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Unhinged: A Letter To Those Responsible For Shuttering Drag Strips


Unhinged: A Letter To Those Responsible For Shuttering Drag Strips

Last September, I got to take part in something I hope to never do again: the final blowout before a race track is closed in the name of whatever was needed at the moment. Honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what the closure was about, you won’t find me pleased in the least about the circumstances unless a replacement facility is opening and the old facility has to go to make way. Rocky Mountain Raceways, the strip in Salt Lake City, did not have to go away. Honestly, there was no reason whatsoever for the track to be shuttered. The website for the track simply has a gigantic “THANK YOU” in place of the fifty years of history the track had prior. It was believed that the developing company that had taken over the property that RMR sat on was going to turn it into warehouses, like just about every other one of the properties in it’s portfolio. That didn’t happen. Instead, the track is a shell of it’s former self, with offices ransacked, all of the copper wiring gutted, the offices trashed, the weeds growing nice and tall, and the graffiti popping up.

Tell me, exactly, what was the real plan for Rocky Mountain Raceways after the track was shut down. Please, I’d love to know, because right now all I see is the early stages of one of those racing venues that will sit, bake in the sun, fall into disrepair and won’t become much of anything except heartbreak to those who drove there for years to come. I only went to RMR once, to cover the “Night of Fire” finale, and that’s it…and I’m pissed-off when I see these updated photos. This track could have been operational. There could’ve been at least one more season. There could have been something. But no, instead we get tall grass growing up through the cracks in the asphalt of the circle track. We get the shattered glass and destroyed garage doors. We get tumbleweeds and a starting line that is begging for one more drag, one more prep session.

An hour and a half after I left Rocky Mountain Raceways for the last time, I penned what might be one of my top three articles ever and without question, my most inspired editorial I’ve ever written, which you can read HERE. You can also find links to the galleries I shot in that article as well. The lead photo is one of my favorites. I shot it early in the morning as the sun was rising over Grandview Peak and Gobbler’s Knob in the distance. There might have been ten people at the track, the early stirrings of a crew prepping the sprayers and the tractors and one or two in the offices getting everything going, yet a facility never felt so empty to me. If that feeling had stayed all three days, I might not have been so upset, but on the final night, it was a packed house and then some. I’m not exaggerating in the least, the parking lot was overfilled and there were miles of cars up and down the frontage road, parked in the desert, parked along the road, parked on the median between the frontage road and Highway 201. The stands were loaded with bodies, cheering, screaming, going berserk when the drivers went for a half-track burnout or dry-hopped to their heart’s content. I saw magic that evening that, bluntly, I have yet to see at any other event.

I might be focused on Rocky Mountain Raceways, but the sentiment goes for just about any time the developer wins, like what happened to Kansas City International Raceway Remind me again why the track had to be shut down, just to bake under the desert sun. Give me one reason why the late-night tuning sessions that saw gang members at the track instead of out on the street had to go. Look me dead in the eye and tell me why the lack of development on a site that was so desirable was worth pink-slipping the employees. Tell me, and the world for what I care, why a dead track at the far reaches of Salt Lake City had to be silenced when it’s obvious nobody is in a hurry to do anything with it except for the racers.

Go on. I’ll wait.


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28 thoughts on “Unhinged: A Letter To Those Responsible For Shuttering Drag Strips

  1. MGBChuck

    Same thing happened to Fremont (Baylands), Ca closed in the late 80s, it’s property is just now being developed (industrial). I don’t like things like this either McT, it just SUCKS!

  2. Pizzandoughnuts

    Speedworld out in northwest Phoenix, gone. All because Jan “fu**ing” Brewer development friends were building there crap houses across Grand Avenue. So they came up with all kinds of violations, over 5 million dollars worth, to close it down! I used to take my grandkids out there and see my friends and there families. And there it sits today, not abandoned, but money under the table closed. Left a bad taste in my mouth for all politicians, may they burn in hell!

    1. Pat

      Speedworld……my life long dream was to retire and move to Wikenburg and spend the rest of my days racing there. Thanks Maricopa P&Z.

  3. KCR

    There is a track near me.itys not that old .No one wants the property .It is way out in the corn fields. How ever there is an issue with gangs coming out from the City. I was there a few years ago. there was someone knifed in the pits. And a while back a shooting. No that will shut down and race track.

  4. KW

    The owners still own 70 acres. Which is basically the oval, drag, pits and paved parking lot. The for sale sign is for 28 acres.

  5. 69rrboy

    Does anyone have the slightest clue what the deal is with 75/80 Dragway in Maryland??? They had their “final” event there like 8-14 years ago. The only story I ever heard at the time was that they were going to develop that property into yet another worthless housing project.

    Yet EVERY week on the Motorweek TV show they’re still doing drag and slalom tests on that track. They’ve been doing that there ever since the show started in the 70s or 80s. Up until last year the track looked worse and worse and it got to the point where there were almost as many plants ON the track as off of it. Now apparently somebody “mowed the track” before they started filming for this season because now it’s all cleaned up again.

    So I guess my question is, IF they can obviously still rent this place out for years and years to those guys then why did it have to close in the first place and/or why hasn’t it ever re-opened? Makes NO sense!!

  6. Brakston C.

    I live close to here. I also live close to Snake River Dragway, in Gooding, Idaho. After RMR shut down the feeling of drag racing was bitter sweet, but then we got the shattering news that Snake River Dragway was taken from us as well, all within the same off season. This article rings all too true for how I’ve felt all summer long. Drag racing has been my entire life, from sitting in the stands at Drag City as a baby, to watching my first nitro cars at Rocky Mountain Raceway. It just makes you feel so differently about the whole sport. I agree with you Mr. Lohnes, why?

  7. Trav

    The shear number of people that built cars to race here and were left hanging out to dry is extremely sad too. Street racing is so much bigger now that RMR is closed. I’m just holding my breath for UMC to build an NHRA certified drag strip, but who knows.

    1. Alan

      That is the rumor. I have friends close to that situation that tell me there will be both a drag strip and an oval. But we shall see.

  8. Joe Dirt

    I\’ve got mixed feelings about this. Yes it\’s terrible to see these places go by the wayside. There is a ton of history in these old tracks. Every one of them has a differen character. I hate to see it. But to come out and blatantly bash people to the point of sounding like an ass…. well that\’s a bit uncalled for. You say you don\’t give a rat\’s ass why it closed. And you say there was no reason for it… but did you ever stop to think that maybe the owners couldn\’t afford it anymore? I have no idea why it happened. This is the first time I have ever heard of the track. But if the place is becoming a drain financially, I completely understand. It doesn\’t make it better by any means. But there is some justification in it. You sound like a 2 year old who dropped his lollipop. Come on man.

    1. Squaresville

      I sent my truck down the quarter mile of RMR. It was a thriving venue. My friend met his wife there, and became part of their management. This was the only game in town. The only reason it’s closed is because it’ll be where a new highway connects the existing one. Sad, but true. They could’ve made it another year, as construction isn’t even close to this site.

  9. Emery Stone II

    Kansas City International Raceway of 43 years was destroyed by scumbag ethics in Government, the lost drag strips book refers to the KCIR deal as one of the stinking-est deals in recent memory. The area had seen development for 30 plus years along with 25 years of heavy complaining about engine noise. The City used the threat of eminent domain in wanting the land for a park to help close the deal and paid 1.59 million thru the parks fund for 90 plus acres that was valued at $512,000.00 when the smoke cleared. The City counsel snuck around using a school house at one point for a meeting place in the process of KCIR\’s demise.(they got caught) The land value to this day is slightly over 600 thousand last I looked. The parcel number for the land is 44-800-03-25-01-0-00-000 JacksonCounty.Org (Missouri, (Noland Road) There\’s a youtube video of a counsel woman lying in that there was no opposition to the track being sold. IF YOUR AREA HAS A TRACK UNDER THE THREAT OF BEING CLOSED OVER NOISE OR DEVELOPMENT YOU NEED TO HAVE SEVERAL RACERS WHO RESIDE IN THE AREA OF THE TRACK… \’REGISTERED AS A PARTY OF RECORD WITH THAT LOCALITY. ONE PERSON MUST ATTEND EVERY COUNSEL MEETING BECAUSE THERE ARE THOSE WHO CAN, WILL AND HAVE USED GOVERNMENT TO SERVE THEMSELVES. JUST LYIN LIKE SNAKES IN THE GRASS TO TAKE YOUR RACEWAY PARK THRU SOME LEGAL LOOPHOLE. WE\’VE SEEN IT FIRST HAND HERE… SCUMBAGS USING THE LAW TO SERVE THEMSELVES IN DESTROYING A COMMUNITY PLACE OF INTEREST. If I ever run into the guy who writes the lost drag strips books, I\’d be more than happy to help him shine up his next publication. 8 years later no park, just a walking trail with a park sign. \”No man\’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.

    1. Harry davis

      We have laws on Kentucky to prevent that. Anything that existed (farm, race track, factory, etc) BEFORE the land was developed, can’t be dinged for the side effects of what goes on after the land is developed. Meaning they’d be shit outta luck to complain.

      1. E. T. Stone II

        Harry, We have laws against taking land too, (grandfather clause) unfortunately the law can be abused. Nothing protects pre-existing conditions from Liars in Government. The area developed over the last 30 years from upper middle class to multi-million dollar homes loaded with Judges, Lawyers, Police that by law must reside within the City Limits of Kansas City. The Law always wins… that\’s why I made the harsh ethics reference. With eminent domain papers being served it was reported via. online sources the track could have been shut down and suffered lost revenue while battling the Courts. When the System takes to serving their own selfish purposes using the enormous underlying power of Government you don\’t stand much a chance of supporting existing rights. Look at what happened to the Indians.

  10. Dan

    I lived in East Texas and raced at I-20 Raceway, Hallsville Raceway and Whitehouse Dragway. All were longtime tracks that eventually closed down. I also attended the Last Drag Race at Green Valley Raceway near Dallas. It’s always sad when tracks with a lot of history shut down, but life goes on. Now I’ve got Houston Raceway Park and Houston Motorsports Park within an hour of my house. Times change, but I will always find somewhere to race!

  11. Tank Dempsey

    I will miss the facility as I\’ve done thousands of passes down it. But business is business. It was costing them more to operate the facility than let it sit. The owner(s) of that track were not willing to stay in the red. It wasn\’t noise. It was racer participation/expense plain and simple. They went from having nights for specific divisions/classes to combining 3 different nights to 1 because attendance was so low. Yes it\’s community service to have a place to prevent street racing but It\’s still a business. I highly doubt the city was going to subsidize a racing track with tax dollars. The owners have a right to do with what they see fit with their land. UMC will likely never build a track. They\’re struggling as it is to stay even.

    This article reads more like someone throwing a tantrum that doesn\’t have a clue how a business is ran.

    1. Business bleh

      Maybe if the business realized they was reaming families with the entrance fees and the concessions were outrageous!! We have been around since Bonneville and every year with rmr. The best nights they had were when they had like ksl $5 nights. But as a business they stayed greedy and instead of making it affordable and not lining their pockets it was easier to walk away. $4 for a bottle water. A family of 4 can’t afford to do this weekly.

  12. Jason Haskins

    I live in Utah and went to RMR back when it was still Bonneville Raceway as a kid. I continued to go as an adult and watch the drags, ovals, and motocross. It was great family fun. I loved that place. It\’s beyond sad that it\’s gone now. All for what? Another industrial area? Who knows. I was hoping someone with some money would step up and save it. I know there are a lot of people that miss it.

  13. JW

    This truly breaks my heart. One of the best moments of my life was running a 10-second pass at RMR.

    As trivial as that sounds, this track was 5000+ feet above sea level. But several hours of overtime, bad financial decisions, late nights wrenching, and several dyno sessions later I was able to make a pass.

    From the terrible track prep, the U92 crew there, the smell of burning rubber, cigarettes, and beer occupied most of my summers.

    Damn makes me want to bring a lawn mower and a leaf blower just to keep the track looking good.

    I would love if the track owners let us use the track until they actually started the new construction.

  14. William

    Young auto group spencer young never cared he is a greedy money hungry jerk
    He just wanted the money he knew he could keep it open he was given chances to open a new track but he lied and claimed no one wanted a race track

    1. 9SecondGTO

      They cared to a point. The racers didn’t. He’s a businessman and a smart one. Nobody is dumb enough to invest millions into another facility that the racers won’t support. The less than 150 car count on any given Friday confirmed that. More race cars are sitting in garages than what shows up at the track and the only real support came from the midnights.

  15. Tim H

    No one but Tank Dempsey has even a close idea of what was behind the decision to sell the RMR property. But I do have a suggestion to all who THINK they know.
    Approach the current owners with a proposal to buy the property back from them and operate the facility yourselves. They are just business people who want to make a profit. And if it is great enough to them I\’m positive they will sell.It appears from your comments that you have all the knowledge and know how in the world and should be able to make yourselves a great profitable Track. One suggestion; Learn to spell first. The Banks frown on loan applicants who can\’t even spell out what they are applying for.
    Then after you have re-opened the track-which can only make you money for approximately 5 months per year-try to make your 12 monthly payments, plus expenses, plus staffing costs, etc.
    Oh I forgot, you already know everything so my suggestions are just superfluous to your great knowledge. Sorry.
    I for one will be in the stands on your opening day to cheer you on. So go for it!!!

  16. Thumper

    Poor decisions were made for the past 7 years. It didn\’t have to go away. Doug Binstock had great profits coming in. Eames was a senseless fool that dumped way too much money into non sense. He had many people trying to guide him, but he was the odd duckling that killed Utah asphalt oval racing.

    1. Not caring for eames

      We didn’t care for binstock, but he tried, eames different story all together, once they get that power of authority it’s all over… Eames it went all to his head, he thought he was “the man” hahaha!!! He was more like douchebag with too much cologne and sunglasses driving a charger lol we worked with both of them as track promoters, atleast Doug didn’t just care about the drags like eames did, eames didn’t give a shit about the oval. If they promoted better it and lowered prices making it more affordable maybe this article never would have been written!

      1. General Chaos

        Well with all of the other comments and complaints I am here to leave my 3 cents. When I was younger I didn\’t really go to RMR, however in the past 10 years or so I have become a lot more active in the car scene. I have spent quite a few nights at RMR enjoying the midnight drags. Seeing what my friends\’ cars did with the builds I watched happen. When I had my own car that was worthy of a race, or the one I hadn\’t built yet but wanted a baseline, I ran that quarter mile. Then when I had it built I ponied up the 20 bucks, sat in the line for a long time talking with others about their builds, comparing notes and making suggestions. All of this waiting to find out how many seconds you took for that 1320 feet. And although some of these races were a competition against another driver and their car most of the time I was trying to beat my last time. Trying to see what the car is capable of.
        The feeling of acceleration in that 1320 feet gets in your blood and you want to do it again.

        You ask why is RMR closed. I have heard several reasons, a lot of them political. I have heard that the people that have moved in close to the track have complained of noise. I heard that it was a land grab by developers.
        No matter the reason, I am definitely sad that this track is closed and hope for another to take its place. As I said the quarter mile gets in your blood and you can\’t forsake that. I know many take it to the streets and that is the concern.
        No matter the reason another iconic track is gone, along with it the sound of burning rubber and the smell of nitrous. Definitely is sad.

  17. 9SecondGTO

    Been going there since 1969 and racing there since 1988. All I can say is what a total waste if property. Say what you want about management. poor decisions and all the piss poor reasons why it was a bad place to race or whatever. Fact of the matter is there is no more local racing in Salt Lake. The $HIT A$$ attitudes from the racers made sure of that. Anyone that attended a racers meeting(pissing contest) throughout the last 30 years know this. Now everyone is crying in their soup because they have to travel or just give up racing. Nice job.

  18. Tex Poulson

    So what took place was not fun but was a Business decision in my eyes. The racers here did not appear to care for what they had at there disposal. It is sad and I miss being there with my fellow employees and racers, what a tight family we have here. Time will see where it goes.

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