In a major policy shift – after a stint of 15 years with the IHRA – Edmonton’s Castrol Raceway has officially flipped sanctioning….

The marquee Western Canadian facility, which had been home to what was the IHRA’s most successful overall annual event – the Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals – is now NHRA sanctioned.

That development, which became official today, should probably not be a surprise to too many people and is also certainly Motorsports news of a significant magnitude.

Castrol Raceway President Rob Reeves

Castrol Raceway President Rob Reeves

There is no denying that over the last fews seasons or so the IHRA’s overall product has been steadily decayed. Few fans will dispute that IHRA’s national events are only a shell of what they once were. While hope does remain eternal, that loss of glory days has caught up with them and the exit of Castrol Raceway is probably the most serious indicator of a much bigger problem.

According to Castrol Raceway’s President Rob Reeves, the track’s main driving force, this decision was both a difficult and necessary one.

“Officially we have resigned from the IHRA effective with November 4th, “ said Reeves. “There was a lot of uncertainly about their future and there was a definite lack of communications. I certainly have no dislike for the IHRA – our initial relationship with Bill Bader is how we all got here and we’ve very thankful for that. But the reality is I’ve been through six IHRA management teams since Bill and that’s been frustrating.”

Rob affirmed that his track’s decision was also driven by some new aggressiveness from the NHRA and by the apparent will and preference of his local racers.

“We had some good meetings with the NHRA people, including Graham Light,” he admitted. “They came hard at us while the IHRA was evasive. We got a lot of feedback from the racers in this area about the NHRA being simply a better fit. And the NHRA are doing some little things too like helping racers with cross over for their licences at a discount. Overall we’re pretty excited about where this will eventually lead us.”

The annual Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals is Canada's #1 fan attended annual event.

The annual Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals is Canada’s #1 fan attended annual event.

While the first reaction for many racing fans may be to think that this development could be a first stepping stone toward returning a full blown NHRA national event back to Canada – that scenario remains highly unlikely – due to a myriad of reasons.

Instead Castrol Raceway and the NHRA are however committed to developing a couple of pretty big events together including the continuation of a morphed version of it’s Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals still set for next summer.

“As you know over time our Mopar Rocky Mountain Nationals event was in reality an affair that we funded and managed ourselves,” Reeves continued. “For 2017 (on July 14-16) we will continue with that format but now our race will be in conjunction with an official NHRA National Open. We will be showcasing more regional racers and booking in our usual stuff including Nostalgia Funny Cars and Pro Mods to go with the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series format Sportsman program (Top Dragster down).”

Castrol Raceway's propensity for featuring local and regional racing talent will continue.

One of Castrol Raceway’s strengths is it’s propensity for showcasing cool local racing talents at it’s major events.  That priority will continue.

Rob also affirmed that discussions are underway for a second major race with NHRA in 2017 – involving their co-production Hot Rod Heritage Series. The likelihood of an announcement for that race date (which includes nitro Nostalgia Funny Cars and Top Fuel) may also be imminent.

Longer term, beyond next season, Castrol Raceway will also be very likely a new destination for a full blown NHRA Northwest Division LODRS points race (including Top Alcohol cars) like what happens at Mission Raceway each year. That level race is a high probability for the 2018 calendar.


More information on this sanctioning shift will be posted (an official NHRA release is forthcoming early next week). DragRaceCanada will post those details too.

Post and photos by Bruce Biegler