some but it is happening with Chinese drift events already along with Supercross/Monster Jam are already doing this locally. This has to at least be something Formula Drift is considering for the future in Southern California. What venue do you think would work best for a setup like this?