2007-06-09 / News

Hot Rod Reunion is new chapter in NTR history

HEBRON - When National Trail Raceway (NTR) opened July 4, 1964, it was the culmination of a dream to bring top quality drag racing to Central Ohio. Now, that dream comes full circle as the 5th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion, presented by SoffSeal moves to NTR, June 15- 17 to celebrate hot rod heritage in the heartland of America.

Clark Rader Sr., who made his name in vaudeville, worked with his two sons, Clark Jr. and Ben, to build the 320-acre facility. The goal was to attract an NHRA national championship event, a goal reached when NHRA Founder and now Museum Chairman Wally Parks brought the Springnationals to NTR in 1972. Clark Jr. and Ben saw more than 40,000 spectators and 600 cars.

The gates had to be closed on both Saturday and Sunday when the number of spectators filled the grounds. Clark Sr. had passed away just a few months before the event, but his sons kept the facility going.

Over the years, NTR saw the first victory in a national event by Shirley Muldowney, the first all-female professional round (Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in 1982), and Frank Hawley took victory at the wheel of Darrel Gwynn's Top Fuel dragster in the team's first event after Gwynn's accident in England in 1990. Legendary racers like Don Garlits, who will be at the Reunion, Gary Beck, Connie Kalitta, Joe Amato, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Raymond Beadle, John Force, Bob Glidden and "Dyno Don" Nicholson were just a few of those who roared down the quarter-mile. From 40,000 in 1972, the crowds grew to more than 120,000 by 1995.

In 1996, NHRA purchased the track from the Rader family, ensuring preservation of the historic strip. The NHRA team completely repaved the track surface, made pit improvements and expansions and added amenities for the fans.

Clark Rader Jr., who had remained at the track during racing events after the sale, passed away early in 2001.

In May, 2005, Tony Schumacher set the NHRA National Speed record at an astonishing 336.15 mph. Schumacher set the elapsed time record for the track at 4.476 seconds in 2006.

While the nostalgia drag racers won't be going nearly that fast during the Reunion, they'll still know they're riding on a track with plenty of history.

The 5th annual Holley NHRA National Hot Rod Reunion is part of the museum's Hot Rod Heritage Series which works to bring to life the sights, sounds and people who made history in the early days of drag racing, land speed racing and the golden age of American car culture.

Unique among motorsports events, the Reunion honors some of the top names in hot rodding from the past and features a fabulous array of cool drag cars, street rods, classics, customs and muscle cars of the historic and present-day hot rod eras.

Daily general admission tickets/ pit passes will be available at the National Trail Raceway gate; phone: 740/928-5706; www. nationaltrailraceway.com. Cost per person: Friday, $20; Saturday, $20; Sunday, $15. Children 15 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. The Reunion features a wide variety of activities and events, including:

+ A ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by a cruise from the Columbus Airport Marriott to Jegs High Performance in Delaware, Thurs., June 14, starting 4 p.m.

+ Just added: Hot Hues Custom Finishes by DuPont is sponsoring the appearance of American Graffiti actor Paul Le Mat, as well as two replica cars from the film: a yellow 1932 Ford Coupe that Le Mat drove and the black '55 Chevrolet 150 sedan driven by Harrison Ford.

+ Hot Heads Eliminator NHRA vintage drag racing, featuring some the sport's most famous and historic cars and drivers, racing in such classes as Top Fuel, Supercharged Gassers, classic Funny Cars and Super Stocks.

+ SoffSeal Street rod "Show 'n Shine" with thousands of gleaming pre-1972 hot rods, street rods, custom cars, classics and muscle cars. "Memory Lane" will have a display of nostalgic race cars.

+ National Hot Rod Reunion Reception, held at the Columbus Airport Marriott, Fri., June 15 from 7 p.m.- 10 p.m. Open to everyone at no charge, it's a tribute to the Reunion's Grand Marshal and Honorees and a chance for fans to meet some of drag racing's heroes. Grand Marshal for the event will be Jeg Coughlin. This year's honorees are John Abbott, Don Cain, Ted Harbit, Fred Hurst, and the team of Gary Rupp and Pat Dakin. The Justice Bros. Reunion Spotlight highlights Frank Hawley.

+ Heacock Classic Insurance Pit Pass Barbeque on Saturday afternoon, June 16.

+ Cacklefest on Saturday evening, where nitro-burning historic, front-engine top-fuel dragsters and other classic race cars are push started just like in the "old days."

+ The Swap meet and Reunion Midway are filled with vendors and manufacturers making it easier than ever to findthat hot rod part or special souvenir.

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