Now this is a jaw dropper. I know that we’re going heavy on the old Illinois drag racing stuff but there’s a reason. I’ll be in Chicago this coming weekend for the 2018 NHRA Jegs.com Nationals and I’m pretty pumped up. I’ll be working the FOX broadcast for the race and hope to work in some good Chicago historical tidbits into my work. Of course Alton Dragway was the scene of what’ll forever be among drag racing’s most controversial runs, the claimed 204mph shot by Chris Karamesines in 1960. It would be years later that Garlits would run 200 and get credit for the feat at Island Dragway. Connie Kalitta was the first man to run 200mph at an NHRA National event so he also likes to stake a part of the claim. The disputed run is not on this film but loads of others are. Dragsters, Jaguars, a killer Henry J and more are showed here.
Alton Dragway still exists in the exact layout you see here. The only difference? The place is lined with mobile homes as it is now a neighborhood and the split lane drag strip now serves as the street that runs in front of the homes. Driving to the end of the “street” gets you a gate that blocks the area which served as the end of the shutdown area. If you never knew it was a race track in the first place you’d never know now but if you do know it was a track, this video brings some even cooler perspective to the area.
Illinois has been a hot bed of drag racing since the literal beginnings of the sport and the Illinois based ATAA (Automobile Timing Association of America) was far larger than the NHRA in the early 1950s. The organization was effectively purchased by NHRA and with that came all of the expected positives and backlash. Drag strip operators like Broadway Bob Metzler in Union Grove Wisconsin formed NADS (seriously) which was the National Association of Drag Strips to combat what they saw as “big brother” in the form of Wally Parks and the NHRA. Pretty neat stuff and we’ll be writing more in depth on that subject later this year.
For now? Enjoy this video.