For Houston Raceway Park, the near-term future is assured
Lost in the midst of a record-breaking and headline-grabbing TX2K22 event last weekend, Houston Raceway Park (HRP) officials’ announcement that this year’s edition would actually do not be his last. This news was a revelation to many, whose assumption that the upcoming NHRA SpringNationals would be the track’s 35th and final national event meant that the impending land redevelopment would occur in calendar year 2022. But Seth Angel , Vice President and General of HRP Manager, confirms that he and his family are committed through at least early 2023 to running racing events at the facility, and in particular, the hugely popular and lucrative TX2K event. next March.
The Angel family, who founded and built HRP in the late 1980s, sold the property (approximately 500 acres) to Belgian transport and logistics company Katoen Natie (KTN), which has operations near HRP. ‘hippodrome. The Angel’s have subsequently leased the track from KTN since the deal closed in 2019.
“They have a path to developing the acreage the racecourse sits on; they don’t build things to spec, they build to their customer base, and when they have a customer they’re ready to build for, that fits their development blueprint, they will build. But right now it’s definitely something that’s going on,” Angel explains. “It’s not likely in a year or two, I think it’s over, which gives us an opportunity to continue to stay open. And so that’s what we intend to do, as long as we have a strong enough portfolio of events to be successful and sustain this business. We had the option to extend the lease until the end of 2022, and recently we extended it until the first half of 2023. I think the plan that is going is to assess the landscape at the end of the l year and to see if there is something that interests us to go further. If they come to me and tell me they’re ready to expand, we’ll transfer ownership to them.
The question asked by many after Saturday’s announcement, of course, has been the status of the NHRA SpringNationals beyond its 2022 edition. The April 22-24 race, which has been part of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series program since 1988, is presented as the last act of the series at HRP.
“Our motivation right now is the NHRA SpringNationals next month,” says Angel. “This is the last NHRA National event that we will be hosting, and so we are very excited to host this race. It will be, from all the projections, metrics and trends that I see, a sold-out weekend. And so that’s our motivation, to host three days of world-class NHRA championship drag racing for our fans who have supported us for 35 years. We had no conversations with the NHRA about anything after this race. At this point, we’re not focusing on that. What happens after the SpringNationals, it’s just too early to think about. We’re ready to host this last national event with our NHRA partners, put on a great show for our fans, and then we’ll see what the future holds.
Angel adds: “We are not actively seeking an extension through our NHRA agreement after this race, and that is where we are now. I will say “never say never”, but we are not actively looking for another national NHRA event. They didn’t contact me, and I didn’t contact them, even to have these discussions. I don’t think that would happen until next month’s race. From our point of view, our interest in organizing another national event is not there at this time. We’re totally focused on this race, and that’s what we’re going to do.
With a population of nearly 2.4 million, Houston is the fourth largest community in the country. the Greater Houston area, made up of nine counties, has an even more staggering 7.1 million people. Given the size of the region, as well as the annual running of a globally popular event like TX2K, there will undoubtedly be a vacuum created in South Texas when HRP closes for good. It’s a fact that Angel acknowledges, but he says his family’s time in the sport is coming to an end.
“Obviously, when HRP goes away – and it will go away sooner rather than later – it will undoubtedly create a void in the racing market for Houston. I can also tell you that neither myself nor the Angel family have any desire to build or build another racing facility.We have been in this business for over 35 years…my dad and uncle turned their love and passion for drag racing into building and owning HRP.Thirty “Five years is a really long time. This chapter is closing for us, and so we don’t want to build another one. And we won’t build another one. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone one or another band wasn’t trying to build a new track somewhere in this market because it’s definitely a big market and has an amazing fan base The events we have happening here there’s definitely a demand for the product offered by horse racing dragsters. And for us, it’s more than just a drag race – we’re a multi-purpose venue, we host a lot of non-motorsport related events like music festivals and winter attractions. The market will definitely miss the drag racing facility, and I suspect you’ll see someone else do something down the road, but that won’t include the Angel family.
HRP has a full slate of drag racing events on its 2022 calendar, with nearly 50 race dates from January through October. Angel says he expects to run a full racing schedule in 2023, through the currently set end date of the deal.