Great Bend, Kan., Still Playing Role In Drag Racing

TRACK PREP: Volunteer members of the Sunflower Rod & Custom Ass'n prepare the drag strip at Great Bend, Kan. (SRCA Photo)

TRACK PREP: Volunteer members of the Sunflower Rod & Custom Ass’n prepare the drag strip at Great Bend, Kan. (SRCA Photo)

Not many operating race tracks are listed as State Historical Sites. The SCRA Dragstrip in Great Bend, Kan., is such a facility.

Operated by the Sunflower Rod & Custom Ass’n, the quarter-mile drag strip located on the landing strips of the Great Bend Municipal Airport has a history that stretches back to the very beginnings of organized drag racing.

Now held at O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, the U.S. Nationals is the largest and most famous drag race in the world. Few remember the U.S. Nationals was first held at Great Bend in 1955.

The SRCA was involved with drag racing at Great Bend even then, working as a partner to the National Hot Rod Ass’n in producing the four-day event, which was held Sept. 29-Oct. 2 on the 8,000-foot airport runway.

Competition was held in 30 classes drawing participants from coast to coast at an entry fee of a mere $5.

With all other class titles decided, six dragsters remained for the class championship and the winner would then face off against Jim Jazzy Nelson, who won the A Competition Coupe class and Super Gas champion Fred Voight for the national championship.

Unfortunately, the worst rainstorm in 30 years hit Great Bend that evening, washing out Sunday’s final runs. The remainder of the competition was moved to the Southwest Regional Championship near Phoenix Nov. 19-20, with Calvin Rice crowned champion.

While it doesn’t host national events today, the SRCA Dragstrip is an NHRA member track and hosts bracket races and grudge match racing as well as several other events including an April stop by the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series for NHRA sportsman racers.

The track and all concrete pit stalls are operated and maintained by a group of volunteers from the SRCA, Great Bend and proceeds from regular point races and special events throughout each season are used on improvement projects at the facility.

During this past off-season the SRCA upgraded the tracks timing system and acquired a one-ton dually truck to use as a fire vehicle. A local business owner also donated a three-quarter-ton wrecker. Safety projects, including the moving of barriers and improving run-off areas, were also completed during the off-season.

Many of the men and women who maintain the historic facility also compete in sportsman classes and have become masters of track prep, clean up and emergency procedures. However, these same folks also work for a living and often use their vacation time to work events at the SRCA Dragstrip.

The SRCA Board of Directors is always seeking volunteers to lend a hand in the ongoing track maintenance. Membership in the club is $12 annually for individuals and family membership is $16.