By David G. Firestone
When you ask which states are auto racing hot beds, certain states automatically come to mind. Anyone who thinks of auto racing associates Indiana, Florida, California, and the southern states, Alabama, Georgia, The Carolinas, Tennessee, Texas, and Kentucky. New York, and Illinois are often thought of as well. There are a lot of states
One state that doesn’t get the respect it deserves as an auto racing state is Arizona. The state has a number of well-known tracks, including the now defunct Manzanita Speedway, and the ill-fated Phoenix street circuit, Phoenix International Speedway, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, and Tucson Raceway Park. The climate in Arizona, especially Tucson is great for car collectors and racers, since the weather isn’t as damaging to cars as it is in many other places in the country.
While Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the most well-known dragway in Arizona, it isn’t the only one. A former dragstrip located in Phoenix was Speedworld Raceway, and Tucson has Tucson Dragway. Drag racing has a long history in Tucson, dating back to the 1960’s. The original Tucson Dragway was built in 1962, and opened in 1964. The dragway operated continually until 1985. Te story goes that apparently, it was discovered that the strip was being used as a landing strip for drug dealer airplanes. After the 1985 AHRA Winternationals on February 17, 1985, the old track closed for good, and is now overgrown on state-owned land.
Drag racing seemed dead in Tucson, but shortly after, a new track, Southwestern International Raceway, a 1/4 mile dragstrip, opened shortly after the closing. Since then, Southwestern International Raceway re-branded to Tucson Dragway has hosted IHRA, and AHRA events, but is currently an NHRA-affiliated track. Located near the Pima County Fairgrounds, it is also one of the most active drag strips in the United States. The 2017 schedule alone has 60 events over the course of the year.
Last week, I discussed my trip to Tucson. I had asked if I could come down to Tucson Dragway, and track manager Matthew DeYoung was kind enough to let me come down and photograph the track. The facility is a nice one.I started at the starting line, and I photographed the burnout box, the maintenance shed, and the tower.I noticed a tumbleweed stuck in the sticky rubber near the beginning of the track.I noticed all of the track equipment, parked behind the starting line. Matt was nice enough to let me photograph the Christmas tree, I like the “No U-turns” sign on the tree. I noticed the little shed just in front of the tree, near the starting line, which has some of the basic maintenance items needed for racing events.I then stared down the dragstrip, and felt serene. The look, and the scent is something that drag racing fans love about a dragstrip. I walked down the strip, walking in the racing groove, and out of the racing groove. I noticed that while the track is sticky, the groove isn’t as sticky as the area out of the groove…
As I got to the 1/8th mark, I took photographs of the sensors and the foam blocks that are used to record times. Then I walked to the finish line, indicated by the black line on the wall. Since Tucson Dragway is close to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, a C-130 flew over the finish line, and I tested my zoom lens. Tucson Dragway is a nice facility, and it’s really close to Tucson Speedway, a 0.375 mile paved oval, one of three in the state of Arizona. They don’t have a partnership, but they do work with each other occasionally. I would like to thank Matthew DeYoung for letting me come down and photograph the track.
Next week, I’m going to shift focus to some off-road stuff.