by Gena Hodges
Wilkesboro Dragway is celebrating their 61st year in operation and recently hosted the Second Annual Quick Times Racing News Old Timer’s Reunion. The Reunion was organized by Becky White, editor of Quick Times Racing News with help from Gena Ellis Hodges and new track owners, Pat and Phil Halbedale. Drag Racers who raced at Wilkesboro Dragway came from all over to reminisce. There were many old photos and memorabilia displays. Taylor and Jean Brown of Moravian Falls brought their Chevrolet replica drag car they raced all over the East Coast in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
Both Taylor and Jean have been inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame. Roger Chipman of North Wilkesboro brought the original Ford Roadster he built and raced at the track beginning in 1955…the first year the track opened. Many Ellis Family members were on hand for the event. The Ellis family built the track in 1955 and Bill Ellis became the sole owner around 1970 and owned it till 1976. Bill was recognized and thanked for all of h Thanks to Bill, during those years, Pro Stock…the most popular class in the history of drag racing…got its start at Wilkeboro Dragway before being picked up by IHRA and NHRA.
In appreciation for his hard work in drag racing, Bill was recently awarded the North Carolina Drag Racing Hall of Fame Pioneer Award. He also formed mini stocks in the early ‘70’s. This class raced on a road course around the track, using the drag strip as part of their course. NASCAR picked up the mini stock class and, from it, formed the Baby Grands. is hard work as the great promoter he was.
There were several former drivers and cruisers who participated in the grudge races. Don Plemmons, who has been drag racing since the early ‘50s flagged the cars to start, like they did in the 1950’s and ‘60’s. Don was inducted into the N.C. Drag Racing Hall of Fame in 2014. Participating in grudge runs were Joe Taylor, Eddie Caudill, Taylor Brown, Rex Brown, J.V. Reins, John Frazier, Doug Hamby, Roger Elliot, Randy Dowell and Satch Gragg. Becky White’s daughters, Mendy and Candace grudge raced each other in their daily drivers and actually kicked off the ‘fun runs’…running with a flag start their first time ever!
Former drivers who attended were, Bill Ellis, Don Plemmons, Frank Teague (East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame inductee), Hank Thomas (N.C. Drag Racing Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award recipient), Taylor Brown, Jean Brown, Rex Brown, Lynn Castle, O.M. Hampton, Darrell Johnson, Joseph ‘Jose’ Wilson, Joe Taylor, Doug Hamby, Mack Hodges, John Frazier, Ken Norris, Bob Henderson and many others as well as Gwyn Ellis, Gwyn Bullis and J.V. Reins…all three of whom have drag raced AND driven mini stock cars.
There were several Wilkes County Cruisers and Watauga County Cruisers who brought their restored antique cars to display. Many thanks to EVERYONE who attended this fun event and especially those who worked so hard to make it possible. Quick Times Racing News award winners were: Roger Chipman…Most Original Race Car; Taylor Brown…Best Memorabilia Display; J.V. Reins…Best Street Driven Race Car; Bob Henderson…Best Burnout; Joe Taylor…Grudge Race Winner; Don Plemmons…Flagman; Pat and Phil Halbedale…Appreciation; Gwyn Ellis…Appreciation; Gena Ellis Hodges…Appreciation.