At Firebird Raceway, any car can be a race car.
Connor New, a third-year visual arts major at Boise State University, holds four championships at his family’s racetrack, Firebird Raceway. His winning champion? A hand-me-down 2002 Ford Explorer.
“All you need is a seatbelt and pants, then you’re set,” New said.
Firebird Raceway, located in Eagle, Idaho, was founded in 1968 by the late Bill New and his wife, Eleanor New, and is owned and operated by the New Family today.
After more than 50 years of racing, Firebird Raceway is the first drag strip in the U.S. to be recognized as a historical site by the National Parks Department.
Anything goes at the Firebird Raceway, as long as one’s car fits all of the safety requirements.
Firebird Raceway, a family-owned and operated business, is open to all kinds of people and their cars. American muscle cars frequently face off against Japanese rally racers, huge trucks try their luck against Teslas and, sometimes, dragsters take off against minivans.
Connor New and his 2002 Ford explorer specialize in “grudge racing” and the Gold Cup racing events, two of the many kinds of races Firebird hosts. Grudge racing is the simplest of the races at Firebird, presenting only two cars racing against one another.
Firebird also hosts bracket races, which involve any two cars ready to race, with the slowest starting first and the faster car trying to catch up.
The most unique, however, would be Firebird’s “Beat The Heat” program.
“Beat The Heat” involves a local police station or sheriff’s department modifying a squad car for drag racing, then the raceway invites speeders to take them on.
The program is designed to give high school and college students the chance to speed on a safe racetrack rather than on public roads, which endangers pedestrians and other cars.
John New, the facilities manager and Connor New’s father, manages the track and the surrounding facilities like the food and beverage stands.
“Need for speed? Go to Firebird, this is the safest venue to do it. It’s the right thing to do,” John New said.
Connor New shared that the raceway has an additional safety measure on the track called PJ-1, or more commonly known as “TrackBite.”
“TrackBite” is an ultra-adhesive substance added to drag racing strips to keep the cars on the road and avoid potential crashes. John New shared that PJ-1 is so sticky that those walking onto the track in regular shoes would eventually lose them.
John New assured that with these safety measures in place, crashes and 911 calls are very rare at Firebird Raceway.
Drag racing is one of the safest forms of racing, especially at Firebird Raceway, with the New family taking every necessary precaution to reduce any potential accidents.
All of the cars racing must be fully compliant with the raceway’s safety requirements in order to race, and the raceway has experienced staff ready to respond to any unexpected situations that may occur on the track.
Firebird is managed by Bill New’s son, Scott New, and his wife Debbie New, the Firebird track administrator. Scott New graduated from Boise State with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and Debbie with a business degree.
Scott New reflected on the different programs at Boise State that helped make Firebird a successful venue for drag racing in Idaho.
“Boise State certainly offered me a positive foundation and framework to help grow and build our family business into a thriving operation that annually impacts tens of thousands of participants, fans and companies that align with our motorsport’s facility,” Scott New said. “I’m really glad my father (Bill New) originally helped encourage us to pursue a degree at BSU. The business school and university is top notch.”
Scott and Debbie New aren’t the only members of the family with roots at Boise State.
Most of the family staff who run the day to day operations at the raceway are Boise State alumni including Brad New, the marketing director for the raceway who sells advertising on the track.
Brad New graduated from Boise State University in 1992 with a degree in human resource management. Today, the raceway has many of the same advertisers as Boise State football, including Coca Cola.
Brad shared that his education at Boise State helped him be successful with his advertising work at the raceway.
“It’s helped me immensely with my work ethic, to focus on the task at hand and the ability to prepare a professional presentation when it comes to business,” Brad New said.
Scott New also shared how students at Boise State could get involved with a career in racing, either on the track or behind the scenes.
“Our automotive industry offers a wide and diverse array of opportunities to capture a job ranging from marketing to finance to engineering to social media and many other avenues for those who might be looking to start a new career,” Scott New said. “Our sanctioning body, the National Hot Rod Association, even offers a platform today called NHRA Launch that will assist in career opportunities for individuals who may want to jump into our motorsport’s arena.”
Staffed with experienced employees with caring attitudes, it’s no wonder Firebird has been home to families and racing fanatics alike for more than 50 years.
John New emphasizes the importance of drag racing to the New family legacy, and to all other families who consider drag racing a part of their way of life.
“We’re drawing third-generation families with these races,” John New said.
Firebird Raceway and the New family welcomes all Boise State students as well as anyone who is interested in racing. The raceway is prepared to host families and events for years to come.