KANSAS

Bennington "Drag Strip" (1952)
Topeka "Drag Strip" (1952)
Edna Municipal Airport (1953)
Great Bend Airport/SRCA Drag Strip (1953)
Ford County Airport (Dodge City) (1954)
Salina "Drag Strip" (1954)
Smolan "Drag Strip" (1954)
Fairfax Airport (Kansas City) (1955)
Hays "Drag Strip" (1955)
Walker Army Airfield (Victoria) (1955)
Garden City/Gallahads Drag Strip (1955)
Moundridge "Drag Strip" (1956)
Pratt Municipal Airport (1956)
Strother Field/Ark Valley/Mid-America Dragway (Arkansas City) (1956)
Forbes Field (Topeka) (1957)
Schilling Air Force Base/Smoky Hill Air Force Base (Salina) (1957)
Axle Twisters Drag Strip (Canton) (1958)
Coffeyville "Drag Strip" (1958)
Lawrence Drag Strip (1958)
McConnell Air Force Base (Wichita) (1958)
Pep Airfield (Parsons) (1958)
Kansas State Fairgrounds (Hutchinson) (1959)
Jetmore Municipal Airport (1961)
Kaw Valley Dragway (Topeka) (1961)
Wirt Field (Newton) (1961)
M-N Raceway/Kansas International Dragway (Maize) (1963)
Manhattan Raceway Park/Midwest Raceway (1967)
Pony Express Dragway (Troy) (1967)
Salina Dragway (1968)
Five-State Raceway (Liberal) (1970)
P & S Raceway Park (Emporia) (1971)
St. Joseph International Raceway (1971)
Marshall Army Airfield (Fort Riley) (1972)
Olathe Naval Air Station (1972)
​Ingalls Airstrip (1976)
​Nortonville "Drag Strip" (1976)
Sundown Dragway (Liberal) (1985)
Heartland Park Topeka (1989)
Hutchinson Dragway (Yoder) (1980s)
​Norton Airport (2005)
 
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Bobby Joe Ruttledge (far) running against Red Greth (near) at Great Bend, Kansas, in 1957.  Photograph by Don Elliott.

Axle Twisters Drag Strip ​(Canton)


This was the first drag strip constructed specifically for drag racing, in what newspapers called a "purpose-built" strip. In early February 1958, news reports said that grading would start soon on the drag strip at the Canton Fairgrounds. It was to be 60 feet wide and three-quarters of a mile in length. A McPherson company was going to donate asphalt for the surface. Organizations that promised to help included the Kansas Hot Rod Association and car clubs from Salina, Wichita, Clay Center, Manhattan, McPherson, Newton, and Hutchison. As to whether the strip was ever finished for racing, a reader (Brad) wrote, "I talked to a old drag racer from Moundridge that ran [on the old strip] south east of Moundridge for a couple of years, until they got shut down by the sherif,f is what he tells me. He was a member of the Axle Twisters and they had got the ok to build north of town, east of Canton by the fairgrounds. He said they had started building, but then it all fell through and was never completed."
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Bennington "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1952
  • Status:  Exact location unknown

Drag races were held near Bennington on a half-mile track. There was a dirt landing strip just southwest of the town where the races may have taken place. Jim Johannes of Salina clocked 62 MPH at one of the races in his 1932 Ford coupe. He said that the Bennington track was the only strip available for racing near Salina. The Camsnappers car club was involved in organizing and conducting the races. A few races were held until Ottawa county officials called a halt to the races.
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Possible site of 1952 drag races just southwest of Bennington ​  1966 topo map

Coffeyville "Drag Strip"


The Coffeyville Coffey Grinders Hot Rod Club conducted drag races, probably at the Coffeyville Municipal Airport which was four miles northeast of Coffeyville. A race was held on July 20, 1958. In 1960-61 races were held on the first and third Sunday under NHRA sanction. The drag strip at Edna was only fifteen miles distant. The airport was an army airfield during the war, but turned over to the town of Coffeyville after the war.
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Edna Municipal Airport

 
The Kansas City Timing Association began conducting drag races occasionally at this World War II-era auxiliary landing field located north of Edna.  A two-day event was held there on October 3-4, 1953. For photos, see Hot Rod Magazine, (May 1954): 38.  The strip hosted an NHRA regional championship on July 3-4, 1954. Melvin Heath took top eliminator honors with a speed of 125.88 MPH in his '52 Chrysler-powered alcohol dragster. The Ozark Timing Association of Springfield, Missouri, conducted drag races at the airport on the second and fourth Sundays of each month in 1957. They conducted the first race that year on April 14. Seven hundred spectators watched 87 racers. In 1958, they raced on the first and third Sundays. There were three 4,000-foot long by 100 foot wide runways with two connecting taxiways at the air field. The airport closed to air traffic between 1979 and 1982. The runways are still there, but are in bad shape.
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1958
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Edna Municipal Airport, ​​​  1965 topo map

Fairfax Airport ​(Kansas City)


While the focus was on sports car racing on Labor Day 1955 at the Municipal Airport, special demonstrations of drag racing were also featured. The Kansas City Timers Association put on the demonstrations.
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September 5, 1955
Fairfax Municipal Airport, ​​  1958 USGS topo map

Five-State Raceway ​(Liberal)


Newspaper articles said that this was the first drag strip in Kansas sanctioned by the NHRA, but that was incorrect. Drag strips in Edna, Wichita, Garden City, Victoria, and Great Bend had all been sanctioned by NHRA at one time or another before the strip in Liberal. However, at the time it was built, it was the only strip in Kansas then under NHRA sanction. The strip was supervised by the Five State Fair Board and was to operate as a non-profit entity. They paved the concrete runway with asphalt for improved traction. Sunday drag racing opened in 1970 at this quarter-mile track owned by Lowell M. Bushart. Larry Bell was the first track manager.  It was located on a northwestern taxiway of the Liberal Municipal Airport. The opening race was held on April 19, 1970, with about ten dragsters running in the Midwest All Stars circuit being featured. NHRA's Darrell Zimmerman said, "This is the best racing facility in the midwest." Some Liberal citizens expressed displeasure in the drag strip before it opened, and fighting and drinking among the fans at the opener didn't help the situation any. The crowd was so huge that estimates ranged from a high of 15,000 to a low of 4,000. Police reported that the parking area was littered with beer cans and whiskey bottles after the race. An NHRA divisional points meet was held on April 17-18, 1971, with a $22,000 cash purse. Some of the racers who had pre-entered included Norman Gingrass, Ray Motes, and Judy Lilly. The track hosted an NHRA divisional race again in May 1972. Over 300 entries competed at that 2-day event in which fourteen national records were set. Winners in the pro categories were Gary Cheatum (top fuel), John Dekker (funny car), and John Hagen (pro stock). In 1973, George Fabry and Bruce Tawson were the new track managers. Except in 1975 when it was under IHRA sanction, drag racing continued at the airport strip under NHRA sanction at least through 1978. They switched from class racing to bracket racing in mid-1976.  On September 2-3, 1978, an $8,000 purse was offered to racers at the Mid-America Bracket Nationals. In May 1979, several people complained about the drag strip operation at the airport, saying it was a dangerous operation. This caused the city commission to ask its attorneys to look into terminating the lease. The United Dragracers of Western Kansas expressed interest in taking over operation of the drag racing if the lease was terminated.
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April 17-18, 1971
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May 13, 1973
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Former site of Five-State Raceway, ​​  1991 aerial photo

Forbes Field ​(Topeka)


A drag race was held at Forbes Air Force Base on Sunday, October 27, 1957. Loyd Harlan got the second fastest speed of the day in his B/G Olds-powered '36 Ford with a run of 97.27 MPH.
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Ford County Airport ​(Dodge City)


Drag races were just one of the events held at the annual National Midwest Motorcycle Rally. Most of the events, including the drag races (held on July 4), were held at the county airport located three miles east of Dodge City. Drag races were held thereafter sporadically including on June 27, 1955. Drag races were again held at the National Motorcycle Rally in 1955. Racing ended when the airport was sold and became a strictly airport operation.
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July 2-4, 1955

Garden City/Gallahads Drag Strip


The Gear Grinders car club was the first group to hold drag races on the half-mile long abandoned emergency airstrip located six miles northeast of Garden City on U. S. 50 on the Spikes farm. This was the old Garden City Army Air Field No. 3, which had never been used after the war as a civil air field.  It today serves as a feed lot. There are only a few remnants of the runway visible today. The Gear Grinders conducted several races at the old airstrip in 1955. They generally had about fifty cars competing. On July 17, 1955, the Gear Grinders and a Garden City motorcycle club held a joint race in which trophies were awarded to seven car class winners and five motorcycle classes. The AMA sanctioned the motorcycle race. In 1956, the Gallahads car club sought permission to use the Garden City airport. The city council denied their request so they began holding drag races on the old abandoned airstrip that had been used the year before for racing.  The Garden City police department was supportive and assisted at the racing. The first race was held on June 17, 1956. Five hundred spectators watched eighty cars compete for trophies in nine classes. The electric timer couldn't record speeds fast enough to clock Don Pruitt's 1948 fuel-buring Mercury on his 12.5 second run. The Gallahads continually tried to make improvements, but their recently-built timing stand was burned by vandals in July. In 1956, at least five races were held from June through September. The Gallahads Drag Strip continued to draw good crowds in 1957, with an estimated 3,500 spectators attending the opening race on April 28 to watch a field of 95 entries. The Rose-Davis Special A/D, driven by Lloyd Davis from Wichita, garnered top eliminator, clocking a 12.40 ET and 116.88 MPH. The Kenz and Leslie 1932 Ford A/roadster powered by a 1954 Lincoln motor from Denver also turned in a good run of 12.16 seconds and 117.84 MPH. On June 26, 1957, the Gallahads obtained permission from Garden City city commission to use an east-west runway on its municipal airport, the old Garden City Army Air Field,  on a one-race trial basis. This is the airport which the Gallahads had wanted to use back in 1956. The city approved the use of its airport for further racing after this trial meet.  The airport was located southeast of Garden City on U.S. 50. It had three asphalt runways with the longest being two 3,000-foot long north-south strips. An AHRA regional race was held at the Gallahad strip on August 18, 1957. 1,000 spectators watched 84 cars from four states (Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Nebraska) at the event. Chuck Kirgan of Denver posted the top speed of 113.06 MPH in his 1934 Ford fuel coupe. A 1957 newspaper article (Garden City Telegram, Apr. 1, 1957) stated that the Gallahads had been sponsoring drag races for six years, but documentation has not been found to support this. In 1962, the strip was NHRA sanctioned and used a 5,600 foot long concrete runway at the Garden City airport. With the sale of the Ford County Airport in Dodge City, Kansas, the American Motorcycle Association cast about for a new site to hold their traditional annual National Motorcycle rally. They chose the Garden City airport. On Labor Day, September 2, 1963, over 200 racing motorcycles (including about 75 drag bikes) participated in drag races on the airports' Gallahad strip. They also used the airport for other events including a Grand Prix race. It began being called Garden City Dragway in 1964.
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April 7, 1957
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August 5, 1962
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April 12, 1964

Great Bend Airport/SRCA Drag Strip

  • Years of Operation: 1953-present

The Gasket Blasters Car Club conducted their first drag race on a half-mile portion of the north end of the Great Bend Airport on May 17, 1953. Although the race was marred by rain, 500 people attended. No admission was charged and cars were timed by a new timing device. They allowed rolling starts and awarded seven trophies. They held their second race on June 7, expecting a turnout of 20 cars. In 1954, the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association was formed to conduct the races. They obtained a timer from the Topeka Timers car club that measured E.T.'s to 1/1000th of a second. They planned to hold races every three weeks on the concrete runway strip. The Sunflower club joined the NHRA in April 1955. NHRA held its first national championship drag race at Great Bend. It was a four-day meet on September 29-30 and October 1-2, 1955. Thousands of spectators attended the racing event. Lloyd Scott, from Long Beach, set a new American top speed drag racing record of 151 MPH in his two-engined "Bustle Bomb" dragster at the race. Other fast clockings over 140 MPH were turned in by Mickey Thompson and Art Chrisman. Unfortunately the final day of racing was rained out. NHRA promised they would hold the national championships at Great Bend in 1956 if they surfaced 3,000 feet and 75 foot wide with blacktop on the concrete strip. The runway they were using was 8,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. The Great Bend city council voted to spend $27,000 on the blacktop project, but in late March 1956, Wally Parks informed them that the NHRA had decided to hold the 1956 national championships in a different location. Fortunately they had not begun work on the blacktop project at Great Bend prior to getting this disappointing news. It was undoubtedly this disappointment that caused them to disaffiliate with NHRA and be sanctioned by the American Hot Rod Association in 1956. They held a 4-day AHRA national championship on August 31-September 3, 1956. Although competing directly with NHRA's naional championship event in Kansas City, they drew a few cars who had been to the Kansas City event and thought the race track there was too short and dangerous. The Bean Bandits entry from San Diego was one of the cars that opted to race at Great Bend after seeing what they deemed was unsafe at the Kansas City strip. But overall the Great Bend's AHRA national event only drew about 160 cars compared with the large field of over 300 vehicles at the Kansas City event. They also drew about 10,000 spectators over the course of the meet. The AHRA national championship were again held at the S.R.C.A. Drag Stip in 1957 (August 30-31 and September 1-2). Top Eliminator received a seven-foot tall trophy.  Lyle Fisher of Tucson, Arizona, set a new track record of 152.80 MPH. Misfortune befell the AHRA national championship meet in 1958 when Lanny Wilkins was killed on August 31 when he lost control of his modified roadster in the shutdown area and crashed. Rain washed out the final day of racing so final run-offs were held on September 2. Only about 200 entries participated in AHRA's third national event. Don Garlits took top eliminator in the delayed racing, timed at 157.81 MPH. He had been clocked at 161.28 MPH during qualifying. In late 1958, the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association arranged to have 2,000 feet of blacktop capping laid down on the drag strip. Half the cost ($8,000) was raised by local businesses and the other half was assumed by the SRCA, to be repaid over the course of eight years. In July 1959 the SRCA replaced their old 2-story makeshift wood-framed timing stand with an unused 3-story air conditioned aircraft control tower. Great Bend hosted the 4th annual AHRA national championships at a 4-day race over Labor Day in 1959. Art Malone, driving for Don Garlits, ran an 8.23 e.t. to set a new low time record for AHRA with a speed of 179.64 MPH. Malone was beaten by Chris Karamesines in the runoff for top eliminator. On September 2-5, 1960, the AHRA held their 5th annual national championships. Don Garlits set a new AHRA national record with a run of 182.54 MPH. Bob Sullivan copped top eliminator in his "Pandemonium" A/FD with a run of 164.23 MPH. In the April 1968 issue of Hot Rod, the SRCA Dragway was listed as being under NHRA sanction. Great Bend Drag Strip was designated a Kansas State Historical Site in 1994. 
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July 5, 1959
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Official program for NHRA's 1955 national championship races at Great Bend
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of AHRA Nationals at Great Bend in 1959, 9:46 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Great Bend drag race in ca. 1963-64, movies taken by Rex W. Rosenberg, 4 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of AHRA Nationals at Great Bend in 1959, part 2, 9:56 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of NHRA's first national championship race held at Great Bend in 1955, 9:53 minutes, no sound

Hays "Drag Strip"

 
In August 1955 the Hays Dragons car club incorporated to sponsor drag races in the vicinity, possibly the airport. More research is needed.
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Hutchinson Dragway (Yoder)

 
DSL reader Ray McElwee submitted the following information: "I can not give you a great deal of information about [Hutchinson Dragway] other than location and that races were there in the mid to late 1980's. They called it the Hutchinson Dragway and the races were run on the old Naval airstrip just outside of Yoder, Kansas, about 10 miles from Hutchinson. The air base is still in part there, and is now an industrial park which houses a Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center among other businesses."
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Ingalls Airstrip

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A drag race was held on September 5, 1976, on the old Ingalls Airstrip, located north of Highway 50, six miles northwest of Ingalls. It was an old World War II airstrip, now being used as the Ingalls Municipal Airport.
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September 5, 1976
CLICK HERE to see video footage of 1/8th-mile drag racing at Ingalls Airstrip in 2016, 15:11 minutes
Ingalls Municipal Airport, ​​  2012 topo map

Jetmore Municipal Airport

 
The Hodgeman County Jaycees sponsored drag races at the old airstrip located six miles south of Jetmore. It was part of the Memorial Day festivities on Tuesday, May 30, 1961.
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Kansas State Fairgrounds (Hutchinson)

 
In 1959, big-time stock car racing capitalized on the popularity of drag racing. They began holding drag races in conjunction with some of the major stock car races around the country. Racing promoter Frank R. Winkley of Minneapolis came up with the idea. Using a portable flood-lighting system, drag races were run on the straight-away of the half-mile oval at the Kansas State Fair in conjunction with the Jayhawk 200. Time trials were to be held on Saturday night with eliminations on Sunday night. Trophies were awarded to the class winners.
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May 2-3, 1959

Kaw Valley Dragway (Topeka)

 
This 1/8th-mile drag strip on Lower Silver Lake Road in North Topeka held some important short-distance track events in 1961. On July 23, 1961, the Kansas 1/8th-mile drag championships were held at what in 1962 was called the Kaw Valley Dragway. Operated by the Kaw Valley Timing Association, there had been drag races at this strip previous to this July 23 race. The drag strip record of 145.76 MPH had been set in 1960 in a fueler.  Freddy Inyard of Lawrence won top eliminator at the 1961 championship race, setting a new strip and national AHRA record in the process. He ran 122.40 MPH in the Inyard-Baxter-Jones A gas dragster. There were a total of fifteen AHRA class records broken. On May 24, 1962, Inyard took top eliminator honors. There was a dike at the end of the strip, which gave racers an incentive to stop before they went in the drink. The return road was dirt. Cars weighed in at the grain elevators across the road. Freddy Inyard dominated top eliminator again in 1963. On August 11, 1963, Kaw Valley hosted the AHRA Midwestern 1/8th-mile Championships. Freddy Inyard took top eliminator and top speed/time marks with a 130.4 MPH and 6.40 ET. Bob Sullivan's track record of 146.6 MPH in his A/FD stayed intact. On May 23, 1965, Ted Flory of Lawrence ran 142.8 MPH in 5.95 seconds in his D fuel dragster. Research didn't uncover when the strip closed, but the last information about it dated to 1965.  It was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip .  More research is needed.
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Kaw Valley Dragway in 1960s, movies taken by Rex W. Rosenberg, 11 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Kaw Valley Dragway in 1962, 8:49 minutes

Lawrence Drag Strip

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Bill Prince was the auto mechanics teacher at Lawrence High School. He and his wife, Betty,  let the boys in the Crusaders Car Club hang out at their home. The idea came up to build a drag strip north of his home. The boys started helping clear the ground, but Bill finally brought in a bulldozer to finish the job. Prince served as the strip manager in its early years. On June 8, 1958, 200 people watched 100 cars at a trial run before the formal opening of the strip. The timing clocks were operational. The new drag strip was built by the Crusaders Club at a cost of $10,500. The club hoped to recoup the cost through entry fees of racers and spectators. It was located 2.5 miles west of Lawrence on Highway 40 and 3/4 miles south of the highway. It was 55 feet wide and 1/2 mile long with an asphalt surface. Initially, the track was for quarter-mile racing, but quickly shortened to 1000 feet, then 1/8th-mile racing for safety reasons. On June 22, 1958, 1000 people turned out for Trophy Day, despite threatening weather. They watched 64 entries compete for 36 trophies. On the August 24, 1958 Trophy Day, 750 people watched 88 cars race. Top eliminator was won by Art Sommers, Rolland Hueston, and Don Baxter, three Lawrence men whose roadster turned 108.70 MPH. In 1959, racing was conducted on Saturday nights on a lighted strip that had been lengthened and resurfaced. On August 27-28, 1960, the first annual AHRA 1/8th Mile Drag Championships were held. Bleachers were set up and the dirt oiled to cut down on dust. About 2,000 people watched 150 cars compete in the two-day affair. The Creitz Automotive A/FD from Tulsa was the top eliminator with a time of 6.89 seconds and 120.49 MPH. Jim Meyers of Wichita had the top fuel time in his A/FD of 128.47 MPH. Middle eliminator was taken by Bob Nickelson of Wichita in an aircraft-engined dragster. The strip was completely rebuilt for the 1968 season. Don Garlits raced here, but the rough and short shutdown prompted him to shut down early. Art Arfons "Green Monster" set the fence on fire behind the starting line when he turned on the afterburner. The drag strip closed in fall 1986 after the land was bought by Alvamar.  Today's Wakarusa Drive, which used to be Dragstrip Road,  was given the new name by the city council in the early 1980s.
August 8, 1959
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1969
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1991 aerial view of Lawrence Dragway
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Lawrence Drag Strip, ​  1967 aerial photo
Lawrence Drag Strip, ​​​  1968 topo map
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Lawrence Dragway, courtesy of Kenny Ray, 27:39 minutes
CLICK HERE to see video historical documentary of Lawrence Dragway, featuring Marty Hastert, 10 minutes

M-N Raceway/Kansas International Dragway (Maize)

  • Years of Operation: 1963-present
 
This strip was located 8.5 miles north of Wichita Municipal Airport on Ridge Road. For a brief time, it was called Mid-National Drag Strip. Directions situated it then near Valley Center. It opened with that name on April 21, 1963. Twenty thousand spectators watched that opening race. There was also a race on Sunday, July 21, 1963. A match race between Fritz Crissman and Don Biggers was featured. They also had handicap class racing. Admission was $1.50. On August 18, 1963, Art Arfons' "Green Monster" jet dragster was featured. On October 4, 1964, the raceway hosted the final race of the NHRA Midwest Central Division champonships. The track, then called Wichita Raceway Park, hosted an AHRA Grand American points race on June 1, 1968. Bob Morrison sold the strip in 1970, when it was known as Wichita International Raceway. The quarter-mile track is today (2015) under NHRA sanction called Kansas International Dragway. It had also previously been known as Wichita International Raceway, probably from about 1970 thru about 2008. Bob Morrison was an owner manager prior to 1970 when it was called Wichita Raceway Park and Wichita International Raceway for a few years. It continues to operate as an NHRA quarter-mile track.
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July 21, 1963
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Wchita InternationalRaceway, ​​  1971 topo map
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Wichita International Raceway, 2007, 1:45 minutes

McConnell Air Force Base (Wichita)

 
The first race was scheduled to be held at a runway on the base on July 27, but it was rained out. They had borrowed timing equipment from Great Bend. The Southern Kansas Timing Association in Wichita  set another date for a race on August 24, 1958. They expected 100 racers and 30,000 spectators!  Gate receipts were to benefit the enlisted men's welfare fund. Research was unable to find reports of this race. More research is needed.
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Manhattan Raceway Park/Midwest Raceway

  • Years of Operation: 1967-present
 
Located just west of Manhattan and one-half mile south of the city airport, Jim Wood opened this track on May 14, 1967. In August 1968, the track changed from running on Sunday afternoons to Saturday nights. On May 4-5, 1968, the track staged its first Midwest Classic, which attracted many top-name racers as it was an AHRA Grand American points race in Division 3. This race became an annual affair in early May, but changed its title from the Midwest Classic to the Kansas State Drag Race Championships in 1970.  On May 1-2, 1971, the Kansas State Drag Championships were again held. It was also an AHRA Grand American regional points race. The spectator count for the two day event was 12,710. Some of the  racers who competed included John Wiebe, Dick Harrell, and Bob Sullivan. The AHRA event was held again in 1972 and 1973. On Wednesday, May 17, 1972, the track featured a match race between Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen. In early August 1978, the raceway was the site of what was called the Sunflower Nationals. The state championships were in its twelfth year of being staged in 1978. Roger Hammerschmidt ran the track for Jim Wood in the 1980s. It was called Little Apple Raceway from 1983 to 1985. Errol and Nancy Kampschroeder bought the track in 1986. The race track began running 1/8th-mile and changed its name to Midwest Raceway at least by 1987, if not earlier.
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June 11, 1967
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Manhattan Raceway Park, ca. 1967, beginning of clip through about the 10 minute mark, no sound
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June 5, 1983
Roger Lawrence heats up the tires on his Camaro at Little Apple Raceway in 1985. Photo published in ​Manhattan Mercury, Apr. 23, 1985

Marshall Army Airfield (Fort Riley)

 
The Fort Riley Racing Association sponsored drag races on the main runway of the Marshal Army Air Field on Saturdays in 1972. Military personnel paid one dollar per year to race. They had lights to start the races at the starting line, but no timing equipment. The starting line was in communication with the tower in the event that an airplane needed to make an emergency landing.
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Marshall Air Field, ​​​ 1954 topo map

Moundridge "Drag Strip"

 
The Axle Twisters Hot Rod Club sponsored bi-weekly drag races on the old U.S. 81 highway strip southeast of Moundridge. There were 65 entries and a large crowd at the race held on March 18, 1956. The next race had been scheduled for April 1, but the McPherson County commissioners ordered the races closed. The Kansas Highway Patrol had been concerned that motorists traveling on the new highway, which paralleled the old highway and was only a few feet apart from it, might be distracted by the racing. With this ruling, the Axle Twisters were left without a place to race. They set out to try to find another location and asked the county commissioners for cooperation in the matter. See Axle Twisters Drag Strip (above).
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Nortonville "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1976
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
A drag race was held somewhere at or near Nortonville on Friday, July 23, 1976. Cash prizes were awarded to class winners. More research is needed.
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Olathe Naval Air Station

 
Eight hundred drag racers competed at the Kansas City Philharmonic's "Speed for Sound" drag race on a runway at Olathe NAS held on August 25-27, 1972. This was the third straight year for the event that benefited the Philharmonic Orchestra. However in 1970-71, the racing event was an SCCA road racing event held at Olathe.  They didn't really make much money because the set-up costs were so great for the road race. So they opted to stage a drag race. They got AHRA to put on a Grand American race. Racers who competed included Don Garlits, John Wiebe, Jim Nicoll, Chris Karamesines, Jeb All, Leroy Goldstein, Gene Snow, Don Prudhomme, Tom McEwen, Bob Lambeck, Don Nigholson, Bill Jenkins, etc. Garlits really liked the set-up:  "The track was just fantastic, about 300 feet wide and two miles long, with fantastic amounts of paved pits."  Thirty-two AHRA records were broken. Garlits set a new mark in top fuel with a speed of 237.46 MPH. McEwen set a new mark in funny car with a 6.52 ET. The pro winners were Don Garlits (top fuel), Tom McEwen (funny car), and Jim Hayter (pro stock). One of the drawbacks of the event was the mountain of trash left behind after the race by more than 30,000 spectators. This did nothing to encourage the military to desire them to return--and they didn't.
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P & S Raceway Park (Emporia)

 
This drag strip was located four miles south of Emporia on Highway 99 and one-half mile east of Emporia Airport. The track opened for racing on July 4-5, 1971 under AHRA sanction. Almost 1,500 people turned out to watch the opening racing. Teryl Price and Lyman Selby built and owned the half-mile long asphalt track. The track had a two-story timing tower, concession stands, and restrooms. It may have only operated for two years. In spring 1972, they ran Thursday night grudge racing.
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July 4-5, 1971
P & S Raceway Park, ​​​ 1972 aerial photo
1991 aerial view of P & S Raceway Park
P & S Raceway Park, ​​​ 1975 topo map

Pep Airfield (Parsons)

 
This privately-owned airfield, located west of Parsons, was owned by a Parsons, Kansas, city official. He donated use of it to the Queen City Pacers car club of Parsons shortly after their club was organized about six months before. When the Pacers joined the Missouri-Oklahoma-Kansas Timing Associaton (MOKTA), they donated the use of the strip to the six MOKTA clubs. An NHRA-sanctioned race was scheduled to be held on July 27, 1958. It is now called Tri-City Airport. The Coffeyville-Parsons Timing Association conducted races on the second and fourth Sundays in 1960.
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Pony Express Dragway (Troy)


Cyrus L. Dishon filed incorporation papers for Pony Express Dragway on May 15, 1967.  Ron Davis was the announcer at this short-lived track located on U. S. 36, two miles east of Troy.  Maggie McKeithan, director of Library District #1 in Doniphan County, helped look into the old drag strip for DSL. She spoke with some old timers who remembered the strip. Someone recalled that when their family couldn't afford the entry fee, they  would park where the rest area was and watch the races down below from that elevated location. Another recalled that the dragway closed in the spring or early summer in 1969 after a flagman was killed by a race car. It was thought that the driver of the car had the last name of Saverino. The dragway never reopened after the fatal accident. This information seems to be confirmed in that, early in 1971, Cyrus and Robert Dishon approached the Doniphan County Planning Commission with basic plans for a modular housing development at the site of the drag strip. So at least by 1971, the owners of the strip were looking to do something else with their land. Nevertheless, there was a drag race there on Labor Day in 1972. Traces of the drag strip can only faintly be seen in today's aerial photos.
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April 28, 1968
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May 25, 1969
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Pony Express Dragway was just south of the roadside park/rest area on Highway 36 as seen in this ​​​​​​ 1973 topo map
Pony Express Dragway can be seen in this ​​​​​ 1972 aerial photo

Pratt Municipal Airport


Over 1,500 people watched 82 cars at the first drag race at the airport, held on May 13, 1956. The airport was located four miles north of Pratt. Races were conducted by the Ninnescah Valley Timing Association. Races were also held on June 3 and June 24, the latter race attracting 800 spectators and 74 cars. Other races were held on July 15 and August 5..
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St. Joseph International Raceway

  • Years of Operation: 1971
  • Status:  Exact location unkown

Detailed information about this 1/8th-mile drag strip has proved to be elusive. Research has only been able to uncover information from a few newspaper advertisements in August and September 1971. Ads stated that it was located ten miles west of St. Joseph, Missouri. A search of historical aerial photos and old topo maps yielded nothing that looked like a drag strip. Ads stated that this drag strip ran on Frida;y nights and Sunday afternoons in 1971. They were scheduled to hold a pro stock race on September 12 with a $20,000 purse. The race was to have been sponsored by the National Association of Pro Racing, but who has ever heard of that organization? This strip has DSL scratching its head. Any help anyone can give about this strip would be most welcome.
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1971
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Salina "Drag Strip"


On July 25, 1954, a drag race attracted about 80 racers from throughout Kansas at a racing strip in Salina.  Another race was held on October 10, 1954. It is known that a drag strip did operate at the old municipal airport on East Crawford Street (see below), so that may have been the location of this 1954 drag race.
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1991 aerial view of the old Salina municipal airport, pssible site of drag racing in 1954 and the site of the Salina Dragway (below)

Salina Dragway


Salina Raceways, Inc., was formed by the Pagoda Car Club and the Breakfast Optimist Club in 1968. Tom Markley was the president. A few races were held in 1968, but good improvements were made for the racing in 1969. Those improvements included new fencing around the strip and pit area and new timing equipment. Tom Knight was the starter. They opened the 1969 season under AHRA sanction. Drag races were held on the old concrete Salina Municipal Airport with its single 150-foot wide, 4,800-foot north-south runway. It parallels today's Markley Road on the eastern outskirts of Salina. On Sunday, August 17, 1969, the Salina Journal reported that the dragway was going to hold its "largest drag meet ever."  Don Katz, the track's announcer expected there would be at least 25 cars in the hot rod or street rod classes alone. A $350 cash purse was drawing interest from Kansas and nearby states. Tom Markley, the president of Salina Raceway Corp. said, "It's the first really large meet we've held here." The event was sponsored by the Breakfast Optimist's Club and the Pagoda Car Club. At least two AHRA national record holders were expected to attend. Two weeks later another regular Sunday race was held. On Sunday, September 21, 1969, Al Vander Woude's "Flying Dutchman" Dodge Charger funny car was pitted in a match race against Don Biggers's "Mr. Plymouth" out of Kansas City. A young gal (bunny) from the Kansas City Playboy Club served as the starter for the funny car match. Drag races continued at the old airport at least through the 1977 season. The old airport has also been the site for more recent run-what-ya-brung drag races put on by the Kustom Kemps of America in their annual Leadsled Spectacular.
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May 11, 1969
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March 21, 1971
CLICK HERE to see video footage of the KKOA Run-What-Ya-Brung drag aces, 2013, 4:07 minutes

Schilling Air Force Base/Smoky Hill Air Force Base (Salina)


The Road Angels car club, a base hot rod club, sponsored races on a runway at the air force base, which was three miles southwest of Salina. The first race was held on February 17, 1957, attracting 6,000 people. Most of the 225 entries were from Wichita at this first race. Jim Hopper took top eliminator in his dragster with a speed of 128.76 MPH. Rain forced cancellation of the race on March 31. Rain again forced postponement of the race scheduled for June 23, which was most unfortunate as trophies were to have been presented to winners by the Saline County Dairy Princess. They did not charge admission, but donations were accepted to defray expenses. The next race was scheduled for July 28, but the big race of the season was the Kansas State Championship held on September 22, 1957. It was sponsored by the Road Angels and the Kansas Hot Rod Association. 5500 people watched 321 entries from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Iowa. Held on runway number 24, Bob Sullivan of Kansas City took top eliminator with a 10.42 ET and 142.79 MPH run. Lloyd Davis of Wichita set the track record on May 25, 1958 with a 169.10 MPH clocking. The Kansas State Championship Drag Races scheduled for September 28, 1958, had to be cancelled because many visiting airplanes filled the runway due to Hurricane Helene. The race was re-scheduled for October 12. Lou Cangelose won top eliminator at that meet clocking 145.16 MPH, but the Martin & Sullivan fuel dragster from Kansas City had the top time with 160.71 MPH. In 1959, the Schilling Timing Association erected a safety barrier of a mile-long rope and old aircraft tires to protect the spectators from the race course. On June 14, 1959, Bob Rodgers set a track record for A gas dragsters with 147.54 MPH run. Although it received little attention in newspapers, the unofficial world drag speed record was set at Schilling in 1959 by Glen Leasher of 185.567 MPH. He was driving for Bob Sullivan in his "Pandemonium" dragster. In 1960 races were conducted by the Schilling Timing Association. On April 10, 1960, 4000 people watched 250 race entries compete. Despite 35 MPH winds, Lou Cangelose clocked a 180 MPH run. Although another drag race had been scheduled for May 10, the April race may have been the final race held at Schilling.
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Smolan "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1954-56
  • Status:  Exact location unknown

The Sal-Ka Plugs Timing Association held drag races on a black-topped private road in the Camp Phillips area a mile west of Smolan.  The road was donated to them for drag races by the Morrison Grain Company. The first race was held on May 23, 1954. In early 1955, the Timing Association bought a timing device for the 1955 season. The club intended to hold races there every Sunday after building a timing tower. The Sal-Ka Plugs asked the Salina City Commission for funds to resurface their drag strip road in March 1956. The commission said that the road was too far outside the city to grant funds.  The commission also told them that they couldn't think of any place inside the city limits that the club could use for racing. Without an option, the Sal-Ka Plugs continued holding drag races on the old road.
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Camp Phillips military reservation, site of the Smolan Drag Strip, ​​​​​ 1956 topo map

Strother Field/Ark Valley Dragway/Cherokee Strip Dragway/Mid-America Dragway (Arkansas City)

  • Years of Operation: 1956-58, 1961-2011, 2018-present
  • Status:  4
 
The Arkansas City Chamber of Commerce sponsored its first drag race at the airfield, located 6.5 miles west of Arkansas City, on July 4, 1956. They obtained permission from the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the local hot rod association paid for the event's insurance. They rented timing equipment from a Tulsa firm. Trophies were awarded to winners in twenty-seven classes. They charged 50 cents for admission. The races and a fireworks show were also held there on July 4, 1957. Drag races were again held on July 4 in 1958. At that time, it was jointly owned by the towns of Winnfield and Arkansas City. It was in the process of being built by both cities in 1942, when it was rushed to completion to provide a field for training cadet pilots during the war. It reverted to civil use in late 1945. Mid-America Dragway's old website claimed that drag racing started at this site in 1961, but that was incorrect. Drag racing at the old Strother Field #2 Airfield began in 1956, as above described. That field was also called Strother Field #5 or South Field. Drag racing under the name Ark Valley Dragway may have started by 1961, although research in newspapers hasn't uncovered that name being used until 1965. The Ark City Jaycees were sponsors of the racing.  There was reportedly a large crowd watching drag races on Sunday, June 21, 1964, at South Landing Field. On October 10, 1965, the strip featured a match race between Dick Harrell and Billy Parker from Amarillo. Dick Harrell faced Chuck Grimsley's Dodge in a match race on April 17, 1966. The strip, under AHRA sanction, was called Cherokee Strip Dragway from 1968-70, when it was managed by Jim Miller, Bill Welton, and Bob Gilmore. In the January 1969 issue of Hot Rod, it was listed as being under NHRA sanction. In 1973 it was called Cowley County Drag Strip. The airfield closed to airplane traffic in circa 1974-75. That may have been about the time the strip's name became Mid-America Dragway. By the early 1990s (or before), the strip was sanctioned by NHRA. On August 20, 1994, Tony Wilson, age 24, from Bentley, was killed on his motorcycle on the drag strip. Apparently Mid-America permitted free use of the strip by anyone after the conclusion of a race, but they were not supposed to race. Wilson was competing in an unauthorized race with a young man from Wichita at the time of his fatal accident. He was traveling at over 100 MPH, and collided with a 10-year-old Oklahoma boy who was not seriously hurt. The drag strip permanently closed after the 2011 season as a farmer who owned the land and the track owner could not come to terms. After a few years, the track was purchased by Jim and Chris Maybrier from the family of the farmer who closed it and reopened it for racing in 2018 under NHRA sanction.
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April 17, 1966
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May 18, 1969
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August 8, 1971
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1973
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Mid-America Dragway, 2007, 1:23 minutes
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Ark Valley  Dragway, early 1960a, 5:12 minutes
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Mid-America Dragway's 2018 reopening, 3:46 minutes

Sundown Dragway (Liberal)

 
Dan Plett filed incorporation papers for Sundown Dragway on February 7, 1985. Drag races were held on a runway of the Liberal Army Airfield, on the western outskirts of Liberal. The track focused on bracket racing and was sanctioned by NHRA at least in 1992. The last documentation that research found for this strip was in 1994, but it is not known if that was the final year of its operation. This operated on the same location of the closed 5-State Raceway (above).
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September 27, 1987

Topeka "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1952-53
  • Status:  Exact location unknown
 
In the summer of 1952, Topeka Drag-Ons car club began conducting drag races on a 9/10-mile stretch of abandoned highway. Car clubs from Kansas City and Leavenworth participated in the racing. They charged $1 for each competing entry.  At one of the meets, $64 was donated to the national polio foundation after expenses had been met. For early photos, see Hot Rod Magazine, (Feb. 1953): 42-45, 49.
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Walker Army Airfield (Victoria)

 
The Kansas state championship drag races were held on a runway at Walker Air Force Base, near Victoria, Kansas, on October 16, 1955. The NHRA sanctioned the quarter-mile race. Admission was fifty cents. In 1963, the Walker Timing Association was working to ready a runway at the old Walker Air Base in time for their first race on May 5. They were using AHRA rules to conduct the race. The racing strip would be 8,000 feet long and 144 feet wide. Ads in 1963 called it the Walker Timing 
Association Drag Strip. On August 4, 1963, Walt Arfons ran his "Green Monster" jet dragster in three exhibition runs. They raced on the first Sunday of every month. The held twelve races in 1964, and changed from AHRA to NHRA sanction.
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May 5, 1963

Wirt Field (Newton)

 
Three thousand people watched the first drag races at Wirt Field, the municipal airport of Newton, three miles east of Newton on First Street, on August 27, 1961. The races were conducted by the Railrodders Hot Rod Club. There were almost 200 cars entered and the top speed was 152.80 MPH. Electronic timing equipment was installed for the race on April 29, 1962. Over 4,000 spectators watched over 200 cars compete at that race. Seventy cars that wanted to enter had to be turned away. Races were held on the fourth Sunday of each month in 1962. In June 1962, a group of ministers filed a complaint about the Sunday drag races to the Newton city commission. On October 28, 1962, the Newton Jaycees co-sponsored the race with the Railrodders. The races were sanctioned by AHRA and money prizes were awarded to each of the eliminators. In 1963, some of the airplane owners complained about the drag racing on the airport runway, saying it was a hazard. However, the strip opened the 1963 season with a race on April 28.
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August 26, 1962