Professional drifting first came to the United States in 2003 with the D1 Grand Prix, a one-off exhibition of the Japanese drifting series set at Irwindale Speedway in California. The event was such a success — it was reportedly the first time the Speedway had sold out its 10,000-seat capacity — that it spawned the Formula Drift series that debuted the next year. Irwindale Speedway has since become the most iconic venue for drifting in the United States, serving as the final event on the Formula Drift calendar where the champion is crowned, as well as hosting several more D1 Grand Prix events. It has rightfully earned the nickname "House of Drift."
That's all set to end, though, as it was announced in 2015 that the property on which the speedway resides would eventually be demolished and replaced with a shopping mall by a development company that purchased the facility out of bankruptcy in 2012. Since the announcement, the venue has continued to host numerous motorsports events while the developers cut through the red tape of changing the site's zoning designations and signed on tenants. But in August of this year, it was officially announced that the speedway would cease operations on Jan. 31, 2018. That means the Formula Drift event at Irwindale from this past weekend will likely be the last professional drifting event at the venue that first ushered them in.
If this was indeed Irwindale's last professional drift event, then it certainly went out on a good note. Drivers, some of whom have been competing at Irwindale from the beginning and have since become legends in the sport, put on a show for the sellout crowd, and past champions like Reese Millen and Samuel Hübinette even came back to make an appearance and say their goodbyes. And like every year, a new champion was crowned, with Irishman James Deane taking home his first Formula Drift title. With the way he dominated the 2017 season, it probably won't be his last.
So what will take Irwindale's place on the Formula Drift calendar? "It will be difficult to replace such an iconic track and location in the heart of Southern California, but the series has been anticipating this announcement for quite some time," said Formula Drift in a statement back in August. "We will disclose more information during our annual SEMA press conference in November."
Even so, many of those involved in the series we talked to are still holding onto the hope that something might happen to allow Irwindale to stay on the calendar for 2018. Maybe a setback in the land development, or perhaps simply a miraculous change of heart from the current owners. Either way, the chants of "One more time!" from the crowd seemed to have a dual meaning on Saturday night.
Up in smoke: Irwindale Speedway hosts its last Formula Drift event originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 18 Oct 2017 09:15:00 EDT.