By KEITH LAIR
San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Irwindale Speedway is back in business. For a third time.
The race track which had been scheduled to close Jan. 31, 2018 will have at least two more seasons after a new lease was signed Thursday evening (Dec. 29). The about-face agreement was signed by a new track operating group led by Agoura Hills racer Tim Huddleston and his Justice Brothers distributorship. They are calling themselves a Group of Motorsports Enthusiasts led by Tim Huddleston and Justice Brothers.


Jim Cohan, the CEO of Team 211 Entertainment and parent company of the Irwindale Events Center, held yearly leases from land owner Irwindale Outlet Partners LLC for five years. Cohan said Irwindale Outlet Partners told IEC executives last July 24 it was terminating its lease at the end of January, 2018, seven months from then.
But on Nov. 26, the partners came back to Cohan and offered another lease for the 63.5-acre property. Cohan declined to renew the pact.
“After years of year-to-year leases, we just turned the page,” Cohan said. “We began looking at other opportunities.
“I hit pause (when they asked in November), but at that point we were in discussions with Tim and I really liked what he was saying. I fought harder to keep the racing there than anybody.”
Huddleston won three Irwindale Late Model series championships, the last one in 2008. He turned car owner and his son, Trevor, has won the last three series titles. He was also the NASCAR Whelen All American Series short track national runner-up this year.

Cohan said the Jan. 31 event, which is billed as a “Night of Destruction,” will have “the biggest fireworks show in Irwindale Speedway history.”
Rumors have swirled around the track since the July 24 announcement of its demise. Many naysayers have said the track was never closing, that officials were just trying to boost attendance numbers by announcing the end was near.
“I have had a good relationship with the IOP attorneys and that was not true,” Cohan said. “For all intent and purposes, it was closing.”
There have been rumors about the state of the mall, too. Sources have said the partners, a group of Chinese investors, have been unable to secure an anchor store and cannot proceed until one is obtained. There are also issues about the land; numerous soil samples have turned up contaminated dirt on the former landfill.
The track opened in 1999 and was quickly called the best short track in America by some of NASCAR’s top racers. Original operator Irwindale Speedway LLC filed for bankruptcy after the 2011 season and the track sat vacant, except for one Formula Drift event in 2012, as Irwindale Outlet Partners was in the process of buying the property for $22 million from Nu-Way Industries Inc.
Cohan and Huddleston’s group initially battled for control of the track and Cohan signed on in 2013. He had essentially one-year leases through this year. In 2016, the owners told race officials the season would end in July, only to extend it until the end of the year.
After the July 24 termination agreement, Cohan and Huddleston’s group still had discussions of how to keep the track open, if it somehow became available; through sale or a new lease.
“I said, ‘Go for it,’” Cohan recalled telling Huddleston.
And when the owners offered the renewed lease, Cohan recalled that he was “flabbergasted.”
Cohan said he will take on an advisory role. The track staff, which has about 30 workers, will most likely be kept in place.
“If you’re an Irwindale Event Center employee, it’s a very good day for you,” Cohan said.

 

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