Indianapolis, Ind. 1977: Arizona’s long tenured Pro Stock racer, Gordie Rivera, starts his burn out under the Hurst Bridge at the U.S. Nationals!  This Chevrolet Monza was Gordie’s fourth Pro Stock car. Still racing occasionally, the Yuma, Az. Speed shop owner is competitive without factory backing or massive corporate sponsorship. (Photo by Bob McClurg)

Part I

Here it is, 2011!  We finished 2010 by clearing out the ‘cutting’ room so we will bring you new information in this year’s edition of ‘Then & Now’.

The base of my drag racing roots were sprouted in Arizona. What follows is a look at drag racing during the beginning times and how it continues today at three major Arizona drag strips.

Perryville, Az. 1957: Looking like a James Dean clone is a young Garry Smith, sitting on the hood of his ‘sleeper’, a ’57 Ford with a 312 V8 supercharged by a McCullough blower from the factory.  The car ran over 90 MPH in the quarter and twice won Stock Eliminator titles. Today, Garry, a longtime friend, is responsible for many of the facts and photos in this column.

In the 1950s two tracks which got the ball rolling were Davis Monthan Air Force base drags in Tucson and the Perryville Drag strip west of Phoenix at Goodyear, Arizona. Both were on old WWII air strips, and both have been closed for years.

When closed drag strips are considered, Arizona has its share. One of the first was at Marana between Phoenix & Tucson. A little farther north was the Casa Grande Timing Association strip. Other well known tracks at the time were the Chandler Drags, just east of the present Firebird Raceway; Deer Valley Raceway north of Bell Road & 19th Ave. at the Deer Valley Airport; Beeline Dragway on Highway 87 in Scottsdale, and there was a strip at PIR which contained a weird shut off arrangement and only ran a few months.