2015: We had a blast! Wish you had been there with us on Friday, May 15th when many ‘Old Timers’ reunited at Wilkesboro Draway to help celebrate the track’s 60th year since it opened in 1955! There were several racers attending who raced at Wilkesboro Dragway during its opening year…1955! WOW! Roger Chipman brought his roadster and drove it around the pits some! Taylor Brown…alias ‘Mousie’…brought his nationally known, race winning ’68 Chevy Biscayne and drove it around the pits as well. He and his wife, Jean, who raced right along with him in her own cars, was also in attendance!
They brought lots of wonderful memorabilia from the past…trophies, plaques, Hall of Fame awards and even model cars of each of the cars they raced! A few others in attendance were Gwyn Ellis…one of the Ellis brothers who built the track and ran it for many years, Don Plemmons, ‘70s Pro Stock racer Stuart McDade, IHRA World Champion in IHRA Top Sportsman two years in a row Frank Teague, Pro Mod and Pro Stock racer Ronnie Hood, Richard Greer and Bill Watson were just a few of the others and more are listed in this story.
Even though Van Greer was not able to attend on Friday night, he came on Saturday. Van has restored a 1965 Dodge Coronet to an exact replica of the first car his dad Shirl ever raced. Shirl was the first racer EVER to go down the new Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, TN. He raced funny cars for many years and was the first EVER racer to win a Nationals Hot Rod Association Pro Funny Car race. Not only is Van’s ‘new’ car a show piece…he is now racing it as his fun car!
But when Van races for fun, he is still deadly serious! So beware…when you pull up on the line against the ‘Tension’ Dodge, you just pulled up against one of the toughest racers in the U.S.!I guess you could say, we celebrated Shirl’s birthday by watching his new ‘old’ car race! Shirl passed away several years but he still has many fans and they flock to see this car AND the last Funny Car he ever raced, which the family still owns.
These racers brought 60 years’of drag racing memories for everyone to see…photos, trophies, news clippings and any other memorabilia for others to see the wonderful history of not only this track, but the entire sport as well! Wilkesboro Dragway and Hudson Dragway in Hudson, NC were the two tracks where Pro Stock racing originally began with Don Carlton, Stuart McDade, Clyde Curtis, Clyde Hodges, Charlie Woodard, Bruce Walker, Max Hurley and many others. Pro Stock is STILL one of the most popular divisions in drag racing all over the country.
Of course, Mother Nature had to put in her appearance…as usual. We only had a 30% chance of rain and I think we actually got 31%. Several of us set up under the picnic shelter…which does NOT have a closed top and after we dried everything off twice, we just moved it all into the concession and continued on! Mousie and others had EZ-Ups covering their areas. We just kept right on having our reunion and everyone had a good time. I don’t think anyone wanted to leave…people actually did not start leaving until after 10 pm!
The only really bad thing about the rain was the fact we didn’t get any runs down! Four of our ‘old timers’ were going to run each other and Don Plemmons was going to be the flagman…the way it was when drag racing first came about.Track personnel REALLY worked on that track, but too no avail! That third little shower was just too much and came just at dark. The two previous showers had cooled the track too much and even though they tried for two hours to dry it, it was impossible! We will run ‘em next year!
Next year’s reunion is concerned, some things will be done differently. There is always a learning period when you begin something new and we learned a lot. I did NOT get a chance to check other tracks’ schedules and anyone who has ever read my editorials knows I always asked track operators to stay off other tracks’ races! I will try very hard to keep next year’s reunion from falling on any other big races from here on out and I apologize for not having that choice this year!
Saturday’s race went off without a hitch…no rain! It was a GREAT race and the 4.90 cars turned in some great runs…many of them dead on 4.90s! I would like to thank Wilkesboro Journal-Patriot, Pat and Phil Halberdel…new owners of the track, and everyone who attended!