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Looking for a rebirth of NHRA national event racing in Louisiana is No Problem

The state of Louisiana has a long and proud history of NHRA Drag Racing, and with the return of the Laris Motorsports Insurance NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals to No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, the stage is being set for a new era of success.
09 May 2024
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
No Problem Raceway

The state of Louisiana has a long and proud history of NHRA Drag Racing, from State Capital Dragway in Baton Rouge, which for 15 years hosted the NHRA Cajun Nationals, to historic sites like Pel State Dragway, Shreveport Dragway, and Houma Drag Strip, and with the return of the NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals to No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, the stage is being set for a new era of success.

Former NHRA Sport Compact world champion Nelson Hoyos and his Marla bought into the operation three years ago, encouraging owner Harold Petit to reinvigorate the venerable facility with the expectations of bringing the SPORTSnationals back after a nine-year absence and with an eye on a NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series national event in the future.

After making improvements and partnering with Ross and Holden Laris of Laris Motorsports Insurance to sponsor, promote, and enrich the event, the return of national event racing to Louisiana was a huge success.

The Hoyos family, which opened a driving school, Driven to Win, after Nelson’s driving days ended, brought their expertise in promotion and management to Palm Beach International Raceway, Thunder Road Raceway, and South Georgia Motorsports Park before accepting Petit’s invitation to join the track ownership team. Petit has owned the track for more than a dozen years after purchasing it from its founder, Pat Joffrion, and the Hoyos hope to become sole owners by the end of the year.

“Harold is a great man, who loves the sport and really wants the track to succeed,” said Hoyos. “When we came on board, Marla and I gave him a list of things that we felt were going to be needed to expand the facility so that we could get the SPORTSnationals back and continue to grow the facility."

Hoyos is currently working with the state of Louisiana to get some government grants to possibly expand the facility with more grandstands, more bathrooms, more concessions, and more parking, all ingredients necessary to attract a full-on Mission Foods Series national event.

“We have given the state all sorts of economic-impact studies and feasibility studies, and we’re working to get a meeting with the governor, Jeff Landry, to show him all the great things that could happen,” he added. “We’ve got such great plans for this facility.”

If the first Laris Motorsports Insurance NHRA Cajun SPORTSnationals is any indication, the team is definitely headed in the right direction.

“We really want to create must-attend events, and the SPORTSnationals was a great example of that,” he said. “In addition to a great race, the Laris family helped put together a great eating experience with jambalaya, pastalaya, crawfish, and all sorts of great things. We had a band one night and a DJ another night. That's kind of how we're going to gear these races to make them must-come-to events. We were trying to offer the flavor of Louisiana, and all these Cajun guys and gals, they love it, so now we're trying to expose all this to folks from Pennsylvania and Michigan and Ohio and everywhere else so that they can have a unique experience at this race.”

“The Laris family really stepped up and helped us tremendously by taking the lead on it. We do a lot with them at the racetrack on our own, but this is a great new relationship that is going to be a huge benefit to everyone, so it's a win-win-win for all of us.”

The Hoyos also recently purchased Doug Foley’s drag racing school and have 12 dragsters on hand — including two-seat dragsters for ride-alongs — to help promote and encourage NHRA participation. 

In addition to its championship dragstrip, which also hosts a popular and well-attended NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event each February, the facility also boasts a 1.8-mile 14-turn road course built by Petit and will soon add a go-kart track in the expansive pit area that will create a multi-use motorsports facility. 

“I've got three Porsches, and I am buying 24 go-karts, so we're going to get into an entertainment complex,” he said. “I want to host corporate events to subsidize the facility during the week and bring more people to the racing circuit. We want to give people a day of motorsports where they can ride along, or they can drive, whatever they prefer. We’ll be able to give them rides in the dragster, let them drive dragsters, let them drive or ride in the Porsches around the road course, let them drive the go-karts, and then bring them in and feed them and send them home happy.

“I think that everybody is really happy with how the facility is turning out,” he added. “I’ve had some of the NHRA executive team come to the track, and they know what we're trying to do and what we're all about, and I know they’ve heard from a lot of the racers and the locals that everybody's happy with the route that we're taking. I'm hopeful that we can keep this up and hopeful that I can convince the state that this is a great investment for them. 

“We’ve got 185 acres here, so I've got tons of room, and I plan to try to use every inch of it.”