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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

    Chester Airport Drag Strip 026.jpg First, I will show the massive size of the one time drag strip. This is a recent aerial photo of the airport. You can see the three 1 mile strips were laid out in a triangle to give planes the benefit of all directions of wind flow. The runway closest to the hangers (not the taxiway next to the hangers) was used as the drag strip. To give some clarity as to how wide it is look at the main highway to the left of the tree line. It is a major 2 lane highway and about the same width as the most modern drag strips of the 50s. I can relate to Bob Osiecki's feelings the first time he looked at it thinking what a great place for drag racing.

    The main runway used as the drag strip was repaved about 10 years ago. The other two have the original 70 year old asphalt.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  2. AHotRod
    Joined: Jul 27, 2001
    Posts: 11,339

    AHotRod
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    Great stories Mike, keep the info and pictures coming!
     
  3. RidgeRunner
    Joined: Feb 9, 2007
    Posts: 890

    RidgeRunner
    Member
    from Western MA

    Which way they run. upper left to lower right?

    Great history there, looking forward to more.

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

    frank spittle
    Member

    Chester Airport Drag Strip 026.jpg Yes Ed, upper left to lower right.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  5. Great info. Thanks for doing the leg work. It's cool to hear about old racing somewhat local to me.
     
  6. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
    Member

    K5 hart, next time you are down this way, i'll give you a tour of whats left of the walterboro drag strip.
     
  7. Sounds great Ed! I'll have to try and plan a visit with you in the future.
     
  8. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    Thanks for posting the Chester coverage. I envy you for two reasons. You own a '32 3 window and it has Chester racing history.
     
  9. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,328

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    YOU, in part, helped me find that documented history for the car. Thank you.

    Red Stanley had already told me he was there when Garlits had the big crash. Red said he won his class that day. He's trying to figure out which trophy it was as he wants to give it to me! Red and the other prior owners are all very pleasant and very interesting to talk with about the old coupe and the goings on in the days long ago.

    I can't wait to take the car down for them to see and go for a ride.

    I'm hoping the weather gods will look ahead and mark those couple days in April to be pretty in Ringgold, GA.

    You and any other interested folks are welcome to join us.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

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

    frank spittle
    Member

    Chester Airport Drag Strip 014.jpg You are looking down the Chester Dragstrip as hundreds of racers did 50 plus years ago. To give some clarity of how wide it is the white strip is nearly the width of a race car. It is indescribable to try and explain my joy as I snapped this photo. And it was a picture perfect day to boot. This place exceeds my wildest decades long imaginations. Click on the picture to see the real size. What appears to be asphalt patching down track is actually white paint to mark the runway. It's one mile surface is PERFECT.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  11. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 026.jpg Chester Airport Drag Strip 014.jpg The starting line was just below the intersection of the two runways in the upper left.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  12. micky69
    Joined: Dec 24, 2010
    Posts: 287

    micky69
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    from Ohio

    Hey Frank, how busy is the airport and do you think they would ever consider doing a special show/reunion?...hint....hint.
     
  13. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    I would love to see a reunion Micky and would drop EVERYTHING to attend. But I am done with organizing them.

    However, I reserve the right to change my mind.
     
  14. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,328

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    I'll be in Ringgold, GA April 11th WITH my 32 3w gasser that has RUN and WON there!

    I'd be willing to contribute some fresh black marks to the current pavement at no charge!

    I'll even let Frank decide to whom the black marks are to be dedicated!

    Probably should be Frank as he seems the most interested.

    Get them to open the gate! We can come by there. I've already got my own pit crew... trouble is they only normally use a knife and fork!!
     
  15. edweird
    Joined: Jan 4, 2009
    Posts: 3,187

    edweird
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    reunion would be cool!maybe get garlits to be grand marshall.
     
  16. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    There can be no cars on the runways. I ran into that when I tried to rent York Pa airport about 15 years ago for a reunion. That is where the York US 30 Drag Strip was back in the day. The FAA would not allow it.

    By the way, York is almost as wide as Chester and at one time back in the '70s they raced 4 cars at the same time.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  17. Hamtown Al
    Joined: Jan 17, 2007
    Posts: 2,328

    Hamtown Al
    ALLIANCE MEMBER
    1. Virginia HAMB(ers)

    Is the airport lit at night and early morning?

    Could we "stop by" for a few pics in the VERY early AM?

    Of course, if a foot slipped... "dang! how did that happen?!?"

    Just sayin'

    Open the gate. I don't think they could keep up or corner us for a while but you'd have to be QUICK with a camera!

    Naw. That wouldn't be right but it is fun to THINK about!
     
  18. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 024.jpg Chester Airport Drag Strip 026.jpg This is the secondary runway in use today with the original 70 year old asphalt. It is the runway to the far right. Even with the cracks it is smooth. I'm not sure we have advanced any in paving technology since WW11.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  19. Frank: Those shots really shook some memories outta the brain rafters..What a great facility...Lots of history at that old place..
    That shot looking down the alternate runway ,even tho the asphalt is cracked, still looks pretty smooth..
    Lot smoother than looking down the runway at Maxton , huh!!!
     
  20. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 026.jpg Almost every drag strip back in the '50s did not have paved pits. Chester did. The upper runway was used as the pit area. It was 150 feet wide and 5000 feet long. There was no mud ever carried out to the track. After each run the third runway was used as the return road back to the pits.

    That same pit area compares with the paved pit area at zMAX. The more I dig into this the more I am amazed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  21. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Yes Stan,

    Maxton is one of the rough concrete runways built during WW11.
     
  22. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 016.jpg This is the grassy area next to the starting line and portable grandstands were moved out for the races. Butch Church remembers the grandstands being mounted on four baloon tires with jacks at each corner. Once moved out to the track by an Allis Chalmers tractor the grandstand jacks were lowered to give the grandstands stability.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  23. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    This is Gene Boulware who remembers at age 14 racing his mother's new '56 Pontiac at Chester when it opened in 1956. Drivers license could be issued to 14 year olds back then. "I removed the fender skirts and wheelcovers and won my class. I felt a lot older that night. I got in a little trouble when someone ask my mother if her son won a trophy in her new car after reading the Chester racing results in the paper the next morning". Gene happened to stop by the Chester Airport to see Butch Church while I was there.

    It would be the beginning of a long drag racing career for Gene, who is a former IHRA World Champion.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2013
  24. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 003.jpg Chester Airport Drag Strip 012.jpg Chester Airport Drag Strip 005.jpg Chester Airport Drag Strip 002.jpg This is another "character" I met at Chester last week. This is Ray Beaty standing beside the '68 Plymouth Road Runner he bought new. Ray remembers driving his Model A Ford coupe out to the drag strip at the age of 14. At age 17 he replaced the stock 4 banger with a Flathead Ford engine and raced it at Chester before it closed. He built the Flathead using a Chet Herbert cam, Edelbrock heads and 3x2s. The picture was from 1962 when Ray was in the Navy. HE STILL OWNS IT!!! It is one of his projects now.

    Ray still operates a full automotive machine shop in Chester and builds engines too. The last pic is his current race car. It seems some of us never learn!
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  25. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Chester Airport Drag Strip 004.jpg This is the '55 Chevy that took Ray and his bride on their honeymoon in '67. He blew the engine in '68 and bought the Roadrunner. The '55 has been a race car since.

    I guess most of you have noticed Ray does not sell anything and are wondering if he and his '67 bride are still together? YOU BET!
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  26. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    car club.jpg I just received a letter from Burwell Kendrick with this picture taken at Chester. His older brothers were in this car club he believes is the Throttle Jockeys (now you know where the Jockey Journel got it's name). Their club uniforms were white shirts and pants and white sport car caps with red stripes like the one on the far left. Most of the club members were holding their caps for this picture.

    You may remember Burwell drove his brother's Chrysler powered '34 Ford coupe at Chester when he was only 15. A picture of that car is in the first post of this thread.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  27. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    tower.jpg The years Chester was open were, of course, pre-Christmas Tree starts so a flagman started the races. In the background you can see the announcer's tower.

    This picture really shows how wide the strip is. The tower looks to be next to the asphalt. Do any of you remember the flagman's name?
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  28. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Schedule of Events.jpg After a successful initial racing season at Chester in 1956 Bob Osiecki decided to go big in '57. The 1st INTERNATIONAL DRAG RACE, as it was named, was a 4 day event November 27-30, 1957. Keep in mind this was about the same length as the '57 NHRA Nationals.

    I was fortunate that Ray Beaty has a Program from that event. This schedule came from it. I will post more information from it later.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  29. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
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    Bondy Long.jpg Here is something I found interesting. This could have been at Chester in '56 or '57. Bondy Long is a well known name in NASCAR and drag racing but Jim Kaperonis has been like a fictional character to me the last 50 years. I have heard his name mentioned occasionally as a pioneer drag racer from Charlotte but can't recall seeing a picture of him. Long is in the Cadillac powered roadster and I am not quite sure what Kaperonis is driving.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014
  30. frank spittle
    Joined: Jan 29, 2009
    Posts: 1,672

    frank spittle
    Member

    Green Monster.jpg This has to be one of the earliest photos of Walt Arfons V-12 powered dragster. It is in the '57 Chester Drag Strip's "1st International Drag Races" souvenir program. Both Walt and Art Arfons were entered. Walt's dragster was listed as Ranger powered and Art's Rolls Royce powered. I have always heard them called Allison powered. I am looking for the results of that race to see who was Top Eliminator. Don Garlits and Bob Sullivan were also entered.

    NOTE: I did some research on V-12 aircraft engines and found the following:

    1) The Allison V-12 is 1710 cubic inches and 1475 HP

    2) The Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 is 1650 cubic inches and 1560 HP

    3) The Packard V-12 is a licensed knockoff of the RR Merlin

    4) The Ranger V-12 is only 773 cubic inches and 520 HP.

    Walt's Ranger powered dragster was at a disadvantage but at the time ran faster speeds than Art's Merlin powered car. The souvenir program listed best times for both cars prior to the event as Walt: 166 mph and Art: 152 mph.
     
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2014

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