Remembering . . .

Alaska
Drag Strips

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Alaska Raceway Park. Photographer unknown

Palmer

  • Polar Raceway,  1960s
 
Joe Simmons and I worked for the Nelsons that lived near Muldoon Road, in Anchorage, where Joe and I also lived. The Nelsons also had a small burger joint called Polar Drive in or something very close to that. Polar Dragway was a dream of the Nelson family and they made it possible because they were home builders and did quite well. Larry's wife Jerrilyn had a brother that was also involved in the building of the dragstrip. Ron and Larry Nelson, sons of Lee Nelson, each had a 1964 Corvette. One red and one silver. Ron and Larry owned the drag strip with their father, Lee Nelson.  It's been 55 years, so I might be a little fuzzy on the details. Joe had a 1958 Bel Air with a 283 and we drove out to the drag strip every Friday night after we dropped our girlfriends off. We slept at the drag strip in that Chevy. The next morning we would do a lot of the grunt work in the building of that drag strip. Ron and Larry were a couple of great guys and a lot of fun to work for. I remember driving the 1955 Caddy ambulance out to the strip early on Saturday mornings and that Caddy was full of odds and ends needed for the day's work. After the strip was up and running, Joe and I worked in the concession with Joe's girlfriend, Linda. Those were great days and we felt like we were living the dream and building a part of Alaska's racing history.  Once after a long day at the race track. I rode back to Muldoon from the track. The Nelsons lived very close by. We were in Ron's '64 Corvette. Ron's wife never got out of third gear. I kept wondering when she was going to shift. She had to see the tach, but she never shifted to fourth. When we got to the Muldoon cutoff she got mad at me for not letting her know. I was just a kid and I wasn't going to tell the woman how to drive. Heck, it was her car. Sadly a few months later she took her own life. Apparently some gossip about Ron cheating. Turns out he was not, but the woman that started it was simply jealous of the Nelsons. Nothing was ever done. Really sad because Ron's wife was a beauty. Looked like a young Jackie Kennedy.

Dan Everly

Tanacross

  • Tanacross Air Base,  1963
 
I have fond memories as a spectator at the Tanacross drag races. I believe it was in 1963. I was working as a grocery bagger at the time. I could not get off work to go, so my partners in crime helped me make a cast on my left arm and I was able to make the trip from Fairbanks. Tanacross was a great location as the strip was about halfway between Fairbanks and Anchorage. Each town would be on opposite sides of the track competing. At night it was a total mix. In those days most folks knew each other. It was the first time I saw a Dodge Ramcharger. Wow! Bill Odom was the first racer I knew of from Fairbanks that had a '55 Chevy with a set-back engine. I'm in my seventies and still working the oldest NHRA dragsrip in North America, here in Redding, California.
Michael "Mukluk" Karsten