By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Sarah Edwards has some great memories at the now-closed Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. It was there that the young Edwards saw the Queen of Diamonds Jet Dragster for the first-time, which caused her to dream about being the driver one day.
Edwards had raced many times at the track before their sudden announcement in January that caused shock ways throughout the drag racing world. The iconic drag race was shut down by the Napp family.
“I’m heartbroken,” she said. “I’m very sad. I saw a couple of things pop up. Bangshift.com had the story out first on Tuesday afternoon (Tuesday, January 16th). The whole thing is sad really. Raceway Park is filled with so much history. It’s one of the first seven NHRA national events and what I’ve come up with that is the equivalent is our flag losing a star. The first seven races are like the original 13 colonies.
“It’s just so heartbreaking and devastating. For me, that’s the track that my parents brought me to as a young girl. That’s the place that I fell in love with drag racing. That’s where I learned about it, saw it, smelt it, felt it. It’s incredible to think that nobody else is going to be able to smell it or feel it — ignite all their senses — it just sucks.”
Edwards first saw the news on Facebook. Yet, her father knew this may happen for years.
“The truth is — I don’t know if you saw my post — my dad has always told me they’re trying to close this place down,” she said. “He was always like, ‘They may not be here next year.’ Are you sure you do not want a shirt or a sticker? They just may not be here next year. In the back of my mind, it’s urban development. They’re building houses. The track came first, but they’re still building houses around it. Now, everyone hates the news. We kind of always knew this could always happen, but then to know it’s actually happening, it felt like somebody punched me in the gut. I was mopey (the day after the news broke) and I thought this can’t be for real, but (Wednesday, January 17th), I went on the Raceway Park’s website.
“Tuesday night, I went to bed with some hope and that it was just a rumor, like years past — I then read their statement on Wednesday that they were ending drag racing effective immediately. They’re keeping the place, but they’re running drifting, motocross, but shutting down the iconic dragstrip, or the whole place sold out and they’re demolishing it to build houses. I don’t know what hurts more. I know they’re leasing it to Copart for $75 million. The Diesel Nationals was my last race there and I’m pretty sure I was the last person on that track that went 300 mph. And I actually made my fastest pass ever there at 301.74 mph.”
This news, like everyone else, who especially attended events at the track or even got to race there, is still hurting from their decision. It will be a while before that goes away.
“I think like anything, this news is so shocking,” Edwards said. “You learn about somebody’s death, or something bad that happens, it’s said. It sits with you for a week. Over time, you move on with your life. It’s not that you ever forget about it, but you move on and work around it. You remember that you were there. But your new normal kicks in. It’s not going to be the same thing. I felt like (Wednesday, January 17th), we grieve about it. Today is the day that we work towards getting it back. I don’t know the deal that was worked out. If they’re not ripping up the dragstrip, whose to say in 15-years, somebody with money can’t buy it back. Obviously, if you do not maintain the track, whose to say somebody can’t fix it? It would have to be resurfaced and fixed to make it a track once again.
“Hopefully, it’s not gone forever. I guess time will tell. Where’s the next biggest truck race going to be? That’s the biggest truck race in the country. You have that group of people, you have bracket racers, exhibition racers, you have the NHRA nation — whose to say after this whining and crying — that they’re going to start talking. Unfortunately, it takes somebody with money — there is a petition going on, but I don’t think that will work — there’s going to be people willing to help. I was sad initially, but I’m in the mindset, what can we do to get it back? Who do we talk to? Do we talk to the people, who love drag racing? They’re leasing it to Copart, an automotive company, I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want to be partners with them to get their name out there. There’s money in drag racing. People do show up — they had Honda Days, Truck racing, Thrill events — don’t get me wrong, the Thrill events used to be a lot bigger than they’ve been recently. The more money you have, the bigger Thrill events you can have, along with the drivers you can bring in. They also started Jr. Drag Racing there with their own 8th-mile track, which is also gone.”
Besides the news that the drag strip would be shut down, Edwards also had to deal with losing two jobs that Raceway Park provided to her each year. She lost out on the Night of Thrills and the U.S. Diesel Nationals. She said Hanna Motorsports had been loyal to the track to perform at those events.
“That automatically takes two races off of our schedule,” she said. “Hopefully, it opens a door for a race that we haven’t been to (in the past). We were loyal to the Napp’s for the Night of Thrills and the U.S. Diesel Nationals events, but it’s still overall sad. They’re such iconic events that you go to Raceway Park to attend. There’s really no other Night of Thrills on a Wednesday night, so they’re famous for that by themselves. They have the largest truck race and they were home to the NHRA Summernationals.
“Now, with the Jets being brought back into the NHRA, that’s three events right there that has affected us. But hopefully, it’ll open our doors to something we haven’t been able to participate in yet. I try to be as optimistic as possible. I hope that everything happens for a reason. Even though, it may feel really bad right now, hopefully, something good will come out of this. This decision doesn’t take away the hurt and the disappointment we all feel. Everyone is going to be b*tching and moaning about it, but they’re not going to do anything about it. Nothing is going to come of that unless they are proactive, which would make things more encouraging.”