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When was your first time at a dragstrip?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Kentuckian, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. Moby
    Joined: May 18, 2014
    Posts: 138

    Member Emeritus

    Never got hit by shrapnel but in the very early 60's we'd stand so close to the line at York US 30 we'd have to keep our eyes closed while the fuelers, with pre-zoomie weed burners staged, just so we'd be able to open them and see absolutely nothing but tire smoke when they launched. The view from the stands was way better but we thought we were cool standing up close. Young and dumb.

    First time I went to York was 1961 when I saw Ammon R Smith and Emerich Chevrolet both running 1961 409's. The Emerich car had a galvanized hood scoop that looked like it was made in a 7th grade shop class. Sometime in '61 or '62 I saw Arfon's jet car and the Speed Sport Sidewinder roadster at York.

    One of my favorites was Bob Carroll's beautiful blown hemi competition coupe (Marietta PA) with a baby blue Topolino body. Bob's son gave me some video of his dad's early years when he ran a 32 coupe with a flathead on fuel and then his first Fiat altered with the same engine. Unfortunately, I'm too fucking dumb to figure out how to post it here.

    Another early 60's favorite was Clyde Harnish's B/D (at least I think it was B) with an injected Chevy and a 4 speed in a much modified 32 Ford frame(!). He'd use third and fourth when really racing but in time trials he'd sometimes use all 4 gears and yank the front end in the air on every shift, just to show off. Nothing like a dragster pulling a 4th gear wheelie at speed to get the crowd going and while this ride was crude, he was a consistent winner.

    Also can't forget Bruce Larson in his pre-funny car days driving the Costillo (sp?) and Larsen 289 Cobra in A/SP and knocking off all the 327 fuelie Corvettes. I actually beat him for Street Eliminator one time with my puny F/SP Corvette (with about a 3 second handicap!!!!) but I don't remember any other Corvette beating that Cobra.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
    jnaki likes this.
  2. threewindow
    Joined: Nov 26, 2012
    Posts: 80


    In 1952, I ran a 1949 ford tudor on the Halfday dragstrip north of Chicago. I was eighteen at the time.
  3. Raiman1959
    Joined: May 2, 2014
    Posts: 1,427


    In 1970....Portland Oregon dragstrip....I walked around with my dad, who knew some drivers....I walked right into a sudden 'revv the engine' moment, and the blowout knocked me to the ground...I was hooked from that point on!!!
  4. 1959-60 at Dragway 42...Hooked for life, first win Thompson 1964, still have the trophy! my most recent pass was Oct. 2014 waiting on the new D-42 to open soon, love the smell of race fuel, I've met many great racers and interesting people through the years. (1967photo at Thompson)
  5. rd martin
    Joined: Nov 14, 2006
    Posts: 2,449

    rd martin
    from indiana

    about 1966 I was about 13 years old, heard about the drags, road bicycle about 16 miles to the track, didn't have any money so I snuck in from the back fields to the finish line. I was the only one down at the big end for quite awhile.finallywhen it got dark, I made my way up to the start line. wow, that was a big deal! I caught the tail end of the slingshot era in our area, everybody was switching over to the longer cars. but at the finish line those guys in the short cars had there hands full! trying to get them woed down! great times. always wanted to build one, so now I did, hopin to get it out this year! us 30 dragstrip gary indiana
  6. Vet65te
    Joined: Feb 9, 2012
    Posts: 172


    Grew up in San Francisco , the last owner of Half Moon Bay Dragstrip lived two doors down from me so my first visit to a Drag Strip was in the late 60s. There was also a small 1/8 mile strip called Champion Raceway over in the southeast part of the City. Great fun.
    Mike T - Prescott AZ
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2015
  7. spanners
    Joined: Feb 24, 2009
    Posts: 1,227


    First time was when 17 y.o. in 1974. Went to a street meet with mates and their Monaros at Castlereagh dragstrip. I thought," this is cool, I must do this again".
    Fast forward to 2011 and talk my wife into going to a Nostalgia meet at Sydney Drags. Hadn't been in all that time. My wife watches a couple of HAMBsters running and says "why don't you build one of those? You've been talking about racing for years."
    Had the steel ordered the next day and have been racing ever since. Seriously hooked. Only took me 37years.
  8. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 8,839


    Gees, the old Surfers Paradise International Raceway on the Gold Coast near me closed back in 1987 making way for a housing development after opening in 1966. After visiting an interstate drag strip a local developer decided to build a motorsports complex with drag strip, circuit, and airstrip with speedway coming later. What he saw interstate was nil safety precautions, primitive and/or rudimentary spectator facilities however he looked past that and saw the crowds and the income it would generate. So it was born. Not bad for an old cane field

    I remember only being a kid when I went there with dad. I would have been the early 70s and early teens and loved it then. I followed up with attending meetings over time years later when I learned to drive. They held Winter Nationals there in June each year with bracket racing on weekends (Street meets). The drag racing moved earlier to Willowbank in 1985 when they saw the writing on the wall as suburbia approached, still up here but a long way away from home.

    I recall racing my old 6cyl Holden and watching the big V8s run hard. Loved the funny cars and altereds. The big US names would come out including Wild Bill Shrewsbury and his wheel stander.. Before it closed the Police ran Op. Drag where you race against a prepped up Holden sedan with Chevy V8, 9" and slicks. A 12-14sec street car then was considered fast.




    Plain Label Racing likes this.
  9. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 5,995



    We lived about 1.5 miles away from Lions dragstrip from 1953 until we sold the house in 1998. But, our junior high school, Stephens Jr. HS, (about 1 mile north of our house) was bordering on the farmer’s land right next to Lions. That area was considered a “no trespassing zone” between the railroad tracks along the Junior HS baseball diamond and Lions. We knew the farmer had a loaded shotgun with salt pellets always handy. (One time we saw him shoot birds that had landed in his crops) In 1956, when we played Saturday sports at the junior high school, we could hear the drags like it was just a block away. Actually, measured, it is/was less than a 1/8th mile away.
    One Saturday afternoon, after our Saturday sports event, we decided that the farmer was not tending to his rows of veggies, so we carefully stepped between the mounds so as not to disturb the growth. We walked across his planted fields until we got to the return road.
    We got all the way to the Lions property and watched the racers zip by, turn around and have their tow cars push them back to the pits. We were right there within a stone’s throw. As long as the track staff or security people did not come by, it was fine with the racers and they waved to us. But, when the track security came by, we just kept farther back in the farmer’s field. (From the time Lions opened, the only fencing was around the gate and pits to the tower. Since it was mainly, open fields on both sides of the tower side and spectator’s side of the strip. The area after the tower, there was no need for security fencing. In the following years, 1960-61, chain link fencing was put all around the property.)
    The noise at the top end of the drags was just as loud and we satisfied our senses by seeing who was making all of that noise. For a little 12 year old kid on an adventure, it was quite exciting to be that close and seeing all of the machinery. It was not until 1958 that I actually got to go to Lions (with my brother) in a car and walk around the pits, seeing all of the race cars up close. That was totally exciting. The loud exhaust sounds from each race car was glorious. (No wonder my wife says I am hard of hearing…or secretly, selective listening…ha) The close proximity to all cars and drag strip activity pointed to getting involved in some form of hot rods, customs, racing and the drags from an early age.

    And so it began… thanks Westside Long Beach…


    My mother never liked the loud noises from the dragstrip and constantly shut the doors and windows even during the hot summer months. Boooo… My dad, on the other hand, was very supportive of our liking drag racing and the cool cars.
    The Junior HS was closest to the far left, huge, electrical tower on the farmer’s field.
    upload_2017-1-23_11-26-8.png upload_2017-1-23_11-27-19.png upload_2017-1-23_11-28-1.png
    photos from the Don Gillespie collection
    kidcampbell71 likes this.
  10. My first time was with my dad to see our neighbor a few streets over race,I was 13 years old at the time,the man was Gene Cromer..he was my hero!

    I haven't been to the drag strip in many years but I went to watch the return of the Moonlighter & Gene Cromer race again some 50 years later,same track,same man and the same car...amazing and he is still my hero,you won't find a nicer man. HRP
  11. Retrorod
    Joined: Jan 25, 2006
    Posts: 2,030


    1964 at San Fernando. We decided to race a friend of mine's 1956 Ford. That got us all hooked.
    In high school a year later a bunch of us built a Cadillac powered Morris Minor that was just about un-drivable and at San Fernando they let us run after we convinced them that the lack of a firewall wasn't a problem. It was a miracle that none of us were killed in that thing. I often wonder where that Morris went after we thrashed it for a couple years.
  12. jimcolwell
    Joined: Oct 4, 2009
    Posts: 474

    from Amarillo

    Late 50's early 60's Amarillo Drag Strip my dad took me
  13. AB6DO
    Joined: Feb 9, 2008
    Posts: 68


    My first visit to an organized drag strip was in 1957 at the Alta Airport just east of Dinuba California. My attempt to run our old 1947 Chevy farm pickup resulted in a blown granny gear 4 speed transmission.
    LowKat likes this.
  14. Durbinspeedshop
    Joined: Oct 30, 2016
    Posts: 41

    from Missouri

    Gammz likes this.
  15. My first time at a drag strip was back in '93 at the NHRA Jolly Rancher nationals at Seattle International Raceway (Pacific Raceways ). Good times and great racing.

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  16. 41woodie
    Joined: Mar 3, 2004
    Posts: 1,095


    About 1956, Tahlequah, Oklahoma Airport drags. All of the spectators sitting on their fenders lining the strip. My dad was running our '54 Hudson Twin-H, my uncle was running a '51 (I think) Hudson Wasp. Two things really made an impression on me, one was a Cadillac powered Allard J-2 that really hauled. The other was two guys in pickup trucks that ran each other three times, at the end of the third race they slammed on their brakes just over the finish line, got out and proceeded to have a great fist fight. Good times for a ten year old kid.
  17. jimmy six
    Joined: Mar 21, 2006
    Posts: 9,492

    jimmy six

    Got my license in the summer of 1960. Went to Lyons the first weekend after. No 405 freeway from Inglewood then.
  18. geoford41
    Joined: Jul 26, 2011
    Posts: 600

    from Delaware

    1962 Island Dragway Great Meadows NJ went with my Dad My favorite care was a Brown primered
    '34 Pickup witha Flatehead and 4 97's Full fendered cool truck I was ford guy and they were running super stock 409's Vs 406 tripower fords I believe. it was awsome! I was 14 at the time and had just bought a '30 Model A coupe I was hooked on Hot Rods still am at 69
  19. old sparks
    Joined: Mar 12, 2012
    Posts: 414

    old sparks

    vacavalley dragstrip ca. art arfones with with the green monster I was 10 I`m now 69 and still racing
  20. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,302


    Late bloomer....not until I was 16, went to the AHRA Winternationals at the old Tucson Dragway, 1978.

    My dad never took us anywhere fun, like a dragstrip.
  21. Deuce Daddy Don
    Joined: Apr 27, 2008
    Posts: 5,167

    Deuce Daddy Don

    18 years old , 1950 at Santa Ana, where the old WWII blimp hangars are still there.
  22. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 5,995


    Hello OS,
    One Saturday in 1960 our dad asked us where we were going. We told him that we were going to see "an airplane motor powered race car at Lions." (Art Arfons) He said he wanted to see it and actually went to the dragstrip to see that first car of that type on the West Coast. So, being the youngest of two brothers, I had to go with him to the spectator's side to watch the races with my dad. He really enjoyed it and said he wanted to go next week...yikes...But, he and a friend went deep sea fishing instead...saved by the ocean.


    A couple of good things that happened: My dad bought a couple of new rolls of 16mm for this excursion and paid for the developing. Here is the funny thing or odd thing: RRUSS on the HAMB actually took (by accident) a video of the drag racing that day that included us on film. I kept watching his movie over and over and I saw us there with my dad in the foreground. My brother went with his friend and I was there with my dad. (thanks...RRUSS) He wore his famous "gangster" hat. I still have that hat, today. It always comes in handy at Halloween or sleepover, dress up days with our granddaughter. upload_2017-1-25_16-31-3.png upload_2017-1-25_16-31-34.png upload_2017-1-25_16-40-5.png upload_2017-1-25_16-40-20.png
    Rolleiflex and warbird1 like this.
  23. Spring of '67; three of us from Blaine Wa. headed for the drags at Arlington in a '53 Mercury. Got lost! and ended up at SIR in Kent for the day. Had a great time, got hooked on drag racing and never told our folks we ended up that far from home. We were all 16 or 17 at the time...
  24. 26hotrod
    Joined: Nov 28, 2009
    Posts: 959

    from landis n c

    Frankie Poston took me to Concord Drag strip in 1958 (14 yrs old) . He had a shoe box Ford with a built flat head by Dock Eddleman . It would do 90 mph in the quarter mile all nite long. At 73 I still enjoy going to the strip..........
  25. Detroit Dragway, 1964 or 1965. Went with my cousin and three brothers that worked for my uncle at his gas station.

    One of the brothers was racing his 58 Ford. Three on the tree. He blew second gear out of it and had to drive it back. I got to ride back with him. As tradition after leaving DD , left the numbers and class markings on the glass. Pretty cool for a twelve year old, noisy transmission and all.
  26. 56sedandelivery
    Joined: Nov 21, 2006
    Posts: 6,695

    Member Emeritus

    Pretty sure I already mentioned MY first time further towards this threads beginning. My younger brothers is different than anyone I've ever known. My best friend Dean and I took our cars to Seattle International Raceway one weekend, and I brought my younger brother Alan along; he had never been to the drags. My car was a new 1970 340 Dart, Dean's car was a hand-me-down 1966 Chevrolet Malibu 2 door hardtop with a stock 283 2 barrel and Powerglide. I had made a pass and returned to the staging lanes; my brother was nowhere to be found. I looked everywhere. Then Dean returned to the staging lanes, and I asked him if he had seen my brother. He walked around to the back of his car, opened the trunk, and my brother popped out. ?????? Dean had put my brother in the trunk for "traction"; his car could't spin the tires in gravel, let alone on a dragstrip. I've told this story a bunch of times; the only time my brother went down a dragstrip, was in the trunk of a car! Absolutely true story, hand to God. I am Butch/56sedandelivery.
  27. jnaki
    Joined: Jan 1, 2015
    Posts: 5,995


    1958 Lions Dragstrip: age 14

    When I was 14, my brother finally took me to the drags at Lions in Long Beach. We had seen this place a few years earlier from the nearby railroad berm tracks. We even walked across the farmer’s field to get up close and personal with the racers. In between the skirmishes with the security guards driving back and forth on the return road there were some great race cars. We saw the racers end their runs and return back to their pit areas.

    After going through most of my films over and over, recently, I found what I believe is the first time I went to the drags at Lions Dragstrip. My dad, as sneaky as he was, said goodbye to my brother and me as we drove away in the black 58 Chevy Impala. Little did we know that he would be following us to Lions about an hour later with HIS movie camera in hand.

    We had set up our pit area, got the Impala ready and since I had a pit pass, wandered over to the closest spot I could find to the starting line. Here I am in my red Pendleton, Levis, and those ever present Chukka Boots. This was the standard fare for the local kids at this time period in Long Beach.

    I wanted to see how they started and what it took to be prepared to win the race. It was exciting to be standing so close. Safety? My pit pass allowed me to wander anywhere in the pits area and near the tower. Where was my dad? He could not figure out how I got over to the other side of the dragstrip, so he stayed in the spectator’s side bleachers. (later on, he figured out what those flapping tags were on people’s shirts and belts.)

    1959 Lions Pits fence
    “Never got hit by shrapnel but in the very early 60's we'd stand so close to the line at York US 30 we'd have to keep our eyes closed while the fuelers, with pre-zoomie weed burners staged, just so we'd be able to open them and see absolutely nothing but tire smoke when they launched. The view from the stands was way better but we thought we were cool standing up close. Young and dumb”

    Later in 1960, when I was in the spectator’s stands taking movies of the racers, I happen to take this one that epitomizes what people will do to get the best view of the drag racers. The best seat in the house was not a seat. With more people attending the drags at Lions in 1960, seats on either the tower bleachers (full) or the spectator’s side bleachers (full) made for unusual circumstances in getting the best viewing of the drag racers. (Creighton Hunter red roadster vs Herman Bros blue roadster. Modified roadster class eliminations.)
    "Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on..."

    Safety? In these early years, things blew up, but we never saw anything serious until our own clutch explosion. Of course, later on when the race cars got more powerful, there were actual injuries in the stands from flying parts from motors and transmissions blowing up on the start line… But, for these race fans, there was nothing to keep them away from the excitement of the drag races.


    loud sounds at Lions start line: up close and personal…
    Rolleiflex likes this.
  28. SUSQ
    Joined: Nov 5, 2012
    Posts: 98


    Which is precisely why I take my teenage son to the drag races as often as possible!
  29. greenie-reddy
    Joined: Nov 23, 2009
    Posts: 797

    from maryland

    Got a late start at age 16. A friend took me to the now-closed 75 & 80 Dragway in Monrovia, Maryland. A 1/4 mile track carved out of a corn field by a dairy farmer looking to augment his income. The same track you'll see in many episodes of the show Motorweek on cable TV. Sometimes we paid the $5 to go in on the pit side, other times the $3 to sit on the cheap side where the locals sat. We had fun betting the locals on each race- about $1 a race. The sound the place made is etched in my brain and you could hear the beautiful noise for miles in every direction. You have to wonder how many lives these tracks saved by giving guys and gals a safe place to have a little fun.
    klleetrucking likes this.

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