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In my early days of drag racing during the late ‘50s, and continuing until I left the region in 1966, the St. Louis metro area had many racing memories and lots of stellar action! As with Chicagoland in an earlier article, here is my perspective of looking into the city from just outside.
ST. LOUIS DRAGSTRIPS: During the summer of 1958, our group of racers from Kahoka, Mo. traveled south to Alton Dragway several times. The track was built ‘out behind the barn’ on a farm just northeast of Alton, Ill. It was a really great drag strip for its day and serviced the area for several years.
Kahoka, Mo. & Alton, Ill. The Drag News caption (right) shows the popularity of Alton Dragway in the early ‘60s. I was there that week too, racing my ‘32 Ford Coupe and winning A/A class. The C/A winner was Kent Martin, a popular racer in the ‘60s and a partner in Tri State Dragway. Jerry Childers was there, winning B/Comp with his blown Model A Ford sedan. Wayne Brown, incidentally, was runner-up to Ivo for Top Eliminator!
Early drag racing, featuring flag man starts with stop watch timing, was held at Smart Field across the Missouri river in St. Charles, Mo. Granite City, Ill., famous for producing steel, also had a small drag strip located along the Mississippi river bottom just about where the Gateway International Raceway is today. In 1963 a huge racing complex was built in Missouri west of St. Louis in the country outside of Wentzville, Mo. I attended the opening of Mid-America Raceway, with a large group from Tri State Dragway. The modern track, ‘in the middle of no-where’, lasted until 1984.
THE CHUCKLE: One night after the Kahoka drags, several teams headed for Mid-America Raceway. My group was last to leave due to closing the track etc. Across from Quincy, Ill. on U.S. 61, there were lots of emergency lights. A wreck we thought. NO,
It was Swartzbaugh & Curtis’ Top Fuel car sitting in the middle of the highway! We helped the patrol get the car to a service station and lock it up. When we got to Troy, Mo. just north of the track, there sat Bill Curtis, asleep, unaware there was no car on the trailer!
There was an 1/8 mile drag-strip located in Pacific, Mo. which hosted the AHRA 1/8th Mile Nationals. In the mid ‘60s, there was a dirt strip at Whitehall, Ill. that ran Tue. nights; a paved 1/8 mile at Springfield, Ill., called ‘Pleasant Grove Dragway; plus a full ¼ mile at Terre Haute, Ind.