Irwindale Speedway puts on a show-stopping extravaganza for the USA’s birthday
I’ve been to Irwindale Speedway countless times. To Formula Drift fans it’s the “House of Drift,” and for those in the media or advertising world it’s the most convenient place to do on-track filming in the L.A. That being said I’m always learning. I didn’t realize when I casually asked our everything-emeritus, Doug Stokes, if he could help me secure tickets to Irwindale Speedway’s “Night of Destruction Fourth of July Fireworks” that I was in fact asking for tickets to the hottest show in town. That realization hit me when the gates opened and the crowd poured in.
My wife, my two school-aged girls, and I were lucky enough to enjoy this sold-out extravaganza thanks to the hospitality of the track president Tim Huddleston and his wonderful wife Lisa. We had a perfect vantage point on all the action from the press box. After experiencing this we have a new family tradition and I’m happy to say it includes enjoying the mother-of-all fireworks shows that is every bit as exciting as the gold standard show at Disney.
Food, Music, Hot Wheels (and More Food)
Part of every race is concessions and entertainment. There was plenty of delicious food available, including the scrumptious street corn, shaved ice, and baked potatoes that our family devoured. A band was pumping out classic rock and there was a booth full of hard-to-find Hot Wheels. Carbs, sugar, AND Hot Wheels, all for a reasonable price — literally, what more could you ask for?
I came in pretty oblivious to what the Night of Destruction was. I thought it was going to be a huge demolition derby and then a fireworks show. Silly me. There was plenty of exciting short-track racing on hand before the main event. I was not expecting to get so fired up about the actual racing.
The girls got their first taste of NASCAR racing up close and personal with the two LKQ Pick Your Part Late Models races. I asked each girl to pick a car to root for and they were immediately riveted by the competitive and action-paced races. Short-track racing is a perfect format for little ones who have shorter attention spans. There’s plenty of action crammed into 35-40 laps. It was surreal to watch the racing with many of the Southland’s municipal fireworks shows going off in the background. I felt like I was living in a session of Gran Turismo or Forza.
My eldest picked #50 piloted by none other than Tim and Lisa’s son Trevor — a four-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series State of California Champion. Good pick, because Trevor piloted his Sunrise Ford Racing #50 car to victory lane. It was a huge treat for us to meet him in person after the race. That’s a pretty unique feature of this kind of track, you can get up close and personal with just about any driver without paying and arm and a leg for some “VIP experience.”
In addition to Late Models, there was a variety of other racing going on. My inner Honda nerd was rekindled by the sights and sounds of old (when I say old, late 90’s and up) Hondas mixing it up in just about every conceivable way. The Tucker Tire Enduro pitted them against each other in a road-racing format.
The Fun-o-Meter went through the roof with the Figure 8 racing due to the many close-calls in the intersection, each one eliciting a stadium full of “OOOOH!s” and “WOAHs!!!”
Finally, when you thought the action couldn’t get any wackier we had skid plate racing with the same cars and drivers. By that time I was missing my 98 Prelude (Type SH, don’t get it twisted) and wishing I had held onto it to campaign it at Irwindale.
The Main Event(s)
The Night of Destruction could not be complete without actual destruction, and boy did we witness some amazing crashes and bashes. Before the trailer race a jet truck set an old shell of a Corolla on fire as sort of a palette cleanser between the road-racing appetizer course and the destruction! destruction! destruction! entree course.
Heretofore our family never watched a trailer race and now that we have… I’m pretty sure that this is why my parents immigrated to this great land of ours. There is nothing that says freedom more than watching SUVS and station wagons towing big boats and campers around a racetrack in a quest to systematically and emphatically destroy each other. We were on our feet the whole time. Things were spectacularly and utterly destroyed. A van caught on fire and a driver scampered out the back. Our minds were blown.
Before the trailer race we ran into Tony Songer, driver of race car (SUV?) #28 as we were heading back from buying more food and drink. Songer took time to ask the girls how they were doing and to give us pointers on all the action.
During the race we rooted for his Jan’s Towing and Super Plus Auto sponsored SUV & boat combo. Again, that’s the beauty of these kinds of events at your local track. You get to meet and interact with the drivers and get on track and check out the race cars — which makes it a ton more fun when the green flag drops.
Just when we thought it could not get more fun, we were treated to one of the best fireworks shows we’ve ever seen in our lives. Lisa ushered us up to the roof of the grandstands where we watched a 15 minute pyrotechnic display at practically eye-level.
When it’s time for me to go onto the next plane of existence, I will definitely remember this night for a variety of reasons — not the least of which was enjoying my some of my favorite things (namely: racing, food, fireworks) with my family in a super fun and family-friendly environment.
The Huddleston’s saved Irwindale Speedway from becoming an outlet mall. I hope they can continue to preserve this last bastion of good-old-fashioned ‘Merican racing for as long as humanly possible. This is one new tradition for our family and it could be one for yours too.
For more information on upcoming events at Irwindale Speedway, check their website.