Jim Baker's Then and Now


Eddyville Raceway Park

During the mid ‘60s eighth-mile drag strips started flourishing all around the Mississippi River valley. Since Tri State Dragway at Kahoka, MO, and Pleasant Grove at Springfield, IL, were the first two 660-foot strips in the area, we always thought the expansion was a huge complement to our efforts.


One 660-foot track was established between Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, Iowa, near the Des Moines River. It was named for the small village nearby, Eddyville. I was there in the mid-60s when it opened. It seemed remote from the main Highway and in a rather poor location. Still they continued to operate and now 52 years later, the new alignment of the main highway (an Iowa Freeway) goes right past the entrance to Eddyville Dragway.


History: Opened in 1965, owned by John Rempe until 1993 when it was sold to Carl Moyer from Ankeny who totally rebuilt the facility with a much larger pit area, and modern amenities. The track was purchased in 2006 by Scott Gardner (then owner of Cordova Dragway in Illinois) and Gerald Kramer from Pella, Iowa. In 2014 Scott sold his part ownership to Gerald. 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the track.

Dewayne Hamner won a season championship at Eddyville after Lee County closed in 1984. This was nearly 20 years after the track opened in 1965. As it started, my memory is that someone had leveled a hill top and paved about 1,000 feet. I was there again in 1976 in an eight-car Pro Stock show which I was fortunate to win, beating another California car, Lee Hunter in the final.


A vivid memory of the ’76 race was of a boy with an ATV three wheeler making pass after pass during available time.  His name: TOMMY JOHNSON, JR.!

Of course Ottumwa, Iowa’s famous drag racing son has gone on to nationwide acclaim, winning both Top Fuel and Funny Car titles at NHRA ‘Big Show’ events. He finished second in the 2016 NHRA National standings driving the ‘Make A Wish’ F/C for Terry Chandler!

We could not locate an original photo of the Eddyville final in 1976, but this is the car and position from that race. I remember several local racers taking us to Oskaloosa after the race for pizza. We then drove all night to NEITA Raceway near Cedar Falls, IA, for Sunday.

Ten years later, the Tommy Johnson family ran a match race at their ‘home’ track which is just north of Ottumwa, Iowa; the original location of Tommy Senior’s mail order performance parts business. Neither Tom could tell us -- who won?

Fast forward to June 2017 and the Victory Nostalgia Super Stocks were featured at the track. Shawn Johnston, driving a ’67 Plymouth defeated Bill Schles with his ’65 Hemi Belvedere.

During our visit in 2016, we captured this replica of California racer Bill Bagshaw’s ’70 Dodge Challenger Pro Stock. It is owned and driven by local favorite Jim Van Zee, who reportedly has been a regular at Eddyville for 40 years!

Another regular at the track is Des Moines, Iowa’s Scott Gauthier whose ‘Nitro Madness’ Fuel Altered has become world famous. Winning the Bakersfield March Meet will do that.


In fact, Eddyville will again host the World Fuel Altered Championships on Aug. 18-20. Several years ago, we did a ‘Then & Now’ column on Mary Reep driving a Fuel Altered at this yearly event. Mary stopped through Kahoka, MO, on her way to Eddyville. She was born and raised there and is a sister of Jacky Murphy, who did a few laps in my Top Fuel Dragster and was the manager of the new Tucson Dragway project when it was built.  Drag Racing is certainly a small world.


World Fuel Altered Nationals - This is a unique race featuring nitro- and alcohol-burning wild and crazy Fuel Altereds. These cars are also capable of running the eighth mile in under 4.00 seconds at 200 mph. The race also includes many other race classes including nostalgia drag classes and a car show.

When a venue has an owner/manager like Gerald Kramer on site at all times, the racers’ needs are well consummated. Gerald met us the front gate in 2016 and promptly took us on his golf cart to see the entire facility and meet several of their nattily dressed crew. As illustrated above, Kramer not only seemed to be ‘on top of everything’, he drove the tractor for lane maintenance as well.


Location: 3260 Merino Ave., Oskaloosa, IA 52577.

Eddyville bills itself as the ‘Prettiest Drag Strip’ in the land. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it certainly ranks right near the top. If you are a racer or a fan, you certainly will not be disappointed by a visit.

Until next time, be on time! 



official DRO sponsors

 © 1999-2017 - Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source LLC - 607 Seib Drive, O'Fallon, MO 63366 Phone: 636.272.6301 - Privacy Policy


A vivid memory of the ’76 race was of a boy with an ATV three wheeler making pass after pass during available time.  His name: TOMMY JOHNSON, JR.!

Until next time, be on time! 

fficial ponsors