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Connecticut
Drag Strips

Coney Island Ralph's B/G Willys, Connecticut Dragway, 1964. Photographer unknown

East Haddam

  • Connecticut Dragway, 1970s-1980s
 
In 1972 when I got off active duty at Cannon AFB in Clovis, New Mexico, I went home to East Hartford, Connecticut. I had raced my 1967 Mustang while I was in New Mexico. I loved that Mustang and brought it back home. I flat towed it on the back of my '63 Chevy pickup. That was fun!  Well, I had a need for speed and went to Connecticut Dragway. I ran it a few times, but after flying fighters, it was slow in a quarter mile. I heard of a dragster for sale and bought it, an old AA/Gas Dragster, small block Chevy. I was hooked. That thing kicked ass and my first time out, ran mid-8’s at 170 mph, getting my license. I later bought another dragster and had a different combination and ran in the low 7’s at 190+ mph. I was having fun! I also picked up the nickname of “Wild Bill” in the early days and named all of my dragsters “Viper” and one in particular I called “Frankenstein”  because I had crashed it twice and rebuilt it. Also it was a real monster to drive!  I raced Top Gas for years. I ran in the old Top Gas Class in Pro Comp Eliminator at Connecticut Dragway a lot. I raced until 1986, at which time I was building a new rear-engine dragster to run A/Fuel in Pro Comp Eliminator. I belonged to the New England Top Gas Association in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Some of the guys are still racing today in either Alcohol Dragster or Alcohol Funny Car and a few went on to run Fuel Dragsters & Funny Cars.  I did a lot of match racing on the east coast. We ran at Connecticut Dragway, New England Dragway, Lebanon Valley Dragway, Glen Falls Dragway, Great Meadows, New Jersey (Island Dragway), ATCO Dragway, and Englishtown, New Jersey. We raced in all the WCS Points Meets and the Summernationals every year.  A funny story about my wife, Kathy. I put her in to tow back after a run one day and the crowd went nuts, thinking she drove the car. I told her to just wave and enjoy the moment. I had her in every car towing back in front of the crowd from then on.

Bill Bradshaw
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Kathy Bradshaw, steering "Viper" dragster in pits, Connecticut Dragway, 1983. Courtesy of Bill Bradshaw
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Bill Bradshaw's "Viper" dragster, 1979. Courtesy of Bill Bradshaw
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Bill Bradshaw, running in Top Gas.. Courtesy of Bill Bradshaw
Leaving the Starting Line in a Wheels-Up Launch

Leaving the starting line in a wheels-up launch was normal as I had the wheelie bars set to allow the front wheels to come up about a foot or so. I would drive with the left hand and work the brake with the right hand until it settled down about 400 feet out, then pull the chute after driving out the back door past the finish line. That way you get a good mph reading and the chute deploys fast under power. Then you push the clutch in and once the motor settled down, you closed the fuel shut off and burn off the remaining fuel in the lines and the engine shuts off. Then and only then do you shut off the mags, otherwise risk an explosion!

Bill Bradshaw
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Bill Bradshaw, leaving the starting line in a wheels-up launch in his "Viper" dragster, Connecticut Dragway Top Gas meet, 1981 (bottom photo) and 1982 (top photo). Courtesy of Bill Bradshaw