Local dragway thriving despite rain, economy

Posted July 24, 2009, at 1:15 a.m.

Despite the fact six race cards have been rained out at Winterport Dragway, all have been made up and it has been a productive year to date.

“It hasn’t been too bad,” said Bob Reynolds, president of Winterport Dragway. “The car counts have been awesome. It’s hard to believe. I think they’ve been up around 10 percent. We’ve had 80-90 cars a week.”

Reynolds said he “doesn’t have a clue” why the car counts have been up.

“I’m assuming people don’t have enough money to vacation and stuff so they’re staying at home and doing what entertainment is available in the area,” reasoned Reynolds.

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He also said attendance has been good.

“I think it’s up a touch on most events,” he said. “We’ll get 200-400 normally but, on a real good day, we’ll get 800-1,000.”

There are seven classes at the dragway: Super Pro Eliminator, Pro Eliminator, Bike/Sled Eliminator, Pro Street Eliminator, Gambers, Lawn Mower/Small Tractor Eliminator and ATV/Quad Eliminator.

Once a month Winterport has its Gassah Guys race card for vintage dragsters.

And, once a year, it has a Gassah Guys Nostalgia Reunion show that attracts vintage dragsters from all over the northeast.

That show will be held on Aug. 8.

This will be the fourth year of the Gassah Guys and Vaughan Stevens, the organizer, said he has been amazed at its growth.

“It had grown to be quite a thing, actually,” said Stevens. “It has become a lot of fun. It’s just the way I wanted it to happen. It’s 1964 all over again which pleases this old guy.

“We’ll have guys who gave up drag racing years ago getting a renewal on their [racing] lives,” added Stevens.

Ray Helger and his Helger Brothers Speed Shop (R.I.) will bring several dragsters to the event and Jimmy King will also return.

King won the 1970 National Hot Rod Association points championship in the top fuel division and one of his championship King and Marshall cars will be on hand.

King will put on an exhibition in the King and Marshall car but won’t race it. However, he will race in a new class devoted to 1960s dragsters which had the engines in the front of the car. Stevens expects 8 to 10 of them.

“They’re quite a handful to handle. They put on quite a show,” said Stevens. “There isn’t another show within 500 miles that will have this many front-engine dragsters.”

Stevens said a friend of his, Buster Richardson, will bring another “special car.

“It’s called the ‘Fat ‘n Nasty 1950 Mercury,’” he said. “It can go over 200 miles an hour. It has a 2800-horsepower engine. It’s an amazing car.”

The Gassah Guys race tour will restore the old style starts with a flag man getting them started instead of the Christmas tree lights system used currently.

Free camping will be provided for that weekend and there will be a live band playing after the racing ends.

Gates will open at 8 a.m. and time trials start at 9.

Stevens said they will be doing some paving work on the eighth-of-a-mile track between now so they can “attract bigger dragsters.”

Stevens said Winterport Dragway is a “perfect place” for the Gassah Guys tour.

“Winterport Dragway is an old airport and, in the early days, they all raced at old airports. But, now, it’s one of the few [former airports] that still has racing,” said Stevens. “The setting is perfect.”

Admission to the Aug. 8 show will be $10.

There will be a regular race card on Sunday.

Time trials will begin at 9 a.m. and elimination heats will get under way at 12:30 p.m.



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