NHRA Drivers Reminisce Ahead of Potential Final Race in Arizona

An ominous cloud of uncertainty shades the otherwise sunny return of nitro pounding the asphalt in this weekend’s NHRA annual visit to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

It was exactly one year ago when a simple press release announced the closure of the long-time Chandler drag strip as the Gila River Indian Community prepares to demolish the historic Motorsports symbol following the 2023 NHRA event. WHPMP opened as Firebird International Raceway in 1983 and has hosted NHRA drag racing every year since 1985 with the exception of 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

This NHRA Arizona Nationals visit to Wild Horse could be it’s last. Last April, the East Valley Tribune reported the Gila River Indian Community’s proposed 3,300-acre development for an entertainment-retail-office complex where the track resides now. The original press release had scheduled construction to begin in February 2023 after the track’s typical race date. Schedule changes by NHRA moved the beginning of the 2023 season back a month and the race track’s website has events scheduled at the drag strip through June 17. There have been no announced updates to potential construction for the proposed complex or demolition for the track.

These potential delays have given fans and drivers hope that the valley motorsport staple may stick around a little bit longer but for now, this Sunday’s race is likely the final NHRA event in the state of Arizona for the foreseeable future. Sunday’s race was sold out well in advance of the weekend and drivers across the pits have expressed their desires to keep the historic venue alive. Regardless, each driver wants to find the victory circle on Sunday just in case it is the final time an NHRA trophy is awarded in Arizona at this monumental strip.

Ahead of Friday’s qualifying, 8-time Top Fuel Champion Tony Schumacher, 5-time Pro Stock Champion Erica Enders, 3-time Funny Car Champion Ron Capps, and 2014 Arizona Nationals winner Alexis DeJoria, all described what this race track means to them.

If you weren’t able to snag a ticket to Sunday’s final rounds, you can watch the action on FS1 beginning at 4:00 p.m. MST and re-aired throughout the week on FS1 and FS2.