governor attended the celebration and presented the track with a proclamation that is displayed proudly in the tower . Additionally , the local historical society , as well as neighboring museums , all display SRCA Dragstrip memorabilia , including the flags used to start the races at the landmark 1955 event .
The significance of SRCA Dragstrip is hardly limited to NHRA ’ s roots , though , and while only one national was ever held at SRCA ( the NHRA moved the event to Kansas City the following year ) the newly formed AHRA came in right behind them and began holding their own nationals at SRCA until 1959 , most notably with “ Big Daddy ” Don Garlits winning his first AHRA title in 1958 at Great Bend .
Through decades of changing times , innovations , as well as economic climates ranging from boom to bust , the same car club that founded the track 68 years ago continues to operate it to this day .
While this fabled track in Great Bend is rich in history , the facility itself is hardly an aging relic , but rather , a modern venue where national records are challenged and championship drag racing is still contested . In recent years , updates include a new tower , scoreboards , and a tech building filled with modern equipment .
The only glaring need the track had was the racing surface itself , which thankfully has been
PHOTOGRAPHS BY VAN ABERNETHY
completely restored during a two-year project that ushered in brand-new concrete walls , followed by a new racing surface from starting line , all the way to the shutdown . The old track surface had been overlaid multiple times , most recently in 2013 , but the original war-time concrete beneath was approaching 80 years old and deteriorating .
After exploring every avenue imaginable , the saving grace came in the form of a Kansas Senate Majority Leader who proved instrumental in championing the dragstrip ’ s cause . The Senate Majority Leader just happened to also be a member of the SRCA car club , and was not only passionate about the track , but also alerted the dragstrip officials to a cost-share program that local municipalities could use for various projects , of which the dragstrip would qualify .
Ultimately , if the dragstrip could raise 25 % of the needed funding , the State of Kansas would pick up the remaining balance for the track updates . “ In late 2019 we first began with the pouring of the brand-new walls , finishing up in 2020 ,” says Hank Denning , who serves as SRCA Dragstrip consultant .
The concrete walls are 10 inches thick with a continuous pour that begins with a height of 32 inches at the water box before grading up to 44 inches at 1,000 feet . At the finish line , the walls reach a maximum height of five feet and extend all the way to the exits of the shutdown area . Soon after the walls were complete , the racing surface was addressed , with an all-concrete pour that extends the entire length of the track all the way to the turnoffs . The lanes are 20 feet wide , and
measure eight inches thick on the racing surface , before transitioning to six inches in the shutdown .
“ What we tried to do was rebuild this track to national event specs , but it wasn ’ t without growing pains on the new surface . We ’ ve since had it ground three times and burned off 50 slicks on the rotator putting rubber down ,” says Denning .
By the start of the 2022 season in May , the track was in the best condition in its entire history . The upgrades also included a completely revamped Compulink timing system just in time to host the NHRA Lucas Oil series meet . “ We actually just held our first race on May 7 ,” Denning says . “ We always put a points race right before the divisional and we give racers the option to stay parked for the divisional race happening the following week , so it works out great .”
SRCA Dragstrip has a robust schedule of events in 2022 . Along with the NHRA divisional , the early part of the track ’ s season included the return of the Mid-West Drag Racing Series , which first visited Great Bend in 2021 . Later in June , the Rocky Mountain Race Week started and ended at SRCA .
In July , the Injected Barnstorming Allstar Tour visits SRCA with test-and-tune and gamblers , followed by a pair of point races on tap in August . Special events in September include NHRA T . V . Challenge and Jr . Dragster Challenge Wally Race , Pontiac Uprising , and a visit from the Rocky Mountain Nostalgia NSS / AFX group . The points series concludes in October , with the SRCA Awards Banquet closing out the year in November .
“ We ’ re thankful to have been able to get the new surface complete in 2022 and we ’ re getting geared up for a great season ,” concludes Denning . DI
July / August 2022
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