BangShift.com has learned that Raceway Park will cease racing operations in 2018. This is unhappy news to say the least. At this point our understanding is that there will not be a 2018 drag racing season at Raceway Park and an announcement regarding the track’s future, or lack thereof is forthcoming. In conversations with various parties close to the track’s operation we have learned that the Napp family who owns the facility has effectively leased some or all of the property to a company who plans to use it as some sort of vehicle storage area. We have not spoken directly to track ownership or management at this point but are confident with the information that we have gathered from those we have spoken to. We cannot speak to the other facets of the track (i.e. the motocross course, etc) but we can speak with a level of confidence that drag racing is over at one of the nation’s most well known and longest running facilities.
Raceway Park opened in July of 1965 and became part of the NHRA National event landscape in 1971 as it was that year the track hosted the famed Summernationals for the first time. NHRA moved it from York, PA to the NJ track. The facility has loomed large over the sport of drag racing for decades, at times holding the record many believe to be the most prestigious in the sport, that of the top fuel category. Outside of NHRA racing, the track’s most famed operator Vinny Napp was a great innovator in the realm of match racing, staging mid-week night shows that packed them in and brought some of the craziest and most hardcore drag racing entertainment on Earth to the fans. Later iterations brought the monster trucks and whatever else would bring folks through the gate. The track has also hosted one of the biggest and baddest diesel drag racing events in the world with what US Truckin’ Nationals. Last year’s running of that event was purported to be the largest single event in the history of the track regardless of type.
Raceway Park’s legacy in the sport is secured in an interesting way. Junior dragsters. Vincent Napp built one for his son David famously out of electrical conduit and old street signs. David was not a guy who was interested in stick and ball sports but loved drag racing. Jill Caliendo and David Napp raced in front of a packed house at the 1992 Summernationals and a type of drag racing that has gone on to create multiple professional and sportsman world champions was born. Today, thousands of kids across the country compete in junior dragsters that are more advanced copies of what Napp and Calends raced in 1992.
The track was also one of the great supporters of the burgeoning pro modified movement in the late 1980s and served as the place for some of the most jaw dropping runs in those early years. Mike Ashley famously clocked the fastest speed ever for a door slammer at 211mph with some of the pass being made through the grass that bordered the track at the time. The track also hosted the famed “Shakedown” (which now happens at Norwalk, Ohio) which became one of the great “outlaw” style door slammer races in the country.
We could go on and one about the place’s impact in the Import drag racing scene that blew wide open in the early 1990s and a million other things but the sad fact is that we wish this was not happening. We can understand the family’s decision to use the property as they see fit but wow is this a punch to the gut.
This is a hard thing to write and we know it is a hard thing for you to read but it is real. Mark our words.