MONTANA

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Billings Municipal Airport (1955)
Helena "Drag Strip" (1955)
​Malmstrom Air Force Base (1955)
Copper City Road Angels "Drag Strip" (Butte) (1956)
Butte Airport (1957)
Lewistown Raceway/King Cam Dragway (1957)
​Missoula County Airport (1957)
Gallatin Field (Belgrade) (1958)
Conrad Airport (1961)
​Bozeman "Drag Strip" (1964)
Red Lodge Airport/Golden Rods Drag Strip (1964)
Big Sky Dragway/Spike Naranche Memorial Dragway/Lost Creek Raceway (Anaconda) (1964)
Mineral County Airport/Superior Drag Strip (1965)
Triangle Dragway (Fort Benton) (1968)
​Electric City Dragway (Great Falls) (1969)
Glasgow Air Force Base (St. Marie) (1969)
Hustler's Dragway (Glendive) (1969)
Intermountain Motor Sports Park/Yellowstone Drag Strip (Acton) (2003)
Hi-Line Dragstrip/Phillips County Motorsports (Malta) (200?)
Drag racing at Lewistown Municipal Airport, circa 1959. Photographer unknown

Big Sky Dragway/Spike Naranche Memorial Dragway/Lost Creek Raceway (Anaconda)

  • Years of Operation: 1966-present
 
With the Butte Airport closed to drag racing in 1963, the Silver Bow Timing Association cast about to try to get their own place to race. They bought a strip of land in the Brown's Gulch area, two miles east of Anaconda near the Deer Lodge-Warm Springs Highway cutoff. After the snow melted, they began construction, hoping to be finished in time for opening in May or June 1964. Construction costs were estimated to be $20,000. The dimensions of the track were 65 feet wide and 6/10-mile long.  No work was done in 1964, but they were hopeful that they could begin work in 1965. In 1966, members of the Timing Association voted to change the name of the track from Big Sky Dragway to honor and memorialize Spike Naranche, a contractor in Butte, who died in 1966. On July 10, 1966, the asphalt track opened for a grudge race.  The grand opening race of the track was held on July 31, 1966. On Sunday, September 4, 1966, Tim Babcock, governor of Montana, officially dedicated the quarter-mile drag strip. The track opened that day for racing, conducted by the Silver Bow Timing Association, with 97 racers from four states competing for 65 trophies. A thousand spectators watched the racing. Races were held every other Sunday. On October 30, 1966, Evel Knievel performed some stunts early in his career. Although racing continued from the late 1960s, in the 1970s, and into the 1980s, it was very low key. Newspapers simply referred to it as the drag strip in Anaconda, playing second fiddle (or even third fiddle) to other strips in Montana. In fall 1986, the Lost Creek Racing Association began holding weekly races on the old strip. They weekly drew about 25 racers and 300 spectators. As described, the drag races put on by the Lost Creek group were "very rudimentary. They are held on a half-mile, 25-year-old [sic] track and started by a flag man. No fees are charged for racers to compete, but drivers must sign liability waiver forms before they can race. There are no bleachers for fans to sit in." The Lost Creek group was leary about putting in major improvements on the old track, which was on land leased by a local rancher from the Mount Haggin Ranch Company. There was no guarantee that the property would always be made available to them for racing. To that end, the Lost Creek group tried promoting the advantages of a good drag strip to the local economy. They really wanted to find a more permanent strip. But a new strip was cost-prohibitive, so the Lost Creek group asked the county commission to grant them $5,000 to purchase equipment and make improvements to the existing track. The Anaconda-Deer Lodge Commission balked at the request, but did give them $1,500, but only if they could sign a long-term lease with the property owners. The Lost Creek group took out a $10,000 loan to make up the difference and began holding monthly races with cash purses and promotional advertising. That upped the number of racers and spectator attendance considerably. They also obtained sanction by NHRA. By 1988, they had purchased some additional land, hoping to expand the length of the strip to run quarter-mile races instead of just 1/8th-mile. The longer strip length didn't materialize, but the strip continued to do well. They continued to engage in community outreach and enjoyed good support from the local businesses in garnering sponsorships. Lost Creek Raceway operates today as a 1/8th-mile strip sanctioned by NHRA.
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July 31, 1966
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July 13, 1969
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Lost Creek Raceway, 1989 USGS topo map
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CLICK HERE to see video footage of Lost Creek Raceway, 2009, 1 minute
June 18, 1989
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Brian Birkey (left) and Kevin Zimpel (left) warm their tires before facing each other at Lost Creek Raceway in 1995. Photo published in ​​​​​Montana Standard, Aug. 28, 1995
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Brent Jones drove his blown alcohol funny car at Lost Creek Raceway to a 5.293 ET at 136.82 MPH clocking on the 1/8th-mile track. Photo published in ​​​​​Montana Standard, June 28, 1998

Billings Municipal Airport


The Valley Rodders obtained permission to hold quarter-mile drag races on the north-south runway of the Billings Airport (Logan Field). They held their first NHRA-sanctioned race on August 21, 1955, awarding trophies to 31 class winners. They expected more than one hundred entries for their final race in the 1955 season on October 30 to be run on the new airport runway. Under supervision of the Montana Timing Association, the opening race of the 1956 season on June 3 attracted nearly a thousand spectators to watch 51 entries in eleven classes. They obtained NHRA sanction for that and subsequent races. On September 16, 1956, they hosted an NHRA regional championship drag race. The first scheduled race in 1957 was to have taken place on June 16., but rain caused it to be postponed to June 30. It was conducted by the Billings Timing Association. It had the blessing of the Billings Zonta Club, a women's organization. Snow forced postponement of the April 27, 1958, first race of the season. At the May 1958 race, 500 people watched over 43 entries compete. Doc Koch of Billings took top eliminator in his B Gasser at 14.80 seconds and 105 MPH. On August 3, 1958, 51 cars competed at the west end of Logan Field. Bill Keene took top eliminator in his A-dragster with a 13.10 ET and 107.27 MPH run. The Timing Association borrowed timing equipment for the race from the Bozeman Timing Association.
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June 3, 1956

Bozeman "Drag Strip"

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  • Years of Operation: 1964
  • Status:  Exact location unknown

Newspaper ads stated that the Montana State Championship Drag Races were held in Bozeman on August 8-9, 1964. Reports of the race results have not been found. The location may have been Gallatin Airport, but that isn't confirmed.  More research is needed.
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1964

Butte Airport 


An NHRA-sanctioned drag race was held on September 29, 1957, at the airport. Spectators were directed to take the dog track road to the races. It was sponsored by the Silver Bow Timing Association.  On July 20, 1958, the Timing Association held a benefit race for Bob Rae. Spectators were charged 50 cents for admission. The drag race on June 21, 1959 was sanctioned by NHRA. Beginning in 1959, races were generally held on the third Sunday. The feature event at the race on July 30, 1961, was nothing if not humorous and fun. Held in Big Sky Country, the feature exhibition was a horse vs. car race. It was a match of Lucky Lager Girl (a "bubblin' yeasty dynamic 49-year old Model T Ford") racing against Gallopin' Girl (the "spirited youthful 10-year old crow-bait horse owned by Whitey Baxter"). Yippee!!! The Rocky Mountain Regional Championships were held on August 27, 1961. The Timing Association did not get to use the airport in 1963 after the new air terminal was built. They looked for a new location for racing. They found it in the Brown's Gulch area, two miles east of Anaconda (see Big Sky Dragway entry above).
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This Chevy-engined dragster is lined up for a run at the Butte Airport. Photo published in ​​​Montana Standard, July 17, 1960

Conrad Airport 

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The Central Montana Timing Association of Great Falls conducted an NHRA-sanctioned drag race at the airport on September 3, 1961. Three thousand spectators watched 134 racers compete. It was the first-ever drag race held in Central Montana. Stan Hester took Little Eliminator in his dragster while Top Eliminator was won by the team of Wren-Maart-Goldspeed & Blake from Missoula. The Conrad Car Club conducted a second race at the airport on October 1, 1961.
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September 3, 1961

Copper City Road Angels "Drag Strip" ​(Butte)

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The mayor, police, sheriff, highway patrol, and other Butte city officials made available the road leading to the Butte Trap and Skeet Club range located six miles south of the city for drag racing. The road was near Highway 10. The Copper City Road Angels car club was appreciative, but were also looking for another location that could accomodate a pit area and conveniences for spectators. A drag race was conducted on 5-Mile Gun Club Road by the Copper City Road Angels Car Club on October 14, 1956. Admission was free. The Lifters car club also helped out.
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October 14, 1956

Electric City Dragway/Great Falls Dragway 

  • Years of Operation: 1969-71
  • Status:  Exact location unknown

Richard A. Garner filed incorporation papers for Electric City Dragway on August 15, 1969. The first race was held on the 1/8th-mile strip on August 31, 1969. Over 2,400 spectators watched the opener. Megan Sanford of the History Museum at Great Falls sent a news clipping to DSL, which gave information about this briefly-run drag strip. Jim and Pat Kraus built the strip on their property, located about four miles south of Great Falls on the River Road on a bluff overlooking Donovan Park. They used an airstrip that had been built for private plane use.  In the first year of its operation, the strip was leased from the Krauses by three men: Barry Hardill, Wayne Selden, and Dick Garner. It was called Electric City Dragway that first year. Jim and Pat Kraus operated it in 1970. They called it Great Falls Dragway. They conducted more than a half dozen races that year, but attendance and racer support was disappointing. In 1971, the Krauses turned over operation of the strip to a group of young men, including their son, David, who was elected president of the Great FAlls Dragway Club. That group leased the strip from the Krauses. That group was trying to make improvements to the strip in order to obtain sanction from NHRA. The strip had bleachers, a timing tower, and concession stand. Megan Sanford wrote that "it seems that the drag strip didn't last past 1971."
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August 9, 1970
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of racing on the 1/8th-mile strip at Great Falls, 1970, movies taken by Dennis Heppner, 6:02 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of racing on the 1/8th-mile strip at Great Falls, 1970, movies taken by Dennis Heppner, 2:53 minutes, no sound
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Electric City Dragway staged a match race between Mike Beatty's fuel-burning Austin-Bantam roadster, driven by Artie Dabler (left) and Tom Kohut's Chevy-engined dragster (right) on their opening race on August 31, 1969. Photo published in ​​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, Sep. 1, 1969
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Great Falls Raceway did everything tomake a drag race fun for the customers including staging a three-legged race. They did have decent timing equipment and an Armco guard rail. Photo published in ​​​​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, May 10, 1971
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Hal Anderson's "Ichi Ban" '65 Ford Econoline wheelstander puts on a show at Great Falls Raceway. Photo published in ​​​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, Oct. 11, 1971

Gallatin Field ​​(Belgrade)

 
The Pacers and Satellites car clubs of Bozeman sponsored drag races at Bozeman's airport, generally on the second Sunday. The July 13 race was the fourth race of the 1958 season. They generally drew about fifty cars. Leo Robbins set the strip record in 1958, driving Stan Hester's roadster with a 111.89 MPH clocking.  It was sanctioned by NHRA in 1959-60.
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of late 1950s drag racing in Bozeman, movies taken by Jim Eastman, 2 minutes, no sound
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Louie Smith's pit crew pushes his dragster to the starting line for a race at Gallatin Field in 1958. Photo published in ​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, Nov. 9, 1958
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A pit crew pours gas into the fuel tank of Bill Keen's dragster at a Gallatin Field race in 1958. Photo published in ​Great Falls Tribune, Nov. 9, 1958

Glasgow Air Force Base ​​​(St. Marie)

 
On May 30, 1969, officials and dignitaries met at the old air base to hold a ceremony celebrating the conversion of the base into a community, commercial, and industrial center.  In attendance were the governor, a senator, and congressman. At the conclusion of the ceremony in mid-afternoon, a drag race was held on one of the runways. It was said that if there was enough interest in the racing, that more would be held. It probably didn't help that the race was scheduled for a Friday afternoon. No more races were held.
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Helena "Drag Strip" 


The first location used for organized drag races was on "the state highway shops cutoff road west of U.S. highway No. 91 north of Helena." Racing was open to teen-agers with parental permission. The racing was sponsored by the Helena Safe-Teen Club. The Capital City Hot Rod Association conducted the races. The Highway Patrol timed the racers with their radar guns. On October 2, 1955, Chuck Dickert clocked the fastest speed on his motorcycle with 81 MPH. It seems that location was only used once before being changed to a surfaced road  west of the Sunset Drive-in Theater. That theater was located on the southwest corner of North Montana Avenue and Custer Avenue. The road where racing took place would have been on today's West Custer Avenue, which was closed off for the racing. 
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Hustler's Dragway (Glendive) 


The Hustler's Car Club of Glendive conducted drag races intermittently at their drag strip located on the 4,500-foot northwest-southeast runway of the closed Glendive airport. A race on May 17, 1970, drew 2,300 spectators and 100 racers. Prize money totalling $835 was distributed among 11 race winners. It was sanctioned by NHRA in 1970.  Bob McPherson was the strip manager. The strip's last race was on May 15, 1982. The city terminated its 5-year lease with the car club as it had authorized a special improvement distraict on their city-owned land. Ball diamonds and commercial businesses occupy the old airport land today.
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Listing in ​​​National Dragster, Dec. 23, 1977. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
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CLICK HERE to see video footage of a 1970 drag race in Glendive, movies taken by Frank Legato, 3 minutes, no sound
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Glendive Municipal Airport, site of Hustler's Dragway, 1967 USGS topo map
Remnants of the old Glendive Municipal Airport are visible in this 1996 aerial view

Lewistown Raceway/King Cam Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1957-present
 
The Road Sturs car club was organized in 1956. They obtained permission to hold their first drag race at the old Army Air Base three miles southwest of town on Memorial Day weekend 1957. The race was sanctioned by NHRA. 1,500 people gathered in Lewistown for a two-day car show and drag race on May 2-3, 1959. The festivities were held on Lewistown's main street. The event was sponsored by the Lewistown Road Sturs car club and the Central Montana Timing Association. Unfortunately some of the people were unruly and several arrests were made. Many of the racers were disappointed that the actions of a few might mar the future of the event. But a new hot rod group, the Quarter Milers club took over conducting the races in 1960. Bob Todd was brought on to be the track manager in 1966. Numerous improvements were made and the track was given a new name--King Cam Dragway. On Sunday, May 29, 1966, Governor Tim Babcock was on hand to open the newly-named strip for that season. Four thousand spectators and 250 racers were expected. Dave Strickler of Denver and Richard Blea of Billings were scheduled to race their fuel dragsters. In 1968 it was called Golden Rods Raceway.  Excerpts of  the history written by Dick Hoffman on the Lewistown Raceway website:  "By 1968, a new group, the Central Montana Racing Association (CMRA), began to operate the struggling dragstrip, George Stewart, Larry Barrick, John Wicks, Leo Walsh, and Wayne & Whaley Pallett. Gene Jackson as track manager installed the first announcing booth, occupied on race days by C.R. Leverett, of KOYN radio in Billings and Don Ayers of Grass Range. All equipment had to be removed after each race so as not to interfere with airport traffic. The late 60s and early 70s were the glory days of the Muscle Cars and the racetrack did well. The turnout was always more than expected. The big three automakers (GM, Ford, Chrysler) all had their potent factory muscle on the racetracks, but a local rancher and racer Dale Krider and engineering friend & mechanic Dick Erlandson, obtained a factory sponsored, new 1969 American Motors Rambler AMX through the help of Herb Jones of Western Motors. The two headed for Oakland, Calif. to pick up the racecar. With only 52 built as this one was configured, Ramblers entry to combat the Big-3 was rare. (As a side note; the Western Motors AMC dealership was located where Smarts Abbey carpet is now located) Dick would match race the little AMX with the likes of Missoula's Dave Wren with a 63 factory Plymouth Ramcharger, with which he nearly swept the 1969 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Another local racer was Bill Spevacek of Geraldine, with a full on Top Fuel Funny Car, that he campaigned at NHRA national events. Bill would enthrall the crowds with long smokey burnouts and high speed runs where he would go off the track into the grass, regain control, and still go through the speed traps at over 200MPH without ever letting off the throttle. With cars like this at the raceway providing Exhibition runs and Match Races, the entertainment at the racetrack was hard to beat. By 1976 though, the track was in rough shape. Asphalt was coming loose and large potholes and loose gravel made the surface unsafe for racing, bringing about the closure of the facility for two years.  Dick Erlandson, whose heart and soul were still at the dragstrip, was working towards raising enough money to have the track repaved. His plan was to have each racer invest $100 that would give them reduced admission into the races and a charter membership into the Central Montana Racing Association (CMRA). When that did not produce the money needed, Dick personally signed a bank note for $18,500. Obtaining help from surrounding community volunteers in  Cut Bank, Great Falls, and Billings and with the help of Century Paving of Lewistown, he had enough money to pave the entire track, install guardrails,  build restrooms, a ticket booth and a new timing tower. By 1981, the three-year agreement that Dick and the CMRA had with the Airport Board ended so the racetrack did not open for the 1982 season. Local racers soon wanted to know what was going on and that is when the CMTA was again approached to operate the racetrack. In the past, the Airport Board members had wanted a local group to manage the track because they felt that local citizens would have better control over everyday operations. Local businessman Norm Bawden was the only person to show any interest but did not want to be involved in the racetracks operation. After much negotiation, Bawden signed a one-year contract, and the Airport Board allowed CMTA to run the track. With very little work, Lewistown Raceway opened again in 1983. In a struggling economy, CMTA worked diligently to keep the track in racing shape. A concrete starting pad was poured and other improvements were made prompting the Airport Board to give CMTA a five-year lease. Weather also put a strain on the facility. Of 11 races scheduled one year, only three were completed. Updated timing equipment needed to be purchased with a loan that CMTA members signed for, and permanent power was brought to the facility, doing away with the generated electrical supply. By 1999, after a tenuous term of disappointment, rumors circulated that CMTA may give up their effort to continue track operations. An emergency meeting was called of local racers and with a large contingency of people it was determined that the interest was tremendous enough to create a new managing club, and Lewistown Drag Racers Association (LDRA) was born. Taking over the concessions and having in place the ability to take over, should CMTA dismiss their task. The year is 2003, the CMTA has had all they can contend with and made the final decision to withdraw from track management. Taking over the racetrack for the 2004 season was the nucleus of the club which reads like the survivors in an obituary; Bob Olson, Warren Ayers, Dean Stapleton, James Phelps, Brian and Kevin Olson, Doug Peterschick, Darla Richards, John Wicks, and Glenn & Rod Richards. With extended help from the Billings Drag Racers Association (BDRA), friend Syl Schied and members loaned and then sold their timing equipment to the LDRA. The LDRA has built new restrooms and concessions, new return roads, new fire fighting and rescue equipment has been recently put into use and members have continued to upgrade the facilities and the racing venue by 
implementing the Two Race-One Weekend concept, which affords distant attending racers from excessive travel and gives the local businesses an opportunity to serve them. They have kept in place the NHRAs High School Drags program since its debut at Lewistown 20 years ago and the NHRAs Jr. Dragster program since its inception in 1992. The future has the club keeping up with mandatory safety 
changes such as the soon to be constructed concrete walls replacing the old metal guardrails. New scoreboards and back-up timing system equipment is also in the very near future."
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May 5, 1968
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July 20, 1969
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of this 1959 drag race in Lewistown, 3:43 minutes, no sound/music only
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of drag racing at Lewistown in 1970, 4:27 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of drag racing at Lewistown in the 1970s, 4:27 minutes, no sound
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An undated photo in Lewistown Raceway's early years. Photo published in ​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, July 14, 2017
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Leonard Christianson in his "Northwest Nite" Corvette funny car beat Mike Beatty, driving a fuel altered in a match race at Lewistown Raceway in 1970. In doing so, Christianson set a new strip record of 7.83 seconds at 176.81 MPH. Photo published in ​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, Aug. 17, 1970
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Photo published in ​​​​​​​Billings Gazette, July 17, 1988
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Dick Erlandson's '69 Nova gets a good jump off the line. Photo published in ​​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, July 16, 2017

Malmstrom Air Force Base

 
On October 30, 1955, drag races were conducted as part of a sports car racing event on a runway at the air force base. The Sports Car Club of Montana sponsored the event. Spectators were permitted to watch.
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Mineral County Airport/Superior Drag Strip

 
County officials approved the request of the Missoula Timing Association to hold their first drag race on April 25, 1965. Merchants in Missoula were generous in donating money to pay for trophies. A new public address system was installed for the race on May 9.  Before too long, it was being called the Superior Drag Strip.  At the race held on June 13, 1965, Dave Wren won top eliminator with a 12.96 ET at 110.70 MPH in his B/MP race car. Gary Steinert had the top speed in his A/G Dodge with 111.26 MPH.  In August 1965, the Montana Aeronautics Commission was looking into prohibiting drag racing on the state's airports. One of the reasons they were doing that was because of an incident at the Mineral County Airport where a drag race was being held. The airplane tried to land, but had to pull up and make another approach because dragsters were on the runway. But the incident was smoothed over and racing continued in 1965 and 1966.  But after the close of the 1966 season, the Montana Aeronautics commission adopted a regulation prohibiting drag racing on the runways and taxiways of any of Montana's public airports. This was a big setback. The Timing Association met in early 1967 to discuss matters and ideas for an alternate place to race.  Although no documentation was found in newspapers for drag races being held after 1966, it was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . Read Robert Graham's wonderful recollections of attending races at this airport strip in its first two summers of racing in Memories (Montana).
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May 9, 1965
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July 24, 1966

Missoula County Airport

 
Located five miles northwest of Missoula, the airport was the site of a drag race conducted by the Block Busters Rod and Custom Club. The first race was held on April 28, 1957. It was planned that races would be held every two weeks. 1,800 people watched the first race. Dick Morphy of the Duke's Hot Rod Club from Spokane got the day's top speed of 97 MPH. That seems to have been the only race although the Hell Gate Timing Association made efforts to race their again in 1958, but without success.
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Red Lodge Airport/Golden Rods Drag Strip

 
 In August 1965, the Montana Aeronautics Commission was looking into prohibiting drag racing on the state's airports. One of the reasons they were doing that was because of an incident at the Red Lodge Airport where a drag race was being held. The airplane tried to land, but had to pull up and make another approach because dragsters were on the runway. But stiffer regulations weren't enacted because a sanctioned NHRA drag race was held on October 3, 1965, at the Red Lodge Airport. They were sponsored by the Golden Rods Car Club from Billings, Montana. Although no newspaper documentation was found for races being held after 1965, it was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . In 1967, the Golden Rods were sponsoring races in Greybull, Wyoming.
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October 3, 1965

Triangle Dragway (Fort Benton)

 
Joe Knighton, a sergeant at Malmstrom Air Force Base, got permission from Fort Benton's City-County Airport Board to use the landing strip northeast of the town for periodic drag races. Three thousand people watched almost 300 cars race at a race conducted by the Triangle Timing Association on July 24, 1966. Prize money totaling $2,815 was distributed to the winners. NHRA sanctioned the race. The Eagle Automotive AA/F dragster from Spokane won $800 for taking top eliminator with a run of 217 MPH. The Eagle Electric AA fueler from Spokane was the runner-up. The last of six drag races of the 1966 season was held on October 9, with a $1,500 purse attracting about 125 entries. There were four AA fuelers entered including Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's "Yellow Fang," driven by George "Bushmaster" Schreiber.  The other AA fuelers were the "Purple Eagle" and the "Golden Eagle," both from Spokane and the Blee Brothers from Billings. Frank Rupert, driving the "Purple Eagle," garnered the $500 top prize among the fuelers. Attendance at most of the races averaged about 1,500, but 2,500 showed up for the 1966 season finale. Although no newspaper documentation was found for racing after 1966, it was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip .
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Frank Rupert, at the wheel of the "Purple Eagle," sponsored by Eagle Automotive of Spokane, won the $500 purse for top fuel at the last drag of the 1966 season at Fort Benton. Photo published in ​​​​​​​Great Falls Tribune, Oct. 10, 1966