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Start your engines, SLO County: Santa Maria Speedway is reopening for racing this summer

Central Coast racers, start your engines: The Santa Maria Speedway is back.

After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway is back for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and an old name, general manager Daniel Castaneda told The Tribune.

Originally founded in 1964, the Nipomo race track spent the past three years under the ownership of Redwood City-based Gravity Nipomo, LLC, which is currently in the process of selling the property to Fresno-based Fisicaro Entertainment, LLC, Castaneda said.

In recent years, the track has been open sporadically, hosting races, music events and rodeos, but has been limited in what it can offer by noise concerns from neighbors and the constraints of COVID-19, which shut down the track in 2021, Castaneda said.

With the change of ownership, the track is returning to its racing roots and dropping the event hosting that was added in 2019 by then-owner Nick Duggan.

The change is reflected in the track’s 2024 schedule — which will consist only of races and automotive events — and return to its original name after operating under names such as “Stadium 805” in recent years, Castaneda said.

“This year, we’ll be exclusively racing, but we might try to get a monster truck show in there, or even a track motorcycle program,” Castaneda said.

After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.
After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.

Race tracks becoming a rarity across California

Castaneda has been with the Speedway for around 20 years, and has seen it change hands several times.

He said in light of the past three years of inconsistency, a change of pace and renewed focus on racing will be welcome at the track.

In the Santa Maria Speedway’s case, the past few months have been a scramble to implement minor facility and maintenance improvements where needed to get the property up to date between rainstorms, Castaneda said.

Starting May 11, the Speedway will offer a similar viewing and racing experience for stock cars, open-wheel racing and go-karts, Castaneda said.

This year’s season will feature races from the United States Auto Club’s CRA 410 non-winged sprints and Northern Auto Racing Club King of the West 410 winged car sprints, with the opportunity to add more races in August and September, Castaneda said.

In addition to the bigger races held on the one-third-mile dirt track, the Speedway will host a go-kart program on its smaller banked kart track, which Castaneda called a popular attraction for families.

He said the go-kart track’s popularity has helped keep racing a fixture in the Central Coast.

“I’ve got 16, 17-year-olds that are racing on the big track that started at between six or seven years old on the kart track, and then they move up to bigger things,” Castaneda said. “It’s kind of our farm system.”

After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.
After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.

Can new management bring stability to Santa Maria Speedway?

Castaneda said the issues that plagued the track in recent years — including a lawsuit filed by residents of the Costa Pacific Estates housing development related to noise from un-permitted music events — have largely been resolved. He added the track will work to be good neighbors to the nearby homes.

Legally speaking, the track doesn’t have a curfew or restrictions on noise thanks to a variance placed on the property when it opened, but Castaneda said the track won’t operate as late into the night as it did before.

He said guests should expect most races to wrap up by 9:30 or 10 p.m. rather than closing at midnight, which is a better fit for the track’s business model and its relationship with its neighbors.

Castaneda said he was happy to see many Santa Maria residents show their appreciation for the track and its future, and encouraged fans to show their support this summer.

“The reality is that a race track is not like a restaurant — when a restaurant closes, more open up somewhere else,” Castaneda said. “When a race track closes, it’s gone forever.”

After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.
After several years of openings, closings and rebrands, the Santa Maria Speedway will return for the 2024 summer racing season under a new promoter and its original name.