Rockford Speedway announces closure after 76 years, HJS Development to take the reins

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 9:08 AM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A piece of the regions sports history will close after revving up excitement in the area for more than 70 years, and owners say they will go out with a bang.

Before Jake Gille could walk, he spent most of his time at the Rockford Speedway. Where he watched his dad and uncle as they burned rubber on the track.

“It’s home,” said Gille, “It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid.”

Gille says he keeps traditions alive by bringing his kids to the track to watch him race. Now, he says those memories will be in the rearview as the Speedway will close after seven decades. The owners announce Wednesday, they’re selling the property to HJS Development that is managed by Shorewood Development.

HJS is set to take over the parking lot, the Forest Hills Lodge and part of the track. Turning the site into commercial developments to extend Highway 173. The company has not released what they plan to put in it’s place.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to process it. It’s obviously, you don’t want that to happen. You kind of figure with all of the development it would at some point,” said Gille, “but it’s just, you know, no matter when it happened it was going to feel too soon.”

Tom Deery belongs to the family who owns the Speedway. The Speedway first opened in 1948 but in 1966 his parents Hugh and Jodi Deery took ownership while David Deery, Tom’s brother, is the general manager.

Tom says they will hold about 50 races for spectators and drivers who want to cross the finish line one last time before their final season ends in October.

“The families that were out here for years and having fun as participants and attendees it’s going to leave a hole,” said Deery.

With the final season coming up in March, 23 News asked Gille how he thinks the last day on the track will be for him.

“That’s horrible. Bittersweet. I mean hopefully we’re wrapping up a championship but if not I mean that’s still, that’s a lot of emotion I’m sure. Ask me again in September,” laughed Gille.

Deer says since HJS will only be using 50% of the Speedway, the remaining square footage of the track will be up for grabs.

He also plans to place a memorial site on the property at some point to honor champions of the track, walk of fame members and his parents who put their all into the Speedway.