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History Forgotten Dragstrip: Austin Raceway Park

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by TexasHardcore, Nov 25, 2009.

  1. Skotz
    Joined: Aug 24, 2005
    Posts: 1,473

    Skotz
    Member

    I remember a clean little BB/Altered that I took some pictures of out there....He made a pass in it and the throttle stuck wide open:eek:, went down to 1325, crossed the hiway, hit two cars, totaled the Altered....the doctors said he would never be able to walk again and would be an invalid, AND...the Austin police came to the hospital and gave him a ticket for crossing the hiway:rolleyes:!!!!!
    Well this ol guy "IS" a tough ol bird:D.....he walked out of the hospital.....AND nine months later got back into......a Blown/injected Chrysler BB/Altered.....won class up in Dallas....could hardly get in/out of the car........what did I say about tough ol bird?
    I found all this out from my "Best Biplane Buddy", Bill Farmer a few years ago when we were talking about Austin Raceway Park.....He happens to be the "Tough ol Bird" mentioned above.....and yes, probably the best pilot that I know of personally. Now if I could just get him to get onto this "HAMB board stuff"....he would be a wealth of "how it was done in the racing world back then".....oh yea, welded dragster chassis for Woody Gilmore....and yea, he is a "PGW"(pretty good welder) too!
    Now if I can just find those pictures....arghhhhh
     
  2. humpie
    Joined: Oct 28, 2008
    Posts: 161

    humpie
    Member

    if anyone can find the tower.I have an anglia:eek:
     
  3. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    Great thread guys! I worked at ARP beginning with the first race during the summer of 1966. I got paid to sit in an old Army Jeep with an old Army walkie-talkie at the finish line and make sure no "teenagers" got in down there. Sort of amusing considering I was 15 at the time.

    When it opened, the track manager was Bob Pariss who was later replaced by Grant Verhulst. For a while, legendary San Antonio DJ Ricci Ware was the announcer. I don't recall who all was involved in the ownership part of ARP but one of my Dad's lawyer friends, Alvis Vandigriff, was one of them. He came to our house one night for dinner and mentioned in passing that he had done something crazy and invested in a drag strip being built in Austin. I just about fell out of my chair. Long story short, that's how I got the job.

    The track raced from south to north, north being 1325. The oil derrick was on the west side. The track was flat as a board but ran slightly downhill just past the finish line. Not good for a guy in a home-brew Vette early funny car who brought it out one night for its maiden voyage. Brakes failed, chute didn't open and he ran it straight downhill, through the barbed wire fence and clipped the tail end of an unsuspecting '57 Chevy on 1325. They guy was OK but his car was reduced to kit form.

    There were two casualties I'm aware of. I came out there one day for the races which were preceeded by some bad boy go-races. At the foot of the timing tower there were steel I-beams that were sunk into concrete, protecting the tower during road races. You took a hard right turn from the pit lanes to the Christmas tree. This guy came screaming around that turn and didn't make it ... hit one of the steel I-beams head-on and died instantly. The only other one I remember was after the track had closed but was still very usable. A guy and his buddies cut the lock of the gate on the south entrance and snuck a '39 Chevy coupe in to do some tweaking on it. Somehow, he flipped it and broke his neck in the accident.

    I snapped some of the pix posted elsewhere in this thread, the color ones, that show Vance Hunt's AA/FA getting pushed down the track, the Spray Brother's Anglia, Don Gay's Firebird funny car, etc. at the funny car meet in, I think, 1967.

    Just some trivia to throw into the mix ...
     
  4. bmw57isetta, thanks for the stories and pictures!
     
  5. holeshot
    Joined: Sep 18, 2009
    Posts: 1,519

    holeshot
    BANNED
    from Waxahachie

    TEX...man i hate to see things like this. NO man not your pics. your just doing a service. if HOUSTON INTERNATIONAL can fall, then trust me anybody can. but i believe ENNIS will be the last one standing. but hell that's what i said about houston. the years go fast my friends...POP.
     
  6. HOT ROD BILL
    Joined: Apr 7, 2007
    Posts: 714

    HOT ROD BILL
    Member

    I didn't know it opened in 66, when did they close?
     
  7. Marcy
    Joined: Apr 6, 2004
    Posts: 1,531

    Marcy
    Member

    wow, really cool to see the yesterday/today photos!


    Marcy
     
  8. poofus1929
    Joined: Jan 29, 2008
    Posts: 897

    poofus1929
    Member
    from So Cal

    That is badass. I wish I were there. I would help you guys try to revive the strip.
     
  9. Herdez
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Herdez
    Member


    Nice to see you on here Bruce. Those are great photos and so here's the rest for all of you guys and then some that want to see it the way it was.

    click here for all photos of ARP

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Herdez
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Herdez
    Member

    Given the area of where it is an amount of traffic, it would be nice for someone to help re open it again as a historic nostalgic place with other vintage spots on the same land like a drive-in and burger joint and maybe even vintage speed shop. Im sure people in the area would complain of noise if any drag racing went on, so maybe a professional nostalgic weekend hangout instead. Just an idea!
     
  11. 54BOMB
    Joined: Oct 23, 2004
    Posts: 2,084

    54BOMB
    Member

    Thanks for the detective work, Ill have to drive by and check it out. As soon as I get a lottery ticket to agree with me , we'll have a local dragstrip :D
     
  12. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    Thanks Paul! I had a funny feeling you might pop up here. Kudos one more time for getting all those scanned slides posted out here ... BF
     
  13. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    Hot Rod Bill: I think ARP shut down in 1969. Paul Hernandez posted a shot of my '69 Z-28 with the timing tower in the background. That would have been in the summer of '69. Drags were stopped after that but the Austin Aqua Festival moved their road races from Lake Austin Blvd in front of and around the Auditorium (due to insurance issues) to ARP. I think those were the last sanctioned events ever held there.

    Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  14. HOT ROD BILL
    Joined: Apr 7, 2007
    Posts: 714

    HOT ROD BILL
    Member

    Thanks, that sounds about right. I changed our poaching years to 70-71, I know it wasn't after that because I won Uncle Sam's lotto and left July 71.
     
  15. Tommy R
    Joined: May 18, 2004
    Posts: 717

    Tommy R
    Member

    Thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. I moved to Austin in '95 after school and found out about ARP a couple years later and a friend of mine and I went looking for it one day. Eventually, we found a gate to a ranch at the back of a trailer park. Beyond the gate we could see a slightly banked corner (part of the road course the SCCA used). Between the "No Trespassing" signs and the look of the bulls starring back at us, we decided it best not to jump the fence for a closer look.

    But it sparked a lot of interest among me and my racing buddies, who are/were part of Spokes, the Austin based sports car club founded in '51 and still going strong. We struggled to find information on it, but one of us managed to get out to the property and grabbed a bunch of pics. Here's a few samples I was able to locate. NOTE: I did not take these pics. A fellow racer did.

    [​IMG]

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    I think this may have been where the oil derrick/timing tower was located:
    [​IMG]

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    These pics were taken several years ago (early 2000s). I have no idea if any of these remnants are still around or have been scrapped in the name of development. I hope to find out soon, though.

    Sadly, this track will never resurface. Too many residential areas and Austin is simply too full of "hippie wannabes" to ever support a motor sport. :(

    And while I've been typing this reply, our sports car club mailing list has been discussing it and one of our members posted a picture of the current state of the track from overhead. The red marks the old areas of the track that've been developed. So sad to see....

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2010
  16. Lugnut II
    Joined: Sep 25, 2007
    Posts: 615

    Lugnut II
    Member

    Great memories..................... Grew-up just south of there.
     
  17. FastAndLoose
    Joined: Jan 31, 2009
    Posts: 206

    FastAndLoose
    Member
    from Warren, PA

    that last pic makes me want to punch someone in the mouth...
     
  18. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    Tommy R: The oil derrick timing tower was located at outside edge of the bottom right corner of the track. The drag strip ran from right to left (bottom line of asphalt). The finish line/shut down area was where you have the bottom two red lines on the left side of the photo. The road that intersects the drag strip on the lower right side at a right angle was pit lane (the straight part just below the red curved line you drew). Cars came up the lane and made a right turn to the starting line. It also gave fuelers room to turn around after being push-started and coming back up the track to stage. If you were in pit lane, you were looking at the tower.

    And you pegged the hippie wannabes. If there's ever a sport that's embraced around Austin that involves wheels it will be a bicycle track with a salamander aquatic theme park on one side and the world's largest salad bar on the other ... BF
     
  19. Tommy R
    Joined: May 18, 2004
    Posts: 717

    Tommy R
    Member

    Thanks, BF! Always enjoy learning more about this track. And just to give credit where credit is due (and not like anyone cares), but I wasn't actually the one who doctored that last pic. It was someone else in our club.

    Damn shame it'll never return to its former glory....
     
  20. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    Tommy R:

    Yeah, it was a fairy tale for us hot rod nuts back then to have a genuine NHRA track here. Like everything else around here, used to be out in the sticks but now it's got houses, offices and WalMarts on it.

    I have tons 'o pix I took out there and a bunch of Super 8 movies as well. I need to get off my keister and get them converted to DVD. Also have San Antonio Drag Raceway (Garlits), Corpus Christi Raceway (inaugural fuel and gas event '69) and Dallas International (NHRA Springnationals '69 and '70) as well. All gone but not forgotten.

    And thanks to whomever did the graphic work. It's right on the money ... BF
     
  21. FritzTownFord
    Joined: Apr 7, 2007
    Posts: 1,020

    FritzTownFord
    Member

    Great thread. I crewed for an A-Sedan SCCA team and raced an H-Production Sprite there a few times. It was WAAAAY out of town in '67-68!

    But the Aqua Fest street races did still run around the old arena for a few more years - I'm thinking '72 or '73?

    It's amazing to think that Austin fathers actually allowed car racing on city streets AND fuel drag boats on Town Lake! Can't image that kind of shit right under the grand balconies of those stock brokers today.
     
  22. bmw57isetta
    Joined: Nov 26, 2009
    Posts: 5

    bmw57isetta
    Member

    FritzTownFord:

    Yeah, I love hearing about all this stuff again. Let's see where to begin. We used to be able to fish and swim in Town Lake. Water got too screwed up and they banned that. The top fuel drag boat races were great until the illustrious Brown Berets in East Austin started whining about the noise. The City Council caved in to them and banned the boat races.

    The Aqua Festival street races were a different story. Seems the City's legal staff got all-of-a-sudden worried about liability and here came the insurance companies. I don't remember what the exact number was but I want to say around $200K in early '70's dollars that the companies wanted done in "safety" upgrades before they'd write a policy. They wanted Riverside Drive bermed around the train overpass, corners, etc. to stop cars that slid off the road, install landscaping, blah, blah, blah. The City didn't want to cough up the dough for a handful of races a year. That's when they banned racing on the streets and moved it out to ARP only to watch it die on the vine a few years later just like the entire Aqua Festival eventually did.

    The very last thing I can remember happening at ARP was about a year or so after it closed. Some guy and his buddies snuck a late '30's Chevy gasser out there one weekend by cutting the lock off the south gate. They were going to make some test runs, tweaks to the car but the driver flipped it and was killed on the spot, broke his neck if memory serves.

    Finally, I had an ARP scrapbook I put together on everything that went on out there from opening night to the end. I made the fatal mistake of loaning it to a co-worker, female drag racing nut no less. A month or so later, I asked her when I could get it back so a friend of mine in Dallas could see it. She informed me that I had GIVEN it to her! I couldn't believe it. I bugged her on a few other occasions and she just laughed and told me I wasn't getting it back. Still makes me mad to think about it to this very day ... BF
     
  23. Dchaz
    Joined: Sep 6, 2009
    Posts: 474

    Dchaz
    Member

    love this picture , but who wears white pants to a dragstrip?[​IMG]
     
  24. FastAndLoose
    Joined: Jan 31, 2009
    Posts: 206

    FastAndLoose
    Member
    from Warren, PA

  25. Herdez
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Herdez
    Member

  26. jdj9410
    Joined: Sep 4, 2007
    Posts: 324

    jdj9410
    Member
    from Paris TX

    Change SUCKS! But everything is much better now than it was in them bad 'ol days. Yea, sure as hell is. Just can't seem to find many people that thinks so. Must be the assholes like me that I hang out with.
     
  27. rosco gordy
    Joined: Jun 8, 2010
    Posts: 648

    rosco gordy
    Member

    I love the fact that you guys down there bring this stuff up but young uns, ya need to do some thing about it you guys just go for it and quit talkin about it even if its just a weekend thing check it out do it , if there was a 32 3 window sittin out there you would figure a way get it , action gets result not just talk !!!!!
     
  28. imnezrider
    Joined: Apr 27, 2010
    Posts: 199

    imnezrider
    Member

    Reminds me of the old Green Valley srtip and road course at North Richland Hills (DFW area) back in the 1960's. Picture taken at last race there. RIP
     

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  29. Herdez
    Joined: Feb 21, 2007
    Posts: 357

    Herdez
    Member

    ARP had a few races during the Aqua Fest shows.
     
  30. Paul, thanks for sharing those photos.
     

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