By Heather Dean
Wilkesboro Dragway opened in 1955 and is still going strong after 62 years! For the third year in a row, gates were opened FREE to everyone for the Third Annual Quick Times Racing News Old Timers’ Reunion hosted by Becky White, editor and publisher of Quick Times Racing News for over 25 years and who still has a website. Bobby Houston’s Trucking Company in Hildebran sponsored free ice cream for the event! Many ‘old timers’ who have raced at Wilkesboro Dragway over the years attended this year’s event including Taylor and Jean Brown for the third year as well as Harold Denton of Middlesex, NC who raced Pro Stock at Wilkesboro many, MANY times!
Much of the history of the track AND of the racers attending the event was on display so fans could see what has happened over the years. Members of the Wilkes County Cruisers and Watauga County Cruisers were in attendance as many have raced at the track as well. Many no longer race but enjoy showing their cars and reminiscing, getting together and sharing stories ‘just like the old days.’ Beside Harold Denton and his wife Diane and Jean and Taylor Brown, some of the others were Frank Teague, Jeff Rudisill, Tyrone Graham, Richard Greer, Roger Chipman, Jose Wilson, Becky White, her daughter Candace and her husband Steve along with members of the Ellis family who built the track and opened it in 1955!
The memorabilia was fascinating, the camaraderie among those who paved the way for drag racing to become what it is today was heart-warming and boy, if you think it gets deep listening to fishermen’s tales, just sit and listen to the men and women of drag racing share their memories…the different is…those drag racers have the trophies prove it! Harold Denton is a mild mannered legend in the realm of Pro Stock…helping to make it the most popular class EVER in drag racing. Harold was one of the originators and instigators of ‘Southern Style’ Pro Stock racing which was heavily promoted during the ‘70s at Wilkesboro Dragway.
Harold not only raced and won here, he crashed and destroyed at least one Pro Stock car here…the Cisco Kid Mustang! While talking to me, he recalled racing her from the very beginning. “It has changed a bit over the years, but everything changes…and most of the time for the better,” he said with a nod to the younger racers. As we finish up our conversation and he went to look at other cars and talk to old friends, I was made aware of the legend with whom I had just been speaking.
Jeff Rudisill, one of the originators of the Nostalgia Pro Stock movement and owner and driver of the South East Outlaw Nostalgia Pro Stock ‘Eckman and Orndorff’ Trans Am, said, “I was 10 years old in 1978, standing on a bank, watching Denton run. I didn’t know how, but I knew I wanted to do what he did. He really set the standard for drag racing and that was 40 years ago. He’s what got me into drag racing. He was first to run the 6s and he is just one of the nicest people on earth.” Jeff’s Nostalgia Pro Stock car was on display alongside the Nostalgia Pro Stock Dodge Avenger of Frank Teague of Hickory…two time IHRA World Champion in that car. He changed it over to the Darrell Alderman replica this past winter.
Taylor Brown, aka ‘Mousie’ and his wife Jean of Moravian Falls had a table full of memorabilia from the good ol’ days and Taylor was NOT the only racer in that family. Jean was just as active in her own race car as was her husband! They both displayed newspaper clippings, photos and trophies as well as model cars of the real race cars they raced. Both have been inducted into the East Coast Drag Times Hall of Fame. Taylor won the first EVER race at Wilkesboro Dragway and Jean was the Miss America of Drag Racing in 1973!
This race also honored Max Hurley of Jefferson, NC who Becky White calls ‘Mr. Wilkesboro.’ Wilkesboro Dragway was Max’s home track but he raced Pro Stock all over this country…from the hills of Carolina to the California Coast and everywhere in between. He started racing in the ‘50s and as late as 1978, he won the Pro Stock Challenge at Indianapolis Raceway. The Third Annual Quick Times Racing News Old Timers Reunion t-shirt pictured ‘Mr. Wilkesboro’ Max Hurley as a tribute to a really great racer who’s home track was right here in Wilkes County, N.C.
The track was definitely not quiet on this beautiful Sunday! Several people brought their cars to the line for a run, including Rex Brown, Taylor’s brother, in his 1941 ‘Midnight Runner’ Chevy sedan and Bob ‘Mr. Magoo’ Henderson in his sleek bright red roadster. Gwyn Ellis who practically grew up at the track…grandson of Angus Ellis who built it…was our flagman. If you didn’t make it out, you missed quite a treat as well as a chance to meet some of the people who made Wilkes County, as well as world history and drag racing history.
It was a great day and the Bobby Houston Trucking Company Ice Cream Party just made it even more special! Thanks to Becky White, Candace and Steve Huffman, Gena Ellis Hodges and her Dad Gwyn Ellis and every other person who supported this event and helped make this a special day in the annals of drag racing.