MICHIGAN

Capitol City Airport ​​​​(Lansing) (1952)
Livonia "Drag Strip" (1953)
Partington Drag Strip (Sterling Heights) (1953)
Central Michigan Dragway/Mid-Michigan Motorplex (Stanton) (1955)
Kellogg Air Field (Battle Creek) (1955)
Reynolds Field (Jackson) (1956)
Frandor Shopping Center (Lansing) (1957)
Motor City Dragway (New Baltimore) (1957)
Tecumseh Municipal Airport (1957)

Detroit Dragway (1959)
Hagar Township "Drag Strip" (1959)
Thunderbird Dragway (Muskegon) (1960s)
International Acres Raceway/Grattan International Speedway (1961)
Onondaga Dragway (1961)
US 131 Dragway (Martin) (1962)
Milan Dragway (1963)
Ubly Dragway (1963)
Ford Engineering and Research Center (Dearborn) (1965)
​Raco Drag-O-Way (1966)
Tri-City Dragway (Saginaw) (1966)
Brohman/M-37 Dragway (1967)
Lapeer International Dragway (1968)
Manistee County Dragway/Northern Michigan Dragway (Kaleva) (1970)
Nick's U.S. 41 Speedway (Ishpeming) (1972)
Kinross Dragstrip (1980s)
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Motor City Dragway in New Baltimore, Michigan, in 1958. Photograph by Steve Wolski

Brohman/M-37 Dragway


Sam Jackson, who owned a septic tank business, built this drag strip in about 1967 or thereabouts.  Documentation, except for the memories of old timers, is sparse. The track purportedly closed to a lack of racers and a legal suit involving one of the racers. In March 1969, a private airplane crash-landed on the drag strip.
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1993 aerial view of M-37 Dragway

Capitol City Airport (Lansing)


Drag races were held for the first time in April 1952 on the east-west runway at this airport located three miles north of Lansing.  These were the first legally-sanctioned drag races in Michigan. Racers were timed for 1,000 feet. Proclaimed drag racing announcer Jon Lundberg attended his first drag race here when he was thirteen.  On July 20, 1952, over 300 racers competed before 500 spectators.  The Lansing Pan Draggers car club sponsored the races. Racing stopped when the airport expanded its services and the CAA decided the drag racing interfered with air travel.
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Central Michigan Dragway/Mid-Michigan Motorplex ​(Stanton)

  • Years of Operation: 1955-68, 1975-present
 
Central Michigan Dragway, begun at the McBride Airport, located four miles north of Stanton, began operation possibly as early as 1955, according to later recollections. Jon Lundberg, the most sought-after announcer in drag racing in the 1960s, got his start at Central Michigan at one of those early races. With about 300 spectators, he stood on a 55-gallon oil drum with a megaphone to describe the action. But the evidence found by DSL points to 1956 as being the year when racing first started at the airport. The second race held at the strip took place on October 14, 1956, drawing almost fifty cars. Trophies were awarded in five classes. Top eliminiator was Glen Brown of Mason, driving a '55 Chevy. The next week, Tom Gallagher won a gold cup for copping top eliminator in his Cad-engined coupe. The 1956 state championship race was held on October 28. Those early races were held on gravel before the strip was paved  in September 1957. The first half of the World Series of Drag Racing, sanctioned by ATHA (or the American Timing Activities Association or the ATTA), was held at this strip on July 4-6, 1958.  They anticipated that there would be 500 racers. Bob Gerph of Tucson set a new state record of 155 MPH at the event. This was the first staging of what would be an annual event for numerous years. The 1957 World Series race had been held in Texas, but was moved to Central Michigan because of the growing interest in racing in the midwest. The second half of the World Series event was to be held in Moline, Illinois, in August. Laylin Lloyd Jewett, age 33, from Mason, Michigan, was killed at this drag strip after being clocked at a reported 125 MPH on September 14, 1958. On September 28, 1958, the strip held what they advertised as the U. S. National Championship Drag Race, another event that they held on an annual basis. They posted $2,000 in bonds to class and eliminator winners for that first event. Bob George was the race director at least by 1959. They built new bleachers for seating that year.  On June 7, 1959, Bill Robbins drove Al Turner's new Detroit-based dragster to the strip's fastest recorded time that year of 128.31 MPH. At the 1959 World Series race, Don Maynard took top eliminator in 9.03 seconds at 163 MPH before a crowd of 6,000.  In mid-August 1959, the track closed for a week for resurfacing. Don Garlits set a new strip record of 171 MPH on August 30, 1959. On May 29, 1960, Lyle Fisher set a new track record of 176.5 MPH. On July 2-4, 1960, Chris Karamesines beat Don Garlits (Art Malone the driver), both running identical 180 MPH strip-record runs during the event. In July 1960, the strip promoted a big rock and roll show with Bobby Rydell and other rock stars as an added attraction to the racing. The World Series of Drag Racing was also held here on July 1-4, 1961, awarding  $6,000 in prize money in 77 classes. Connie Swingle, driving for Don Garlits, set a new track record of 191.050 MPH in 8.64 seconds in winning a match race against Art Malone on July 30, 1961. On October 15, 1961, Nick Bakewell, a school teacher from Akron, Ohio, set a new Michigan acceleration record with a blast of 228.187 MPH in his Jet Star Dragster jet-powered car. The drag strip, return road, and staging area were completely resurfaced in 1964. The drag strip closed in 1968 and sat vacant until bought by Jim and Mary Ledford. They renovated the track and opened for business in September 1975 as Mid-Michigan Motorplex. On August 2, 1987, 1,000 people fell when old wood bleachers collapsed, injuring 35 people and sending 18 people to area hospitals. In its early years, news reports identified it as being south of Edmore or in McBride, and then in 1961 news reports identified its location as being in Stanton. In 1958, news articles called it McBride Drag Strip. It was under IHRA sanction through most of the 1990s, then switched to NHRA after the turn of the century. Its present location is on 2629 N. Wyman Road in Stanton.
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September 28-29, 1957
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July 1960
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Art Arfons races his "Green Monster" at Central Michigan Dragway. Photo published in ​Lansing State Journal, Sep. 20, 1959
July 1-4, 1961
CLICK HERE to see video footage of 1990 racing at Central Michigan Dragway, 14 minutes

Detroit Dragway


Gilbert Kohn was the moving force behind Detroit Dragway. His mother, Mayme Kohn, supported his interest by financing the building of the drag strip. What a mom! At the time, Gil was only twenty-three. The strip was built in the middle of a 75-acre parcel of ground in Brownstown Township on the southwestern outskirts of Detroit. Young Gil convinced NHRA to hold its 5th National Championship drag races at the new 4,100-foot long strip in the track's inaugural year.  The drag strip opened in the latter part of August, 1959. The strip had a unique seven-days-a-week schedule. They were open from 7 PM until midnight nightly and during the day on Sunday. The Nationals were held on September 3-7, 1959. The event attracted 783 race entries. Rodney Singer from Houston got top eliminator in his blown Lincoln dragster with a string of 9.70s. He took home a new El Camino as a part of his prize winnings. Art Arfons set the top speed of the meet in his Allison-powered Green Monster II with a 172.08 MPH run on gasoline. Fuel was still banned by NHRA in 1959. This event made Detroit Dragway a mecca for drag racers for a couple of decades. The U. S. Nationals were run at Detroit in 1960, too. Top eliminator of the meet was Leonard Harris, from Playa Del Rey, California. He ran a 9.25 in the finals in his Olds-powered A dragster. George Montgomery became the first two-time Nationals winner when he successfully defended his 1959 Little Eliminator title in his Cadillac-powered A/GS Willys. The following year, the U.S. Nationals moved to the new Indianapolis Raceway Park, where it has been held ever since. On May 29, 1963, Chuck Hatcher was driving Walt Arfons' "Wingfoot Express" jet car when he crashed into a retaining wall at the end of the strip. He was making some test runs in preparation for a later assault on the world's land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. On July 12, 1964, Don Garlits turned 200.44 MPH, setting a Drag News 1320 record. In Garlits' estimation, that was the first bonafide 200 MPH run. "There have been others but at strips where we knew the clocks weren't right," said Garlits. "I've even had some." Detroit Dragway changed from NHRA to AHRA sanction at least by 1967. They stayed with the AHRA through 1970, then switched to the United Hot Rod Associaton in 1971. In 1975, the track flipped back to AHRA.

 
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August 1959
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CLICK HERE to listen to old radio commercial spot for Detroit Dragway, 50 seconds
5th Annual NHRA National Championships, September 3-7, 1959
CLICK HERE to listen to 1964 radio commercial spot for match race between Don Garlits and Pete Robinson at Detroit Dragway, 57 seconds
CLICK HERE to listen to 1970 radio commercial spot for 3-day funny car meet at Detroit Dragway, 56 seconds
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6th Annual NHRA National Championships, September 1-5, 1960
Detroit Dragway, ​ 1969 topo map
Detroit Dragway, 1973 aerial photo
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Two dragsters on the starting line during the NHRA National Championships at Detroit Dragway in 1959. Photos published in ​​​​Detroit Free Press, Sep. 4, 1959
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CLICK HERE to see video footage of 1959 NHRA Nationals at Detroit Dragway in 1959, 27:12 minutes
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Detroit Dragway in 1966, 3 minutes, no sound

Ford Engineering and Research Center ​(Dearborn)


Gasoline, steam, and electric automobiles were featured in a drag race program staged by the Detroit Section of the Society of Automotive Engineers at the Engineering and Research Center on Saturday, June 4, 1965.
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Ford Engineering and Research Center, Dearborn, ​​ 1966 aerial view

Frandor Shopping Center ​(Lansing)


The Central Michigan Timing Association sponsored a public event to introduce the public to organized hot rodding in a parking lot of the Frandor Shopping Center on Sunday, June 23, 1957. It was their second annual hot rod rally featuring a car show and different events to showcase driving skills. One of the events was a 500-foot drag race, to briefly demonstrate legal, organized drag racing.
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Frandor Center in Lansing, Michigan, 1967 aerial photo

Hagar Township "Drag Strip"

  • Years of Operation: 1959
  • Status:  Exact location unknown

Lyman Danneffel bought 41 acres of farm land from Eugene Kahn in Hagar Township for the express purpose of building a concrete quarter-mile drag strip. Danneffel said that his son, Lyman Jr., would run the drag strip. Construction was to begin in July and they expected the strip would open by August 1, 1959. It was located a half mile north of Twelve Corners. Research uncovered no more than this prospective information. Whether the strip was ever completed or operational is in question.
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International Acres Raceway/ ​Grattan International Speedway


E. J. Faasen built a 3,000-foot long drag strip incorporated into a 2-mile road course on land owned by Bill Tuttle just north of the hamlet of Grattan. The  track is located 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids. NHRA sanctioned the track for some years, but dropped its sanctioning after a car couldn't stop and ended up in a cornfield. In 1965, newspaper ads touted that they had their 3-foot tall trophies were the "biggest trophies in midwest for class winners."  It was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip . Fredrick G. Septrion was killed in a drag racing crash during time trials  on Sunday, June 5, 1966. It was called Grattan International Speedway in 1970-75. The track (now called Grattan Raceway)  continues to operate the road course racing for motorcycles and sports cars.
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September 1961
June 27, 1965

Kellogg Air Field (Battle Creek)


The Battle Creek Rod and Custom "Rod Benders" Club scheduled a couple of quarter-mile drag races on the west boundary jet return taxi-strip at Kellogg Field in 1955. They received permission to hold the races from the Battle Creek city commission in early August 1955. The first race was held on August 21. Trophies were awarded to winners in thirteen classes. You reached the racing area by driving on a one-lane dirt road outside the Air National Guard fence off Dickman Road.  The Urbandale Kiwanis Club operated the concession stand at the race on August 21 and netted $257. Almost 2,000 spectators viewed the race held on October 23, 1955, watching 140 racers from three states. It was billed as the Michigan Championship Drag Races. Twenty-five trophies were awarded with the grand trophy going to Otis Smith of Akron, Ohio. He turned 109.75 MPH in his roadster. The top speed was set by Shinoda, a Chinese-American racer from Detroit with a speed of 124.87 MPH. All in all, eight drivers exceeded 100 MPH. On June 19, 1960, 10,000 people watched 600 cars and motorcycles race in a drag race sponsored by the Cereal City Rod & Custom Club. They net about $3,000 from the event. Konrad Jockus of Otsego turned in the day's fastest speed with 105.882 MPH in 13.58 seconds in his C dragster. At the meet on July 17, 9,500 people watched over 400 cars compete. Top speed of the day was 117 MPH in a dragster for Portage, Michigan, driven by a driver who registered as Indian Joe. He got the top eliminator trophy, $100, and an additional $17 for every mile per hour over 100 MPH. The racing event grossed $4,200, the money being added to the trust fund established to build a permanent drag strip. A new strip record was set on the race held on October 2, 1960.  A dual Buick-engined dragster owned by Speed Craft of Chicago turned 10.07 seconds at 160 MPH. The club was considering reducing the racing to 1/8th-mile in the interests of safety because of a rough stretch of paving near the end of the shutdown area. The club also optioned a piece of property for its proposed permanent drag strip. They set a goal of $80,000 for its purchase and development. 
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Dave Gleason of Grand Rapids took top eliminator on his Triumph with a run of 94 MPH at the first drag race held at Battle Creek. Photo published in ​​Battle Creek Enquirer, Aug. 22, 1955
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Over 9,000 spectators watched racers such as this 1960 Ford and 1934 Dodge at Kellogg Field on July 17, 1960. Photo published in ​Battle Creek Enquirer, July 18, 1960

Kinross Dragstrip


Drag races were purportedly conducted in the 1980s on a runway of Chippewa County International Airport on the southern outskirts of Kinross. More research is needed.
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Lapeer International Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1968-present

Brothers Ed and Mike Vakula owned a meat market and farm in Lapeer. Ron Starking, a teenager working for them in the market, broached them with the idea of building a drag strip on their farm. After some battles with the township for approval to build it, they did. The track is 60 feet wide and 4,000 feet long. The quarter-mile drag strip opened on July 4, 1968 under AHRA sanction. It was listed in the January 1969 issue of Hot Rod as operating under NHRA sanction. Over the years the track has featured several prominent racers to complement their bracket racing staple and draw crowds. These have included "The Michigan Madman"  E. J. "Parachute" Potter, funny car driver Della Woods, and Art Arfons. The latter set a strip mark of 288 MPH in 1972 in his "Green Monster" jet dragster. In 1989, Ed bought brother Mike's share of the operation and remains the sole owner to this day. Ed and his wife, Juli, are in the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame.
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May 1998
CLICK HERE to see  video footage of Lapeer Dragway in 2010, 1 minute, good view of tower, length of strip, return road

Livonia "Drag Strip"


In 1953 Robert Baumgartner, a lieutenant with the Livonia Police Department, sought permission from General Motors to use a concrete entry road into their new Chevy factory for drag racing on weekends.  The road, called Amrhein, ran between Eckles Road and Levan Road and was ¾ mile long. The automakers OK'd the request. It was an immediate success. Races were supervised by the police department. Not only did car-related accidents decline sharply in the Detroit metro area, but the Livonia site eventually became the venue for professional racers. The Michigan Hot Rod Association conducted a 1-day drag race on the road, blocked off by the police, in August 1954.  The event attracted 4,000 spectators to watch 93 cars compete.
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CLICK HERE to see historic 8mm video footage of Livonia's Amrhein Road,  summer 1953

Manistee County Dragway/Northern Michigan Dragway (Kaleva)

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  • Years of Operation: 1970-present

First owned by Jim Ledford, the Manistee County Dragway, located three miles north of Kaleva, opened on May 30, 1970. It was an unfortunate beginning as one person was killed and another injured on opening day. Howard Nickelson of Ludington was driving his dragster when his clutch exploded when he was about half way down the track. Alan W. Merritt, age 24, of Manistee, died about one hour after being hit by a piece of the hurling pressure plate. The driver sustained a broken foot. It operates today as an 1/8th-mile drag strip, owned by Tom and Sharon Ledford. The name was changed to Northern Michigan Dragway at least as early as 1995, if not before.
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1970
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CLICK HERE to see  video footage of track record-holding Red Baron dragster on July 21, 1991, 4.84 ET & 142 MPH, 2 minutes
1995

Milan Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1963-present

In October 1963, the London Township rezoned 136 acres of land about five miles south of Milan for the proposed drag strip. J. Keith Metty and Clifton Riley planned on building a 3,600 foot drag strip on the property. Recollections of old timers date the founding of this strip to 1963, although research in newspapers by DSL hasn't found any documentation of it being open before 1964. Cliff Riley was one of the first owners (if not the first) in the '60s and '70s. Bill Kapolka has been the owner since 1989. On July 5, 1964, Bob Smith was seriously injured when the two parachutes of his jet dragster pulled loose and he crashed through an end-of-track barrier into a wheat field at over 200 MPH. He suffered numerous broken bones. On July 7, 1968, Don Nicholson set a world record in his S/XS Mercury Cougar with a run of 7.48 seconds at 186.40 MPH.   On July 24, 1977, Don Garlits defeated Dick LaHaie to take the Pro Dragster title at the IHRA Northern Winston Nationals. Garlits repeated again in 1978, clocking 237.46 MPH in beating Johnny Abbott. Garlits three-peated in 1979 at the IHRA Northern Nationals.It is presently an IHRA sanctioned quarter-mile strip. It has a 150-foot concrete starting pad, 3,520 feet long, with a 400-foot sand trap. The track hosted the IHRA Northern Nationals through 1989, fifteen years of hosting the event. But in early 1989, Bill Kapolka bought the race track from Cliff and Barbara Riley for $1.75 million. In 1990, Kapolka switched from IHRA to NHRA, saying that the IHRA was run by "a bunch of goofballs" that helped force him into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 1991. IHRA and the Riley's brought lawsuits against Kapolka, but the suits were frozen until the courts ruled on the bankruptcy filing. Riley had sold the track to Kapolka, accepting just $500,000 as a down payment, but had not been paid any more. "He owes me over a million dollars," Riley said, "and he forgot that he had to pay it. He's saying now that he paid too much for the place." Riley said that he wished that he'd never sold the strip to Kapolka. Although the legal disputes dragged on, racing continued at the track. The legal disputes must have been ironed out as Kapolka was the owner of record at least through 2003. Instead of big national events like it had hosted with IHRA, it began featuring high school drags, car shows, swap meets, nostalgia races, rock festivals, mud racing, etc. It began being sanctioned by NHRA in 1993 and was named Division 3 Track of the Year in 1999. However in 2003, it opted to run under IHRA sanction and hosted the first Motor City Nationals that year. They hosted that event for six years, before switching back to NHRA, under which it continues to run today (2018).
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14th Annual IHRA Northern Nationals, June 11-12, 1988
CLICK HERE to see  video footage of Milan Dragway, nostalgia race in 2012, 2 minutes
CLICK HERE to see  8mm video footage of Milan Dragway, 1963, 2 minutes
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Milan Dragway first hosted the IHRA Northern Nationals in 1977. Photo published in ​​​Detroit Free Press, July 5, 1984
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Bob Glidden won pro stock at the 1986 Northern Nationals. Photo published in ​​​​Detroit Free Press, July 7, 1986
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Tom Drago (left) pulls off the line in his 1969 Plymouth Road Runner at the Bill Kapolka-owned Milan Dragway in 1991. Photo published in ​​​​Detroit Free Press, July 11, 1991

Motor City Dragway ​​(New Baltimore)

 
Dave Lyall wa a teen-aged member of the Tappet Tickers in 1956, a Michigan Hot Rod Association-sanctioned Hot Rod Club, The dues paid by club members was used to fund the purchase of sixty acres of land in New Baltimore, in Ira Township. Club members were also required to work at the track site to get it ready for construction. The track finally opened in the summer of 1957, with very primitive facilities, including a pnenumatic timing system. Races were started by a flagman. The timing clocks were operated with an air hose attached to a hand-held pole under a front tire of the race car, starting the clocks (an official pulling it away from the rear tires after the launch so it would not get damaged) and another air hose crossing each lane of the track at the finish line, which stopped the clocks. Later additional air hoses were added at the finish lin to facilitate recording speeds. An official stood at each side of the finish line with a flag. The official in the winner's lane raised his flag to indicate to the officials and spectators which lane was the winner. At this early date, the strip was called the MHRA Drag Strip. Ads gave its location as Gratiot and 26 Mile Road, but newspaper articles clarified it as being six miles east of Gratiot Road. It was just south of today's Marine City Highway (26 Mile Road) and on the west side of Meldrum Road. At an April 19, 1959 race, Harold Smith of Masillon, Ohio, was top eliminator in his blown Chevy dragster with a 132 MPH and 10.68 ET. Connie Kalitta was second fastest with a 126 MPH, 11.48 second run. On May 17, 1959, another fast car from Masillon, Ohio, broke the track record. David Pearson, at the wheel of the "Blue Angel" dragster turned 136 MPH. In 1963-64, ads were calling it International Raceway Park, "the racer's drag strip."  In 1965, it was named Motor City Dragway, sanctioned by NASCAR. They began running at nights under lights in 1965. On May 20, 1967, Dick Sawallich was killed at the track in a racing accident. It was listed in the January 1969 issue of Hot Rod as a sanctioned NHRA track.
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This 1958 ad promoted a 2-day Memorial Day race when it was called MHRA Drag Strip
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In 1963-64, the track was called International Raceway Park when this April 26, 1964, race was being promoted
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Motor City Dragway in 1968, 3 minutes, music only/no sound
From 1965, when this ad appeared, until 1978, the track was called Motor City Dragway
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These photos show racing action in 1957, the opening season at the Michigan Hot Rod Association drag strip in New Bethlehem. Photo published in ​​Detroit Free Press, Aug. 18, 1957
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Motor City Dragway, ​​​ 1973 aerial photo
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Motor City Dragway, ​ 1971 topo map
In this aerial photo, the racing strip is in the center and the return lane is on the left side of the photo. Photo published in ​​​Port Huron Times Herald, Aug. 23, 1958

Nick's U. S. 41 Speedway (Ishpeming)


Nick Valenti built a quarter mile drag strip on the runway of the old Dexter Landing Field located on U.S. 41 seven miles west of  Ishpeming in Ely Township. He had the help of a couple of racing enthusiasts including Jim Sodergren. Nick initially also wanted to build adjacent quarter-mile and half-mile oval track, but that plan fell through by fall 1972. The Evergreen Drive-In was on an adjacent lot. The track was a half-mile long, 60 feet wide, and very basic and was not sanctioned. In fact, the first starting lights were built, almost unbelievably, out of an erector set! The track opened on Saturday, July 29, 1972. Trophies and cash prizes were awarded. Nick repaved the old runway. Eventually the pit area and return road were paved, but the fast cars had to slam on the brakes hard to prevent hitting an iron gate at the end of the track. In 1977 the track record was 10.23 set by Pat DePetro. The track had to close when the owners of the land, Cleveland Cliffs Iron (CCI), wanted the land back to pursue their mineral rights. The site of the old drag strip is now a gravel pit.
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1975
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Site of Nick's U. S. 141 Speedway, ​ 1973 topo map

Onondaga Dragway

  • Years of Operation: 1961-78, 2013-present

Located twenty miles south of Lansing, the strip was only waiting for the paving as early as the first week in May 1961. At that time, owners Ken and Harold Sears had established a tentative opening date of May 14, 1961. Delays pushed the opening forward to July 2.  More than 7,500 people showed up for the opener. It was only 1,850 feet long when first built. That meant for some very heavy braking to get cars stopped before they would get into the sand trap. They later bought some more land so they could extend the length of the track. The track attracted crowds by bringing in jet cars, wheelstanders, and racers like Don Garlits and Dick LaHaie. One old timer fondly recalled all the big-name racers:  "Onondaga was my home track in the '60s. I saw Art Arfons run there. The only time I remember a lack of shutoff was EJ Potter and the Bloody Mary having an issue with a stuck throttle.  He unloaded but the bike just kept on going, it mowed down trees. Maybe we didn't know any better, but Top Fuel ran there.  Connie Kalitta was a frequent runner there. We had some kick Ass Super Stocks--Ramchargers, Serbay Motors, Mad Moose.  Bill Goodwin of JR Headers had a '64 Dodge called the Raven. Also had match races by touring pros. I remember Gas Ronda and his Thunderbolt, Arnie 'The Farmer' Beswick raced there quite a bit. I raced everything I drove including my dad's 1957 Olds, but had most success with my 1966 425-horse Vette. Spent many a Sunday at Onondaga . . . . We had quite a few racers that became famous besides Kalitta. Dick Griffin with his Turbo Corvair cut quite a swath. Dick Lahaie and his Sugar Cookie also raced there often. . . . Onondaga was one of first tracks that the Swiss Cheese Pontiacs ran. There was a car club from Adrian named Asphalt Angels that fielded quite a few cars including a then-new '62 Impala 409."  Ken Sears was just a little boy when he did odd jobs for his father (Ken) and uncles at the track. He recalled some of the funny things that happened there.  One time they had two jet cars racing side by side. "On the 1st run," Ken said, "they blew the dog houses away that were covering the lights for the clocks on the starting line. On the second run my Dad and Uncle Harold Sears each held on to a doghouse so they wouldnt blow away. They didn't blow away but both of them came away with singed eyebrows and hair and no hair on their arms." They held special attractions like bikini contests, a guy explode in a wood box on the starting line, and penny scrambles for the kids.  "They even had a streaker one Saturday night," Ken remembered, "funny, nobody caught her before she ran the whole quarter mile. My Uncle Harold Sears, . . .  being the nice guy he was, took his Jeep down to the end of the track to give her a ride back. As I recall it took quite awhile for him to get back to announcing that night." Jon Lundberg, in the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, got his start announcing drag races at Onondaga. Ken recalled that the brothers sold the track because the size of the crowds started to drop or, maybe, because they just got tired of it. In 1978, a Mel Tillis concert was held on Memorial Day, and for the music event, the track's name was briefly changed  to Nashville Strip. There was an attempt to reopen the track in 1985, but it failed. Then in 2007, Ray Comer, who owned the site of the old track was approached by drag racer Dan Pranshka. Pranshka asked if he could do some testing on the old track. Comer said fine. Some local racers took notice and for the next few years, ran their cars on weekends, making passes down the track. With the number of these racers steadily growing, Pranshka and Comer sought permission from the township to reopen the track to the public. They were given temporary permission in 2010, but this opened a can of worms. A small group of local residents spent the next two years fighting it. Undismayed, Pranshka, Comer, and several others pushed ahead, removing every stumbling block in their way. They rebuilt the whole facility and re-opened the old race track in 2013. In 2015, it obtained IHRA sanction as an 1/8th-mile track.
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August 13, 1961
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November 5, 1961
CLICK HERE to see video footage of racing on the old track in 2009 before it was rebuilt, 34 minutes

Partington Drag Strip ​​(Sterling Heights)

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The site of a 1/4 and 1/2-mile dirt oval (known as Partington Pasture Speedway) from 1941-52 was the location of a drag strip in 1953. Newspaper reports gave its location as north of 15 Mile Road on Ryan Road. The old oval tracks were later replaced by St. Rene Parish Church. The first drag race was held on August 30. On September 6, Del Lee set a new track record of 68.08 in his English Allard. Åt a race on September 27, Bob Albright set a motorcycle record with a speed of 72 MPH. Henry Hovland won the stock class eliminations. The year's final race was held on November 22. The 1964 aerial photo of the site only reveals the old oval track, not any drag strip.
August 30, 1953
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Partington's Pasture Speedway, ​ 1964 aerial photo
Partington's Pasture Speedway, ​​ 1953 topo map

Raco Drag-O-Way


The Northern Michigan Timing Association, operating out of Kincheloe Air Force Base, opened the 1966 drag racing season at the airstrip three miles west of Raco on Highway M-28 on April 24. Entry fees for racers was $2 per vehicle, but spectators were admitted free. Races were run each Sunday.
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Reynolds Field ​​(Jackson)


Nine thousand people watched two hundred racers at, what newspapers wrote, was the first sanctioned drag race in Michigan on August 26, 1956. It was held on a runway at Reynolds Field, two miles west of Jackson, which dates back to 1940. The Jackson Accelerators car club conducted the race.
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Tecumseh Municipal Airport


A drag race was held on a runway at the airport on July 14, 1957, but there were probably races conducted there even earlier. It may have been in operation as early as 1956 as an old timer recalled seeing Art Arfons turn 248 MPH there that year. When airplanes needed to land, they would halt the racing.  Located north of town, it is today known as Meyers-Diver's Airport. The asphalt runway is 2,660 feet long. 
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Thunderbird Dragway (Muskegon)


A 3/8th-mile clay oval was built in Muskegon in 1958 by Wink Bliech, a shoe salesman. He called it Birchwood Speedway. Roger and Joanne Joneson bought the oval in 1960. The Joneson’s renamed Birchwood Speedway to Thunderbird Raceway during the period they owned it, but at least by 1969. It was probably sometime in the 1960s that they built an adjacent drag strip. The drag strip has had an on again-off again history.The track has had one fatality, which caused it to suspend drag racing for good. On May 28, 2008, Larry Eaton, age 57, lost control of his altered after his engine malfunctioned. He was severely injured after his car flipped over and he passed away from his injuries six weeks later. The bumpy condition of the race track became an issue of discussion after the accident and the race track suspended operation. It appears to be closed for good.
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1982
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Thunderbird Raceway and Dragway, ​​ 1985 topo map

Tri-City Dragway (Saginaw)

  • Years of Operation: 1966-78

A quarter-mile drag strip was built by Reed Draper, the owner of a Saginaw GM dealership, in 1965 adjacent to (on east side) the Tri-City Airport (MBS International Airport today). The track opened in 1966, 4500 feet long and 60 feet wide. It's staging area was six lanes wide, paved for 600 feet. The paved pit area was 50,000 square feet. It had a 1000-foot long paved fire-up road leading to the staging area. During its heyday, the track brought in all the big-time exhibition and match racers and drew large crowds. The track ran under NHRA sanction at least as early as 1967, if not before, running every Sunday from April through October. Dragster pilot Chuck Kurzawa, who drove fuelers there from 1967-74, remembered it fondly as being the best strip in Michigan. The track closed its doors in 1978, due to a conflict between racers and strip management. Apparently the sportsman racers had paid entry fees to race, but rain forced cancellation of the event in spring 1978. The strip manager (Bill McKenna) wouldn't honor their rain-cancelled entry fees at a subsequent event. The racers boycotted the track, but McKenna wouldn't budge. This deadlock resulted in the track owner deciding to pull the plug on any more racing. GM occasionally used the track for testing purposes afterwards occasionally. In 1990, racing interests tried unsuccessfully to re-open the strip. Although the strip and parking area were privately owned, the pit area was on ground leased from the airport. The airport commission voted not to lease the property. In the late 1990s, the airport bought the strip/parking area land.
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September 5, 1970
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Tri-City Dragway, ​ 1974 topo map
Tri-City Dragway, ​​​ 1973 topo map
1978 was the final year of operation of Tri-City Dragway and it ended powefully, as evidenced by this August 19, 1978, show
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Tri-City Dragway in 1970s, 2 minutes, music only/no sound

Ubly Dragway

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  • Years of Operation: 1963-present
 
Art Janowiak provided the land on which Clarence Bukowski and racer Harry "Butch" Schmidt built an asphalt drag strip. Many thought it was a money-wasting idea, but the track opened on May 5, 1963, to a large opening crowd. Almost 5,000 people watched the racing. Butch Ryan made four runs between 165 and 170 MPH. Races were held every Sunday at this NHRA-sanctioned track. Almost 50,000 spectators attended the races in the first year. On October 10, 1965, Gary Dyer beat Jim Thornton's A/FX Dodge Ramcharger in a match race, and in the process, set an unofficial world's ET record of 8.70 seconds. The strip closed in the mid-1970s, but was bought and reopened in 1984 by Tom and Sharon Ledford, who have continued strong to the present (2017). It operates today as an IHRA track. 

 
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May 30, 1963
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Ubly Dragway in 1960s, 3 minutes, music only/no sound
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This photo of racing at Ubly shows a three-wide pairing, but likely only two were racing. Photo published in ​​Port Huron Times Herald, June 21, 1963
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This aerial photo shows Ubly Dragway in operation in 1964. Photo published in ​​​​Port Huron Times Herald, June 19, 1964
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Gary Dyer driving Mr. Norm's Grand-Spaulding 1965 Dodge Coronet S/FX against the Ramchargers A/FX at Uby Dragway.. Photo published in ​​​​Port Huron Times Herald, June 25, 1965

US 131 Dragway (Martin)

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  • Years of Operation: 1962-present
 
The first drag race was held on this track on Sunday, June 24, 1962. Built solely for drag racing, the track was three-fourths of a mile long, with two single-lane asphalt strips, and electronic timing equipment. Races were held weekly on Sunday. Trophies were awarded to 32 class winners. For most of its history, it has been sanctioned by NHRA. It has also been the site of the Super Chevy Show (begun in 1984) and Popular Hot Rodding Magazine Championships (started in 1969). It operates today as an IHRA-sanctioned track called US 131 Motorsports Park. It began using that name in 2002. From 1996 to 2001, it was called Martin Speedway.

 
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June 24, 1962
CLICK HERE to see video footage of 1973 Popular Hot Rodding meet at US 131 Dragway, 10:18 minutes, no sound
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage taken by Marv McNett at US 131 Dragway in 1962-63, 16 minutes, music only/no sound
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These photos show some of the racing in 1964 at the Martin 131 Dragway. The top photo shows a couple of C dragsters, the middle a C Stocker and B Altered, and the bottom photo shows the Ramchargers and Dick Brannan's Ford Fairlane. Photo published in ​​​St. Joseph Herald-Press, Apr. 30, 1964