Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 71


Preserving a Legacy

With new management , Gulfport Dragway rolls into its second half-century of operation By Van Abernethy

For Gulfport Dragway , 2022 was a monumental year for various reasons , not the least of which was the milestone of turning 50 years old . The latter part of the season marked another chapter for this Mississippi Gulf Coast dragstrip , as brand-new management stepped in on December 1 to guide the future direction of this beloved facility .

Longtime Gulfport resident and race promoter Gaylon Rolison Jr . teamed up with friends Britt Cummings and Tommy Castanedo as they signed a multi-year lease agreement to manage Gulfport . For the trio of friends now managing the track , it ’ s supremely important that Gulfport Dragway remain a dragstrip . The ultimate goal is to preserve the track ’ s legacy and create a bright and prosperous future for generations to come .
“ I came here as a kid ... we used to live five
minutes from the track ,” explains Rolison . “ It ’ s important to a lot of people that this place remains a dragstrip .” Currently , a five-year lease agreement is in place , with the goal of buying the track from Theresa Reese after they manage it for a few seasons .
Even before papers were signed on December 1 , the trio and their families went right to work improving the facility with new lights along the return road , with many more lights being ordered . “ Eventually , we ’ re gonna have LED lights for the entire quarter mile ,” says Rolison .
Gulfport has also been adversely affected by a drainage issue over the years that the trio immediately addressed and improved . “ The track is located on Canal Road ... and there ’ s a reason it ’ s called Canal Road !” laughs Rolison .
More improvements are on the way , including a scheduled repaving of the return road in January
2023 . Concrete guardrails are something the trio wants badly to install , and they ’ re currently in the planning stages of securing funding .
“ We ’ ve also been in talks with Anthony Manzella to get some cameras for our starting line ,” Rolison adds , “ so that if there ’ s ever any kind of question that a racer has , we can refer to our camera system for clarity .”
Finally , a huge banner was erected , welcoming racers to Gulfport Dragway , just in time for the King of the Coast Jr . Dragster Invitational in early December , which was a huge success . One month before the event , 28 states were already represented for the sold-out event .
As the trio looks ahead to the start of their inaugural season managing Gulfport , many items have been solidified , including a change in sanction to the newly-formed WDRA . “ Gulfport was one of the tracks that was extended an invitation to
January / February 2023
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