Houston Raceway Park, which calls itself Southeast Texas’ largest multi-purpose motorsports facility, announced Wednesday that it will close in April 2022.
New property owners will repurpose the 500-acre drag racing complex into an industrial park.
The iconic Baytown drag strip, which used to be called Royal Purple Raceway, hosted its first national event in 1988, shortly after opening. At the time, it was co-owned by the Gay family of Dickinson, longtime friends of brothers Greg, Gary and the late Glen Angel. The Angel brothers bought out the Gay family’s interest in Houston Raceway Park in 2004.
“Our family is extremely proud to have showcased the top level of professional drag racing for 35 wonderful years,” track operator Seth Angel said in a statement. “It’s been a dream come true to meet and work with all the incredible drivers, team owners and NHRA executives who come together each year to entertain the millions of racing fans in our area.
The park will close after the National Hot Rod Association’s annual SpringNationals.
“From preseason tests, to years where we had two national events, to the scores of legends who have raced here, on to the championships decided on our grounds, it’s been an incredible high-speed ride. Our family is forever indebted to the sport of NHRA drag racing and will cherish the amazing memories we’ve made when this chapter closes next spring.”
The NHRA said it is looking for a new location to hold its SpringNationals after the 2022 event. The NHRA is considering the Tulsa Raceway Park and other venues not currently on the circuit.
“We at the NHRA want to thank Houston Raceway Park and the Angel family for their commitment to the sport of drag racing,” said Glen Cromwell, NHRA president, in a statement. “Our race teams, partners and NHRA officials look forward to celebrating the track as we close out this chapter of NHRA history.”
Houston Raceway Park has been the site of many significant moments in drag racing, including the NHRA’s first four-second run, a 4.99 set by Texan Gene Snow at the 1988 race, according to a release. Fellow Texan Eddie Hill soon topped Snow by running a staggering 4.93 in the final round of Top Fuel to win the race, creating a frenzy of interest in the sport.
Other memorable moments made at the track include “The Burndown,” when rivals Warren Johnson and Scott Geoffrion sat in pre-stage beams for more than a minute trying to unnerve one another; first-time victories for a pair of future multi-time world champions, Scott Kalitta and Jeg Coughlin Jr.; Larry Dixon running the first quarter-mile pass under 4.5 seconds when he posted a 4.48 in 1999; Michael Phillips becoming the first African-American to win in a pro category in 1997; and three inclusions into both the Pro Stock 200 mph Club and the Top Fuel 300 mph Club, according to a release.