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July 19, 2023

Atco Dragway abruptly closes after 63 years in Camden County

The beloved drag strip, a destination for car racing enthusiasts, had just hosted the annual Pan American Nationals over the weekend. The owners gave no explanation for the decision

Recreation Racing
Atco Dragway Closed Street View/Google Maps

The Atco Dragway, a quarter-mile drag strip beloved by the auto racing community, opened in 1960 along Jackson Road in Waterford Township. The dragway's owners announced its permanent closure this week.

The Atco Dragway, a home for auto enthusiasts in the Philadelphia region since 1960, announced the track's sudden closure Tuesday afternoon.

"Effective immediately: Atco Dragway is permanently closed," the owners wrote on Facebook "We will not be open from this point on. The remainder of our schedule for 2023 will be canceled. Thank you all for your patronage and memories over the years."

The owners of Atco Dragway did not share any other information about the reason for the abrupt closure. The drag strip had events scheduled out for months on its 2023 calendar.

Built in a rural section of Waterford Township, about a 45-minute drive from Philadelphia, the quarter-mile drag strip was a hotspot for racing events and auto shows. The facility had just hosted its 29th annual Pan American Nationals over the weekend, drawing racers and spectators to the strip for the three-day event.

"Special thank you to our 29th annual Pan American Nationals racers & crowd for making Atco Dragway's last event the biggest and best one ever," the Facebook post continued. "This isn't the end for import racing in the northeast! To all of our staff, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for sticking it out with us and being the best in the business!"

Atco Dragway emerged out of the hot rod era of the 1950s and 1960s, when modifying cars for optimal speed and acceleration become a pastime in the U.S. The early focus on American cars expanded to imports from Japan in later decades, growing in popularity during the 1990s and 2000s.

The future of Atco Dragway appeared to be in question a few years ago, when Dragzine reported that Illinois-based Insurance Auto Auctions had submitted a proposal to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission to redevelop the site. That plan, which listed the company as a contract purchaser, had called for repurposing the raceway into an automobile storage and auction facility.

Insurance Auto Auctions purchased New Jersey's other major drag strip, the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, to use as a storage site in 2018. When the proposal for Atco Dragway was announced in June 2020, nearly 10,000 people signed a petition to save the strip.

The Atco proposal faced hurdles in Waterford, keeping the dragway open in recent years despite indications that a sale might be on the horizon

Atco Dragway's most recent owner, Len Capone, has not publicly shared any details about the sale of the strip.

New Jersey Assemblyman Ryan Peters, R-Hainesport, and Assemblywoman Jean Stanfield, R-Westhampton, campaigned in recent years in an effort to save the track after hearing testimony from auto enthusiasts and people closely connected to Atco Dragway's history.

"Once the dragway is gone, a home to hundreds of people will be gone with it," Peters and Stanfield wrote in a 2020 letter. "This is what we learned over the past few weeks since news broke that there were plans to demolish the quarter-mile strip of raceway. It would be a shame to see that happen, and we are in full support of doing whatever it takes to keep the raceway intact."

With the closure of Atco Dragway, the nearest drag strip in New Jersey is the Island Dragway in Warren County. In Pennsylvania, Maple Grove Raceway in Berks County is about 50 miles west of Philadelphia.