If you watched the Top Gear episode on American V8 muscle and left turns and decided to put the race track the hosts visited on your bucket list, you should hurry up with it—Rocky Mountain Raceways, which will forever be the place where Sabine Schmitz terrified Chris Harris for life, will close after this season.
Top Gear went to America for its first episode of the new season, and it was incredible. The car show from the UK started its season by traveling to the U.S. and showing off one of its most pure, grassroots types of of auto racing: the local short track, on the 3/8-mile asphalt oval at Rocky Mountain Raceways.
Hosts Harris, Matt LeBlanc and Rory Reid did timed laps on the oval after taking a tour of it from a NASCAR car, then Nürburgring queen Schmitz looked like she was about to make Jalopnik alumnus Harris cry in a figure-eight chain-car race.
It was great to see an episode appreciate short-track racing, and it was easy to get caught up in the enjoyment of it all. But the sad reality of short tracks in America probably should’ve gotten more attention, since they continue to disappear and the track the show visited is about to join the list.
Rocky Mountain Raceways announced in December that 2018 would be its last year after opening in 1968, and that the site would be developed commercially—warehouses, to be exact, representatives from the track told Jalopnik.
Rocky Mountain Raceways, which has the oval, an NHRA-sanctioned drag strip and a motocross track on 50 acres, said in the announcement that it got a lease extension when the track was sold in 2014. The announcement said the lease expires at the end of 2018 and there’s no option to renew “due to the direction of commercial development” nearby.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported in December that the owners of the track, Freeport West, plan to develop it commercially and that the group over Rocky Mountain Raceways tried to find a solution. They couldn’t. From the Tribune:
The Young Automotive Group, which owns RMR, explored different options for extending the life of the track, including the possible purchase of a new property, where a another facility could be built. But that plan did not pencil out, and RMR’s attempts to find a public partner also fell short. However, a spokesperson said the company isn’t giving up on racing in the Salt Lake Valley.
“We’ve invested a great deal in the racing community, and we aren’t walking away from that,” Spencer Young Sr. said in a news release. “We will continue to sponsor racers and support racing.”
Development is a common thing for race tracks, as is the closure of tracks that just sit and rot away. Local short tracks and even major former NASCAR and IndyCar tracks get bulldozed over for development, left behind to wither away or put in limbo for years with no clear future. It happens to the smaller tracks like Longhorn Speedway and Rocky Mountain Raceways, and the major tracks like Texas World Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway.
That would’ve been a downer for a show like Top Gear to mention, but we can’t talk about our passions without recognizing that they are, sometimes, fading away. That includes cars and racing.
If we don’t discuss them now, it may be too late by the time we start.
The headline on this story originally said “bulldozed” and has been updated for clarity, as it wasn’t specified that the site would be bulldozed. That’s just likely, due to the warehouses moving in.