On Sunday, EV battery suppliers SK Innovation and LG Energy Solution reached a settlement in their long-running dispute, saving SK from a ban that would’ve locked the firm out of the U.S. market for the next 10 years.
The ban also threatened the future of SK’s factory in Commerce, Georgia, which has been in development since 2019. Two weeks ago, SK publicly floated abandoning the plant altogether, likely a move made to rile up local politicians. The hint at abandoning the plant may have also been intended to light a fire under the federal government, spurring a push for the companies to reach an agreement between themselves — or to encourage President Biden to veto the 10-year lockout.
With news of this settlement, though, none of that will be necessary. And everyone’s seemingly happy! LG gets a big payout, SK gets to trudge forward with its plan and not lose a decade of business in the U.S., and Georgia gets to celebrate thousands of new jobs. Everybody wins!
Well, everyone except drag racing fans — they’re losing out pretty big here.
The Atlanta Dragway is located a few miles up I-85 from the SK factory site, and it was put up for sale in January. The NHRA has announced that the 2021 Southern Nationals — the 40th-annual running of the event, set for the weekend of April 30 — will be the last held at the strip, though the weekly schedule will continue through to the fall.
Performance Racing Industry reported on March 23 that the track was “currently in the process of being sold,” though, at the time, “a buyer [had] not been announced.” We’ve reached out to the NHRA to confirm.
Regardless, with that battery factory now definitely happening, the last remaining light of hope that the Atlanta Dragway would continue — or at least be sold on to a buyer who’d want to keep it a racetrack — is certainly gone now.
Initially, it seemed there was a possibility the property could land with another track operator. JLL Capital Markets, the real estate broker representing the NHRA, said back in January that some had expressed interest to “maintain it as a racing venue,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, adding:
“We are going to market this based on what the Banks County community wants to see there, and we are going to let the market dictate how it’s used,” [JLL Capital Markets senior director Jamie] Smithson said.
It was a nice dream, though the listing on JLL’s site conveyed other ideas. The brokerage firm angled for “a large mixed-use program of industrial, residential, and commercial uses” for the land.
The problem — as it always tends to be — is that the market for housing, industry and retail is perpetually stronger than it is for motorsport, even without the opportunity presented by 2,600 new jobs flowing into the region. Add in that factory, though, and the NHRA can make a killing here, which it says it will “reinvest” back into other drag strips. From PRI:
“Speaking about the sale of the track, NHRA Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jeffrey Young said the sanctioning body plans to direct funds from the sale to its remaining facilities. “Our plan is to take that money and reinvest it back into our own tracks. We have Lucas Oil Raceway in Indy, Gainesville Raceway, and Auto Club Speedway in Pomona. So, we’re going to see some improvements, including to those tracks and facilities.”
Founded in 1975 on the grounds of an airport, the Atlanta Dragway became an NHRA-sanctioned track in 1980. Over the next decade, it went under comprehensive renovations, including resurfacing and the construction of new amenities, seating and corporate and press resources, and was sold to the NHRA in 1993. But today, it’s just another casualty of the times.
Updated 4:05 p.m. ET: NHRA VP of Marketing and Communications Jeffrey Young responded to Jalopnik’s inquiry about the Atlanta Dragway’s current status, saying “the NHRA Team is entirely focused on the 2021 Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals and creating a deserved finale to a remarkable track.” Young said the NHRA would “follow up with more information on the sale of the track when applicable.”