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History Chester Drag Strip

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by frank spittle, Nov 19, 2012.

  1. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    '34 ford ext..jpg '34 ford....jpg '34 ford int..jpg '34 ford int...jpg timecard.jpg In the mid to late '50s Chester Drag Strip in Chester, South Carolina was one of the East Coast's premier drag strips. It was managed by Bob Osiecki who had his hands in just about everything hot rodding and racing. It was there that Don Garlits had his legendary fire.

    Chester closed in 1960 but is a drag strip still fondly spoken of here in the Carolinas. This Chrysler powered A/G '34 Ford Coupe raced there in 1958 and was driven by 15 year old Burwell Kendrick, who is still drag racing 55 years later. I have enclosed a time card he saved from the money run against George Montgomery. The '34 was owned by Burwell's older brother. I bought the car from him in 1962 shortly after graduating from high school but found out quickly it was not something I could drive on the street. I paid about $500.00 for it but sold it and purchased a '53 Studebaker coupe with a 270 horse Corvette engine that I could drive on the street.

    Chester closed when I was 16 so I didn't get to see any racing there and it is just a legend to me. I hope some of you were there and can post your memories of and hopefully pictures of the track.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  2. dmc3113
    Joined: Jul 28, 2007
    Posts: 235

    dmc3113
    Member

    btt
     
  3. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I have looked through my late '50 car magazines but have found no coverage of this once famous track. It probably was not NHRA sanctioned and therefore the lack of magazine coverage. Osiecki was also involved with NASCAR at the same time. And if that wasn't enough he founded the Charlotte Custom Car Show in the late '50s too.
     
  4. dmc3113
    Joined: Jul 28, 2007
    Posts: 235

    dmc3113
    Member

    Frank that timing card says I.T.A.(International Timing Association) Sactioned. Cecil Curry of Greenville, SC was one the folks that ran the races there. I think at one time they also ran the drags at Daytona. I'm not 100% sure of that though. Cecil ran an Olds powered 32 Ford Roadster at some of these events also. I Last taiked to Cecil in late Nov. 2012. If you would like to get in touch with him send me a PM.

    Danny
     

  5. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
    Member

    this is all i've got.
     

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  6. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
    Member

    i've got a friend whos dad[roger odum] raced there and at walterboro drag strip. he has got some great home movies of both tracks that he had converted to dvd. i'll see if i can get a copy.
     
  7. customcory
    Joined: Apr 25, 2007
    Posts: 1,832

    customcory
    Member

    My dad always went to Chester to race and spectate. I think there is a little east coast magazine that had a Chester S.C. dragstrip article, I will try to look for it. I think it was when Garlits was there.
     
  8. dmc3113
    Joined: Jul 28, 2007
    Posts: 235

    dmc3113
    Member

    I have an August 1958 Rods Illustrated that has an article about
    Cecil Currys '32 Roadster that mentions Chester Drag Strip.
     
  9. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I have never seen any film of Chester and I also did a search on youtube.....but nothing came up. That would be great if you could post something.
     
  10. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
    Member

    i'm gonna try.
     
  11. Edweird:
    Looking at the dates on the poster Nov27-29 ,if it was Thurs- Sat it was in 1958..If it was a Friday-Sunday it was 1959...

    I remember going to Chester, but was in last year of junior-hi... I was so young and dumb , I didn't pay attention to who or what was there...just another chance to watch a lot of noisy car go fast..seems like there were no guardrails, like most runway dragstrips of that era..and you could get right up to the starting line...Shoulda paid more attention.... and heaven forbid ,take any pictures...
     
  12. BootleggerJim
    Joined: Dec 14, 2007
    Posts: 202

    BootleggerJim
    Member
    from SC

    I have it, I'll get it to you.....
     
  13. dmc3113
    Joined: Jul 28, 2007
    Posts: 235

    dmc3113
    Member

    Sometime ago I saw a short clip about Garlits fire at Chester. It showed him in a fireball going down the track. I was thinking it was on youtube.
     
  14. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I found it!!! Thanks dmc3113. It is in the documentary DON GARLITS by AmericanRodandCustom on youtube. The explosion is about 7:45 into the 10 minute doc. Garlits said it happened June 20th, 1959.

    This has been a big part of his lore. I have heard it mentioned about him as much as his accomplishments over the last 50 years......but had never seen any video. It is gruesome. It shows the fireball down track and the black smoke bellowing from the car after it stops and the rollcage minus Don still simmering. The paint and lettering on the cowl is burnt to a crisp. It was much worse than I had imagined all these years. I am amazed he lived through it with what he wore back then.

    You are right Stan, there were no guard rails. But it was a huge place. I was surprised how huge. I can finally say I have seen Chester Drag Strip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cE36KqbByg
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  15. Dave Labs
    Joined: Feb 22, 2011
    Posts: 24

    Dave Labs
    Member
    from Wisconsin

  16. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    Thanks for the correction. The video you posted looks more like the terrain in South Carolina. Narrator Steve Evans states it happened June 10th on this video. And the track is even larger. I wonder if DG knows about the error. I will ask him more about Chester the next time I talk to him. I don't know who was driving in the video I posted but if it was Collins he must have been hurt worse than Garlits.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2013
  17. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
    Member

    frank. i saw that video too , but noticed mountains in the back ground. i knew that wasnt chester.
     
  18. I had heard that Ford did some testing with the GT there,also.
    Pop had a sailplane he took up there on weekends.(the tire tracks/skidmarks caught my eye)...
     
  19. Frank, did you by chance buy your Studebaker from Wes Moss?
     
  20. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    It has been so long ago I don't remember. I do remember the seller lived in Salisbury N.C.
     
  21. OK,,Wes was in Charlotte and worked at H-M,,,just wondered,,,,,
     
  22. greazy john
    Joined: Oct 13, 2007
    Posts: 457

    greazy john
    Member

    no help on chester , never seen garltis vid....thanks much
     
  23. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,408

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    I don't believe it!

    I looked through my very limited stash of little books and found the Oct 1959 issue of Rods Illustrated. I thought I was pretty lucky until I checked the article on the Chester event and recognized a picture of MY COUPE on page 15! It has the driver as Bill Stanley from Ringgold, Ga... I only know him as Red but it is the same car.

    Anybody got anything else on the little coupe? I'm taking it back to Ringgold, GA in April to have a reunion with some previous owners and others that remember the car. It spent 43 years in a chicken coop without an engine or trans.

    It was featured in Nov 2011 issue of Hot Rod Deluxe as found, without an engine or trans. It is also pictured in the current issue (March 2013) of Hot Rod Deluxe on p 19 with the previous owner(before me) racing the car at Eagle Field Drag Strip in CA. That coverage was a surprise as well.

    Here are some pics. Please email me with any info on the coupe. Legend has it that Red was pretty dominate with his Pontiac powered 32 Ford 3 window.

    Last pic is from the article in Nov 2011 Hot Rod Deluxe.

    Sign me as Surprised and Happy Al
     

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  24. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I talked to Don Garlits today and he said he remembers Chester Drag Strip well. Something he informed me of that I was not aware of is Bob Osiecki was not only sanctioned by ITA but also founded it. DG told me he raced there all the years the track was open which his recollection is from '57-'59. The track closed in '59, the year of his fire.

    He has an amazing memory to be 81....or any age. I have never asked him a question about his career he could not remember. He is also aware of the wrong footage on one of the videos of the Chester fire. We are all blessed that one of drag racing's pioneers is still alive and of sound mind and can answer most of the questions he is asked.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2013
  25. micky69
    Joined: Dec 24, 2010
    Posts: 287

    micky69
    Member
    from Ohio

    What was the reason the track shut down, and is any of it still visable today or has it been developed?
     
  26. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    Hey Micky,

    The explanation I have heard the last 50 years is the "officials" would not renew his lease.
     
  27. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    Sometimes I can't believe how I luck out. I was curious if today's Chester Airport is the same location as the former drag strip so I called their phone number. My guess would be whoever answered the phone may not know the answer or at best know if it was or not. Mr. Butch Church, the airport manager, answered the phone and when I asked the question he immediately answered yes. GREAT!! Do you mind if I come and take some pictures? That's fine. By the way, I was one of their fans back in the day.

    This is going to be good. Stay tuned.
     
  28. micky69
    Joined: Dec 24, 2010
    Posts: 287

    micky69
    Member
    from Ohio

    Sounds great Frank. I cant believe when I lived in Rock Hill I never went to Shuffletown or any of the little dragstrips around there, only Rockingham and Darlington. Cant wait to see some pics.
     
  29. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    A little history of the Chester Airport from Mr. Church. It was one of three identical WW11 emergency air fields near Charleston S.C. The other two are in Darlington and Barnwell and are also presently in use. All three locations had three one mile paved runways and a hanger. They were only used for emergencies or storage of aircraft that Charleston could not handle. The only personel at the bases were aircraft mechanics. There was no planes coming in and out daily.

    This is another example of the dedication our leaders had during the war to do everything possible to win. These three part time air strips were very expensive to build and were seldom used.

    After the war the military turned the property over to the local government. Mr. Church told me his father was a private pilot and built a hanger on the property to house his plane. I asked if he leased or purchased his spot and he told me neither. You just picked out a spot and used it as you liked at no charge. You could use the runways 7 days a week but there was no control tower.

    Starting in 1956, however, the runways at Chester were closed on Saturdays. Bob Osiecki had the rights to the runways.
     
  30. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I had a very very productive day at the Chester Airport today. I met and interviewed three guys who either raced or watched the races there back in the '50s. I have a lot of material to download and post. And I have been promised more!

    I can't begin to describe the feeling I had as I looked down the former drag strip. I have heard Chester Drag Strip mentioned many many times over the last 50 years and now I understand why it is the legend it is. Zmax Dragway has been the talk in drag racing the last 5 years due to it being wide enough to race four cars at one time. CHESTER WAS TWICE AS WIDE AS Zmax and was/is smooth asphalt, not rough concrete like most military runways. The strip was 150 feet wide and over one mile long when most drag strips back then were 30 feet wide and a half to 3/4 mile long.

    I only live about 70 miles from the Chester Airport but this is the first time I have been there. It is a big 1400 acres but with the exception of new hangers exactly like when it was built 70 years ago and still way out in the boondocks. If you can't go there to see it in person I will do my best to bring it to you. As I said I have a lot of info to post.
     

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