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Dayton "Drag Strip" (1953)
Reno Motorcycle Club "Drag Races" (1954)
Douglas-Tahoe (Minden) Airport (1955)
Yelland Field (Ely) (1955)
Carson City Airport  (1958)
Silver Springs "Drag Strip" (1958)
Thunderbird Raceway (Henderson) (1958)
Las Vegas "Drag Strip" (1950s)
Lemmon Valley Drag Strip/Reno Dragway (1963)
Fallon Naval Auxiliary Air Station (1963)
Stardust International Raceway (Las Vegas) (1965)
Hawthorne Municipal Airport (1970)
Tonopah Airport (1975)
Top Gun Dragstrip (Fallon) (1991)
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (2000)
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Eddie Thompson's 1941 B Gasser at Thunderbird Raceway in Henderson, Nevada, in 1965. Photo work by Jim Kelly

Carson City Airport 


Drag races were scheduled for November 2, 1958, as one of the events to celebrate Nevada Day. The intention was also to continue holding races at the airport even after November 2 as long as the weather permitted. The Nevada Timing Assoication conducted races in 1959 on the second and last Sunday of the month. The first race in 1959 was held on May 17. Warren Welsh took top eliminator in his gas dragster, before about 900 spectators. Numerous improvements had been made including resurfacing the racing runway and oiling the return road to reduce dust. They opened with quarter-mile racing, but were considering holding half-mile events. On August 2, 1959, Warren Welsh scored top eliminator honors with an 11.187 clocking at 139.53 MPH in his Lee's Body Shop Special. On September 6, 1959, the Carston brothers of Reno turned 100.33 MPH in their 1929 Ford Model A roadster to record the fastest speed.
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August 2, 1959
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Dayton "Drag Strip" 


A Reno hot rod club, the Desert Draggers, established in 1951, held a series of drag races at their "newly acquired" quarter-mile drag strip at the Silver Springs Airstrip about sixteen miles east of Dayton on Highway 50. The first race was on June 21, 1953 and the second race was held on July 5, 1953. They held their third drag race of the season on July 19. No admission was charged to watch the races, but entry fees were charged the competitors. Leo and Aldo Teglia turned in the quickest time with a 14.57 clocking in their Mercury-powered roadster. In 1954, they were using a new, improved timer. Trophies were awarded to all class winners, purchased from entrance fees charged to the racers. At the race held on June 13, 1954, Bill Ewers got the fastest speed with 107.14 MPH in his Mercury-engined '34 Ford. Two weeks later, Ewers was again the fastest with a 106.45 MPH run. They used a dry lake north of Reno for racing in the summer.  See also Silver Springs "Drag Strip" (below).
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Douglas-Tahoe (Minden) Airport


The Nevada Timing Association conducted bi-weekly quarter-mile drag races in 1955 at the Minden Airport. That airport was built and began operation in 1942. Their first race was held on July 3, 1955. Jim Perry of Clarksburg, California, took top eliminator. The next race was on July 17. They had another race on August 14. Over 400 spectators watched 60 entries compete at the September 25, 1955 race. Art Hammond, from Stockton, California, was top eliminator, being clocked at 112.5 MPH. The final race in 1955 was held on November 6. Warren Welsh of Reno set a new top speed record of 118.03 MPH in his nitro-fueled rear-engined Mercury flathead dragster on May 27, 1956.  On August 5, 1956, they held a special California-Nevada half-mile championship drags that attracted more than 200 racers and over 1,400 spectators. Harold Casaurang took top speed honors with a run of 139.805 MPH in his Mercury-powered nitro-fueled dragster. On May 26, 1957, Leo Saunders of Oakland took top eliminator in his Olds-engined dragster in the 1/2-mile drag races. At this race, they used a manually-operated red-green traffic signal for starting purposes. The flagman also was used, but only for the benefit of the spectators.  On June 23, 1957, Warren Welsh in the Lee's Body Shop Special set a Nevada state quarter mile record with a run of 135.849 MPH. At the race held on July 14, 1957, the Nevada Timing Association was granted sanction by NHRA, being the 52nd such sanctioned strip in the country. In late 1957, Warren Welsh set a Nevada state half-mile drag strip record with a speed of 156.52 MPH. Although most drag strips in California banned the use of nitro or fuels other than gasoline, the use of racing fuels was allowed at the Minden track in 1957. The Nevada Timing Association shifted its races from Douglas-Tahoe Airport at Minden to an auxiliary airfield at Silver Springs, Nevada, in June 1958. But they returned briefly to stage the second annual open fuel Silver Dollar Invitational on May 31, 1959. Bill Friedman won the 4-foot tall Silver Dollar trophy for the top speed of the meet (148 MPH) in his "Saugstad Special" B dragster.
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August 14, 1955

Fallon Naval Auxiliary Air Station 


In 1961, this strip at the Naval Air Station began being listed in Hot Rod as one of NHRA's sanctioned tracks. In late October or early November 1962, Roger McDunnah and Don Scoville, members of the Marquis Car Club in Reno, captured top eliminator in their A roadster. The Hurricams car club conducted a drag race on Sunday, May 12, 1963, on a runway of the Naval Air Station. In August 1965, more than 85 cars from Nevada, California, Washington, and Oregon competed in the Cal-Neva Championship Drag Races at the Air Station. On May 29, 1966, the Hurricams again conducted a drag race event, sanctioned by NHRA. Jim Lewis drove the Masters & Richter AA/FD to a Nevada state record with a run of 8.14 seconds at 190.26 MPH. On July 17, 1966, the Masters & Richter Special from San Leandro set the Nevada quarter-mile record with a run of 8.23 seconds at 197.98 MPH.  Other fast fuel dragsters at that meet included "The Lizard" driven by Jim Herbert from Sacramento, Warren Welsh's "Shoehorn Ghost," and Rickman Brothers "Bonanza." On September 11, 1966, about 40 Cal-Neva club members raced at Fallon. The Rickman Brothers beat the track record, set only a few months earlier by the M & R Special, with a clocking of 198.86 MPH. Top eliminator was won by Elmer Snyder, from Newman, California. He drove the Jorge & Snyder Special, at that time the world's fastest Chevy-powered gasoline dragster.  Although no newspaper documentation could be found after 1966, Fallon Drag Strip was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . But it is doubtful that racing occurred after 1966.
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Hawthorne Municipal Airport 


The Hawthorne Rod Squad began sponsoring drag races at the Hawthorne Airport in 1970. They were sanctioned by NHRA. Races were conducted in all classes, except for fuel-burning cars. The first race was likely held on Sunday, July 26, 1970. Other races were held on September 17, 1972 and on June 17, 1973.
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Las Vegas Drag Strip 


An article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal ("Dragstrips in Southern Nevada," March 30, 2011) identified this venue as operating in the late 1950s. It purportedly operated on the main runway of Sky Corral Airport, which was just northwest of today's McCarran International Airport. The specific location places it just north of the intersection of Interstate 15 and Desert Inn Road. The main runway of Sky Corral Airport was oriented northeast-southwest, with Interstate 15 built right through the center of that runway. This general aviation airport was built circa 1946-49 and closed to air traffic circa 1949-52, after no more than six years in operation. The field had been owned by owners of the Last Frontier Hotel, which went out of business in the mid-1950s. By that point, McCarran Field was the main airport of Las Vegas. Drag racing took advantage of the situation to hold races on the abandoned runway before it was redeveloped. The Las Vegas Review-Journal article also noted other drag racing venues that operated in the Las Vegas area in the 1950s. In 1953-54, there was a drag strip located at Vegas Valley Drive and Decatur Boulevard. There was a drag strip on Vegas Drive at a site that is now Las Vegas Municipal Golf Course in 1954-56. In 1957, a drag strip operated at Highland Drive, near the corner of San Francisco Avenue (today's Sahara Avenue).
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Las Vegas Speedrome 

  • Years of Operation: 1971-2000

This racing plant was first opened in 1971 by Larry Horton with a 1.7-mile road racing course and drag strip, located on Las Vegas Boulevard North, northeast of Nellis Air Force Base on land that is now part of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Horton saw an opportunity for racing when the Stardust Raceway closed in 1970. Carl "Curly" Price leased the city-owned land and operated the race tracks at least as early as 1975. In September 1975, the drag strip hosted an NHRA divisional points race and featured touring pro cars on occasion. However it basically focused on racing for the local sportsman racers in the mid-1970s. Terry Weaver managed the drag strip for Curly Price in 1976. They ran every other week in 1976.  In 1976, he built a half-mile oval track. Price got in trouble with the city in 1976 because he was late in paying his $500 per month rent and not keeping a promised stockpile of gravel that the city required of him.  Price refused to comply and was ordered by the city to vacate the property. He objected, but the courts upheld the city's order. Racing events were held sporadically during this conflict which drug out into 1977. More research is needed to uncover details of drag racing in the late 1970s throgh 1990s. The drag strip starting line is now part of the 3/8th-mile asphalt oval track called the Bullring, southwest of the big Speedway. The old strip is easily seen in aerial photos.
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2002 aerial view of Las Vegas International Speedrome
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Las Vegas Speedrome, 1989, filmed by Phil Landram, 1:21 minutes

Lemmon Valley Drag Strip/Reno Dragway

 
The Nevada Timing Association wanted to open a new drag strip in Lemmon Valley, twelve miles northwest of Reno. Built north of the Stead Air Force Base, it was to have two asphalt parallel racing strips. They had planned to open the strip on May 12, 1962, but different things caused them to postpone the opening. First it was the weather that slowed them. Then nearby Stead AFB protested the height of their timing tower. They had earlier objected to the placement of the tower, saying that it was in direct line with their major runway. The tower also housed the restrooms. Research was unable to uncover when the opening date of the drag strip was, but  it appears in the listing of NHRA-sanctioned tracks in Hot Rod (August 1962 issue), running on the second and fourth Sundays. In that listing it was called the Stead Air Base Drag Strip.  Almost one thousand spectators watched a race on July 28, 1963. Walter Huff of Reno took the Junior Eliminator class with an average of 109.63 MPH. Jim Davis of Walnut Creek, California, broke the AA/FD track record on August 25, 1963, with a run of 8.510 at 175.09 MPH. On October 6, 1963, the final race of the season, about 550 spectators attended that race to see Rich Guasco in the Guasco-Thorne AA/FD take top eliminator with a 9.489 ET and 169,.49 MPH.  Another fast time was Ralph Hayes from Santa Cruz, California, with 168.85 MPH in 9.449 seconds in his A/FD. After 1963, newspapers began referring to it as the Reno Drag Strip or Reno Dragway. In 1964, races were held on the second and last Sunday of every month, April through September. It was sanctioned by NHRA that year and Dan Wright was the track manager. A two-day event, called the Nevada Centennial Drag Races, were held on May 9-10, 1964. Twenty-three track records were broken. Del Peterson's Masters & Richter Special A/FD from San Leandro was one of the record breakers with a 8.51 ET at 187.10 MPH. Merle Brennan was the strip manager in 1965. Following the race on July 4, 1965, a live band played for dancing on the strip at what the track called "Drags-A-Go-Go." On August 14, 1965, strip owner George Peek announced that he was closing the strip for the rest of the year because of repeated vandalism. Vandals had stolen or damaged all the loudspeakers, broken windows, and caused widespread destruction. In early December 1965, the timing equipment was stolen. Despite these difficulties, the new track managers (Robert Begvie, Mike Scott, and Ron Burns) opened the track on Sunday, December 12, 1965. The track limped along for a few more years, but never with the excitement that prevailed in the mid-1960s. The track hosted an AHRA Grand American points race on June 15-16, 1968--essentially its last hurrah. The drag strip is easily seen in aerial photos. Newspapers stated that the drag strip was defunct in 1973, but it probably stopped being used long before then.
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September 15, 1963
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June 28, 1964
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July 7, 1968
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Reno Motorcycle Club "Drag Races"

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The AMA-Reno Motorcycle Club and the Nevada Trail Blazers sponsored motorcycle races, including drag races. They were being held at the foot of the Old Geiger Grade Road, about eleven miles south of Reno on January 31, 1954. They weren't charging admission, but donations were going to the March of Dimes charity.
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1954

Silver Springs "Drag Strip"

 
The Nevada Timing Association discontinued using the Douglas-Tahoe Airport in favor of the new drag strip at Silver Springs, Nevada. Silver Springs was located at the intersection of highways running from Fernley to Yerrington and U.S. 50 from Carson City to Fallon. It was a former military auxiliary field called Churchill Flight Strip. The dimensions were 7,500 feet long by 150 feet wide. It was near Lahontan Lake. The first race was held on June 1, 1958, when Bill Friedman from Roseville, California, took top honors in his dragster with a speed of 126.72 MPH. On July 30-31, 1960, timing associations from three states co-sponsored the Great Western Invitational drag races.  The three organizations were the Cal-Neva Timing Association from Vacaville, the Southern Oregon Timing Association, and the Nevada Timng Association. Sixty classes in both quarter-mile and half-mile racing were run. Jimmy Fox, of Pomona, in the Fox-McComb A/MR ran 184.04 MPH for the meet's top speed in the half-mile distance. Races were held on the last Sunday of each month in 1961 under NHRA sanction. On April 30, 1961, Warren Welsh set the track's quarter-mile records with a run of 9.759 at 152.28 MPH in the Custom Auto Glass Special dragster from Reno. In 1962 the Nevada Timing Association stopped using the Silver Springs strip and diverted their attention to trying to get the strip at Lemmon Valley up and running.
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Stardust International Raceway (Las Vegas)

 
Built by the Stardust Hotel and Casino, the track was located five miles west of the Las Vegas Strip, preliminary work started on the drag strip portion of the three-mile long road racing course in March 1965. The road course was bound on the north by Flamingo Road, on the south by Tropicana Road, on the east by Rainbow Boulevard, and on the west by Piedmont Boulevard. It was built in Spring Valley Township, which today is a massive housing development. The drag strip, incorporated as a part of the road course, was in the northeast section of the track. The strip was forty feet wide and 4,800 feet long, when first built, but was widened after the first preliminary races. The first drag race was held on December 12, 1965, and was principally a local affair to guage interest. There were 186 entries at that race. Leo Margolian was the track manager when it opened. A second race was held on Sunday, January 16, 1966, and a third on January 30. They employed AHRA rules in conducting the races. Enough interest was shown in these three meets that they decided to widen the track to sixty feet and begin hosting big races. They obtained sanctioning by AHRA and held their first meet on the widened track on March 13, 1966. At that race, K. S. Pittman and John Mazmanian were featured in a match race of A/Gas supercharged cars. 3,853 people saw Mazmanian win the match race, although Pittman had the fastest clocking with a 10.15 ET at 144.46 MPH. Races were held regularly on the second and fourth Sundays. Although the track never hosted a national caliber event, it did book some big-name racers like, Don Garlits, Jim Dunn, Tom McEwan, Kenny Safford, Willie Borsch, Jim Liberman, etc.  Lights were installed for night racing beginning with the race on June 26, 1966. The track did conduct each February a race called the Stardust National Open Drag Race Championships in 1967 through 1969.  7,500 fans watched that race in 1969. Don Prudhomme beat John Mulligan in top fuel with a clocking of 6.94 seconds at 216.86 MPH. However Mulligan did set a new strip elapsed time record with a run of 6.85 seconds. Don Garlits set the strip record with a 225.56 MPH run. Danny Ongais won funny car. After the Stardust Hotel was sold in 1969, its new owners essentially ignored the raceway and the racing program just fizzled. The land was later sold to a real estate developer. No remnant of the track remains.
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March 13, 1966
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Thunderbird Raceway (Henderson)

 
On March 16, 1958, an event called the Silver Dollar Drag Races was held at some location in or near Las Vegas. It was probably at Henderson. In 1958 the city of Henderson made a World War II auxiliary airfield available for drag racing. It was located about a mile north of Lake Mead. There had been one Silver Dollar race previous to the one on March 16, too. The Thunderbird Raceway name was occasioned by the track being co-sponsored by the Thurnderbird Hotel, but the track was also called the Henderson Drag Strip, Racing was purportedly conducted by the Henderson Industrial Timing Association and the Southern Nevada Charioteers car club, generally on the second and fourth Sundays. It was sanctioned by NHRA in circa 1959-60. In April 1960, Jack Chrisman set a new Nevada quarter-mile speed record in his A/FD of 180 MPH in 8.92 seconds. On February 11, 1962, Gary Nielson brought his B/FD from Salt Lake City where he had recently run an 8.87 at 166.92 at altitude. In 1962, the strip was affiliated with AHRA, after lengthening the strip. On April 21-22, 1962, Firebird held their third Industrial Days drag championships. Their $4,000 purse attracted racers from throughout the west. In addition to the competition in 66 classes, Art Arfons made exhibition runs in his "Untouchable" jet dragster. There was some discussion about whether to discontinue the drag racing in 1962. The drag strip was the straight-away portion of the Henderson International Raceway road course. They were undergoing an expansion program of the road course and wanted to lengthen the straight-away to one mile. It was thought the drag racing might interfere with their project, but work proceeded without interfering with the drag races. The drag strip lease was canceled by BMI in 1964.  Knowing this would happen, racers began looking for another place to race. One place they sought was on Lake Mead Drive near the Sloan cutoff.
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1963
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Thunderbird Raceway in the 1960s, 4 minutes
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Tonopah Airport 


In conjunction with the 4-day Jim Butler Days community celebration, drag races were first held on the airport runway on May 26, 1975. The airport drag racing was repeated during the town's festivities again in 1976 with two days of racing. The celebration honoring the town's founder continued to be held, but research was unable to find if the racing continued to be an event in the festivities.
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Yelland Field (Ely) 


Various events were planned by the Nevada Roadrunners motorcycle club for the first annual Intermountain Gypsy Tour Classic. The 3-day event drew motorcyclists from about a dozen states and Canada. Drag races for both motorcycles and hot rods was held at the airport in Ely on June 12, 1955.
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