Groups still in talks about future of Firebird Raceway - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Groups still in talks about future of Firebird Raceway

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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2013 6:49 am | Updated: 1:59 pm, Tue Oct 14, 2014.

The current owners of Firebird Raceway have announced an end to their 30-year operation, but representatives from the National Hot Rod Association say talks are still under way to continue racing at the facility.

“NHRA continues to have meaningful discussions with the Gila River Indian Community regarding the facility and hopes to finalize the agreement in the coming weeks,” Peter Clifford, executive vice president and general manager of the NHRA, said in a statement. “In the meantime, we are working closely with the team at Firebird Raceway on the upcoming 29th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals, Feb. 22-24.”

Charlie Allen, who has been president and owner of Firebird International Raceway for the past 30 years issued a statement on Jan. 2 announcing the end of Firebird after the 2013 season.

“Firebird International Raceway has been officially notified that its lease on the Gila River Indian Community Property will not be extended or renewed,” the statement said.

Allen said the facility would close this April. There were no concrete plans to build a new facility elsewhere. On Jan. 2 it was unknown what would happen to the property, which is owned by the Gila River Indian Community.

“There has been some talk about the community utilizing the facility as a motorsports venue moving forward,” Allen said. “Beyond that, we really can’t comment.”

The Gila River Indian Community did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mike Bambic, an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and regular at Firebird Raceway, said he’s heard rumors of Speed World Dragstrip in Whittmann, Ariz., closing as well, which would leave no place in the Valley for people to drag race safely. He’s afraid more people might start racing on the streets.

Bambic said he’s personally been saving up for some time to build a track-only car. If both tracks in town close down he’ll have to travel much further to race it.

“If they close it down I kid with my wife about moving to Florida, but she knows I’m serious that we may have to drive at least to Tucson to race. It will be the only track left open in Arizona.”

The Bob Bondurant School, which is located at the same facility and currently leases from Firebird Raceway, will not be closing its doors.

“The school is staying,” said Todd Crutcher, director of marketing for the school. “We are in the process of finalizing our lease agreement with the Sun Valley Marina Corporation, which is a corporation chartered by the Gila River Indian Community... We do currently lease from Firebird but we’re just changing our lease to be directly with the Sun Valley Marina Corporation.”

Crutcher said the Bondurant School is excited to be able to stay at Firebird and is looking forward to many more years at that location.

Firebird International Raceway is located at 20000 S. Maricopa Road. There will still be events taking place at the raceway through April. Firebird’s “Final Season” line up includes the NHRA Arizona Nationals Feb. 22-24, the Lucas Oil Division 7 Double Header, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, and the Napa Auto Parts Firebird Final Event Spectacular on March 30.

For tickets to the final events, visit www.firebirdraceway.com or call (602) 268-0200.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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