NHRA returns to Arizona with Firebird Motorsports Park making its re-grand opening

The grand re-opening of rebranded Firebird Motorsports Park is upon us, leading into the 39th annual NHRA Arizona Nationals in the historic facility. The track was saved from closing last year and is back to hosting NHRA events in front of huge crowds for the annual drag-racing event.

The facility was supposed be shut down, as it was going to be replaced by an overpass and roadway for the I-10 extension. However, the plans never went through and drag racing was kept alive in the Valley. The NHRA Arizona Nationals will take place April 5-7 with Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Modified on the quarter-mile track.

"We're back," said Ron Capps, who along with fellow NHRA icons John and Brittany Force were on site in Chandler this week, discussing having Arizona back on the map in their sport. "We thought it was gone, we sold the place out in 2023. Our fans were bummed out, racers were bummed out. Next thing you know, we're back and excited.

"This is one of the true first facilities that had a lot of different races, courses and tracks. Phoenix is a destination getaway for a lot of people, a lot of fans came from all over to come watch our races. Our fans are going bonkers and purchasing tickets for the event on April."

Firebird's history in the city of Phoenix

Firebird is a clear favorite of the icons of the sport. Track manager Casey Buckman and business administrator Connie Bopp are working to build on the legacy of the facility, which in addition NHRA has hosted off-road, superbike, supercross, sports car and boat-racing events.

John Force is the winningest driver in NHRA history with 155 wins and 16 championships. He also has the most wins in Arizona of any NHRA driver, posting eight victories at the historic facility, his last coming in 2005.

Force went in depth about the name, Firebird, and the significance of why Phoenix is such an important venue for this sport. Firebird was the facility's original name when it opened in 1983; it became Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park 10 years ago.

The meaning behind Firebird Motorsports Park

"Firebird, it has a meaning," John Force said. "I'm really proud that they made the decision to move the name back to what it was. It was Firebird Raceway for the past 40 years, and you can't throw away history. Being in Phoenix means it's time to be with family. I'm glad it's back, I love the energy and it's simply a great track. It's a great place to live, but a better place to race."

Force is a family man who always cared for his young ones. It's the big reason why his daughters, Brittany, Courtney and Ashley, become racers themselves. Brittany, the only one still competing, is a two-time Top Fuel champion, but hasn't experienced winning yet at this racetrack.

"I'm very excited that changes were made and we return back to Firebird," Brittany Force said. "It's been a very tough track for me. I've been to the finals three times, and had some tough times that I'll never forget. We got to win here. It's a track that I've been coming here since I was a kid, and it's on my bucket list to win here. I'm going to hope that I can get the job done this year."

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: 'We're back': NHRA back to Firebird Motorsports for Arizona Nationals