MINNESOTA

Twin City Speedway/North Star Dragstrip ​​​(New Brighton) (1955)
Red River Valley Dragways/Interstate Dragways/Top End Dragways (Glyndon) (1959)
Cloquet "Drag Strip" (1959)
Minnesota Dragways (Coon Rapids) (1959)
Brainerd International Raceway (1968)
Grove Creek Raceway (Grove City) (1988?)
Iron Range Raceway (Keewatin) (2000s)
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Jack Ditmar's "Lil' Screamer" B/A at Minnesota Drags, 1965. Photograph from Tom Fennell

Brainerd International Raceway

  • Years of Operation: 1968-present
 
Built by George Montgomery, construction started in 1967 on a three-mile road course (called Donnybrooke) that incorporated a 60-foot wide, 4,000-foot long straightaway that served as the drag strip. It was located six miles north of Brainerd along Highway 371. When the track opened it was called Donnybrooke International Speedway. It opened under NHRA sanction. Research by DSL has found that drag racing started in 1968. 197 racers competed at  the grand opening on July 6-7, 1968. Five thousand people attended the final day of the 2-day race. Bill Schifsky in his AA/FD had the meet's top speed with a run of 7.55 at 207.36 MPH. Following the opening, drag races were held almost weekly through the 1968 season. In 1969 and later years, Donnybrooke turned from regular weekly drag races to a more-limited schedule of major drag race events. In 1973, the track ran no races as George Montgomery had to file bankruptcy. In 1974, race car driver Jerry Hansen purchased the race track and renamed it Brainerd International Raceway. Two drag race events were held in 1975. Brainerd Raceway's  website  gives a good brief overview of its history: "Although road racing was BIR’s focus for the first decade, drag racing gradually became more prominent at the track. . . .In 1977, BIR made a significant investment in drag racing by hosting the Crown Auto Funny Car Championship and the Crown Auto Winston Points Championship. In the first Funny Car Championship, Don 'The Snake' Prudhomme took home the championship but was beat the following year by Tom Hoover. By the third year, the event attracted 22,000 fans. With motorsports gaining popularity through the 1980s, BIR began to make major improvements to the facilities, including grandstands, VIP suites and a concessions arcade. In 1982, when the Met Stadium in Bloomington was tore down, BIR acquired its bleachers in preparation for its newest drag racing event, the Quaker State NorthStar Nationals. More than 50,000 fans attended the inaugural NorthStar Nationals as they watched Shirley Muldowney win the Top Fuel Dragster finals and Mark Oswald set a world speed record of 256.41 mph in his Top Fuel Dragster. Other winners in the early years of that event were Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Jim Head, and Joe Amato, the winningest Top Fueler in NHRA history, who won at BIR in 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1989. The NorthStar Nationals eventually became the NHRA Nationals, the largest annual sports events in the Upper Midwest. Attracting over 100,000 people for the weekend, BIR is a favorite stop for the race teams, the NHRA and fans alike mainly because it’s the only track on the NHRA circuit with on-site camping – The Zoo."
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This ad is for the July 6-7, 1968, grand opening event
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June 21-22, 1969
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July 23-24, 1977
Vern Anderson cleans his tires in Chlorox behind the starting line at Donnybrooke. Photo published in Minneapolis Star-Tribune, June 22, 1969
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CLICK HERE to see documentary video of BIR, 7:12 minutes
Donnybrooke International Speedway, ​​​​​ 1976 topo map
CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Donnybrooke, ca. 1969-70, pan to 6:02 minute mark, ends at 22:58 mark, no sound

Cloquet "Drag Strip"

 
Ernest Luomala, a dairy farmer, was fed up with government controls and regulations. He put all his farm equipment and his dairy herd up for sale to raise $20,000. He wanted to use the money to build a drag strip on 80 acres of his 140-acre farm. He wanted to use the money raised to pay for black-topping the drag strip. Research was unable to find anything further so it is likely that the strip was never built.
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Iron Range Raceway (Keewatin)

 
This drag strip was built just south of Keewatin. Research has found little about this track except what can be seen in historic aerial photos. From aerial photos, it can be seen that the track was built by late 2003, but had closed before 2008.
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Iron Range Raceway, 2003 
Iron Range Raceway, 2008 

Minnesota Dragways (Coon Rapids)


In July 1957, the Minneapolis Optimist Club voted to open a bond sale to finance the building of a drag strip five miles northwest of Anoka. They suspected it would take $70,000 to construct the strip. In March 1958, they paid $20,000 for 143 acres of land three miles east of Anoka. They set up a corporation to handle the financing of the project. They called it the Minneapolis Optimist Club Timig Association, comprising thirteen Optimist clubs in the Twin Cities area. By June 1958, they had raised about $25,000. But they discovered that their original estimates of costs fell way too short--about $100,000 too short. Don Voge, the owner of the Twin City Speedway, offered to sell his drag strip to them for half of what they were looking to spend on their Coon Rapids strip. They declined and forged ahead, awarding a $40,000 contract for grading in October 1958. By mid-December, the grading and leveling work was finished. By April 1959, 90 percent of the money needed to finish building the strip had been obtained and work forged ahead to finish. By then, the costs had ballooned to $140,000 (a 1963 newspaper article states that $220,000 was raised in the bond issue). The asphaltic concrete paving was finished by early June 1959. The non-profit Twin Cities Optimist Clubs' Timing Association sponsored the races.  Located in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, the entrance to the strip was near the present-day intersection of Main and Avocet. There were bleachers, but most people lined the chain-link fence bordering the strip. It was sanctioned by NHRA at least by 1960. At the 1963 season-ending race on September 29, Joe Deggendorf of Dubuque set a new strip record of 9.96 seconds and 143 MPH in his A gas dragster.  John Foster was the track manager for the duration of the track's history. The Gopher State Timing Association conducted the races. Don Garlits faced Chris Karamesines in a match race on May 26, 1963. In July 1972, 30,000 people showed up when Evel Knievel appeared to jump three vans and eight cars in his steam-powered Harley Davidson. Nearby residents' complaints about the noise doomed the drag strip. In 1970, the Coon Rapids city council arranged with the race track management that they would close the strip for good in November 1976. The track also agreed to have a quieter public address system and construct walls around the perimeter of the staging area. As the closing time approached, track management sought a further extension from the city council. It was denied. In 1977, they appealed again, but it was again denied. In June 1977, the Yamaha Corporation asked if they could use the strip as a testing site for their snowmobiles. Denied.   A well-written recent history of Minnesota Dragways paints a nostalgic picture of the excitement of drag racing at what is now a quiet residential neighborhood.  
June 28, 1959
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Did you race here? Tell us about it.
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CLICK HERE to see 8mm video footage of Minnesota Dragways, ca. 1969-70, pan to 3:07 minute mark, ends at 6:00 minute mark, no sound
May 26, 1963
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September 16, 1962
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CLICK HERE to see Super 8mm video footage of Minnesota Dragways, ca. 1970s, 7 minutes, no sound
Flagman Pete Starette starts a couple of stock cars at the grand opener at Minnesota Dragways in 1959. Photo published in ​​Minneapolis Star-Tribune, July 3, 1959
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Pit area at Minnesota Dragways. Photo published in ​​Minneapolis Star, Oct. 14, 1961
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Photos of the starting line and an aerial view of Minnesota Dragways. appeared in ​​​​​Minneapolis Star, July 13, 1963
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Minnesota Dragways, ​​​​​​ 1969 topo map
Minnesota Dragways, ​​​​ 1966 aerial photo
1991 aerial view of site of Minnesota Dragways

Red River Valley Dragways/Interstate Dragways/Top End Dragways (Glyndon)

  • Years of Operation: 1959-present
 
George Holland built this drag strip five miles southeast of Moorhead in 1959. Under his ownership, it was sanctioned by AHRA. Races were conducted by the Red River Timing Association.  It was listed as one of 325 U.S. drag strips in 1968 published in an issue of the Swedish magazine Start & Strip .   According to the track's website, "In 1969, the track was purchased by Duwayne Engness. He renamed it Interstate Dragways and changed to NHRA sanctioning.  Throughout the early and mid- '70s, Duwayne ran NHRA class cars (Super Comp, Gas, and Street) only. In the late '70s he added bracket classes to the mix for a few years then migrated to running only bracket classes.  Classes that Duwayne ran were Super Comp which ran on a pro tree and the racer dialed their own handicap.  Pro ET, Heavy Street, and Street which all run on a full tree and racers dialed their handicaps.  In '78, they switched to running two day weekends (previous years were one day events).  In 1996, the track was purchased by Ron Johnson who continued to run the track as Interstate Dragways and under NHRA sanctioning. In fall of 2010, the track was purchased by Charlie McCann and renamed Top End Dragways.  Top End continues to run under NHRA sanctioning." In 1983, the track ran seven events.
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1960
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Listing in ​​National Dragster, Dec. 23, 1977.  It was porbably listed by NHRA as being in North Dakota so they could claim having a sanctioned strip in every state. Courtesy of Mel Bashore
CLICK HERE to see video footage of Interstate Dragways, 2009, 8:28 minutes
 
Twin City Speedway was a half-mile dirt oval track built in 1950 by Don Voge in New Brighton. Carl Langer, Mounds View police chief, encouraged Voge to build a drag strip to reduce street racing. In fall 1954, Voge began grading and paving a drag strip built just south of the oval track. He put over $20,000 into the project. The strip was 3,000 feet long by 60 feet wide. He had it ready for racing in mid-1955. The opening race was held on July 3, 1955, but the timing device was plagued by mechanical problems. The strip was resurfaced for the 1957 season, and again, for the 1958 season. One of the challenges for operating a drag strip in Minnesota was the continual need for paving, repaving, and keeping a level paved surface for racing. One old drag racer named Gary said that he started drag racing at this strip in 1958. He said, "! started racing in 1958 at Twin Cities Speed Way, arm drop. Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo would show up 1 or 2 times a year." On June 3, 1960, Jerry Toso of Minneapolis was the top eliminator on the Friday night race. He beat 143 entries with a time of 13.69 seconds. The strip principally catered to local racers until 1962. In that year, the track hosted a regional event of the Independent Drag Racing Association, attracting over 300 racers from ten states. Bill Schifsky clocked 176.66 MPH in his dragster, but Bruce Norman took top elimiator in his "Big Wheel" dragster. With the success of that event, the strip began booking bigger-name drivers to draw more crowds. They didn't go overboard, but began booking a few out-of-state racers. On June 16, 1963, Gordon Collett set a new strip record with a run of 8.60 at 168 MPH. The strip operated under Voge's management until he got in trouble with the IRS before the mid-1960s. Newspapers at the time said that it was due to Voge's ill health that he was forced to sell, but it was really financial ill health problems that forced him to sell it. Minneapolis businessmen Frederick Watson and Lyman Molander bought the property in March 1964. They furnished the track with lights and began a Tuesday and Thursday night racing program in addition to Sunday afternoons. In 1967, both the oval track and drag strip were leased by Frank R. Winkley. By 1973 was renamed Northstar Dragstrip, operating mainly with bracket racing for many years. On July 3, 1974, 4,500 people watched Don Garlits beat Tommy Ivo in three straight runs in a match race. Garlits best run was in the third race, running 6.11 at 227.38 MPH.  It was being called North Star International Raceway in 1973. In 1977, the strip limited its racing to pure, strictly stock racing only. They ran on Saturday and Sunday.  The track closed in 1979 to make way for redevelopment.
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Twin City Speedway/North Star Dragstrip (New Brighton)

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Drag races were advertised for Twin City Speedway on August 28, 1955, only two months after the strip first opened.
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April 21, 1957
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Twin City Speedway, ​​ 1969 topo map
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1973
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North Star Dragstrip, 1980 aerial photo
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1974
A year after the North Star Speedway closed, weeds grew where racing used to take place. Photo published in ​​Minneapolis Star, Aug. 21, 1980