Rock’N’Race at Dragway 42

Racing and Rock ‘n Roll is a Great Combination

Words and photos by Pat Donahue

The 2019 Rock’N’Race returned once again to Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio, on Aug. 23-25. Leading up to the event it was billed as the Woodstock of Drag Racing with the 50th year anniversary of the famous rock party in mind. It may have lived up to the spirit without so much of the chaos. Reaching beyond just another drag race and car show, the Rock’N’Race featured three days of great nostalgia drag racing and two nights of live rock ‘n roll featuring 10 bands performing live on the stage centered in the middle of the pit side of the track. The track had plenty of area for camping and even offered RV's to rent from this year’s sponsor, Neff Bros RV. There wasn't any reason to leave the event with plenty going on all day and night.


The action on the track was highlighted by nostalgia funny cars and a Supercharged AA/GS series battling it out for a championship as well as several classes of nostalgia gassers and hot rods that were 1972 and older, and a spattering of Pro Mod and nitro cars just to kick it up a notch. Just for fun there were contests for you to try your hand at the best burnout, best wheelstand, flag girl and pin-up girl.


The fans that lined the hillsides along the Dragway 42 were treated to some 400 cars that participated in the event including the only jet-powered Amish buggy. Racers were able to compete for trophies and prize money in dozens of classes while taking part in one of the biggest nostalgia events of the season.

It was an event big enough to bring Jim Wilkens and "The Handshaker" out of retirement to take part in it.


Promoter Don Moyer was pleased with the turnout of spectators and participants and all of the positive feedback. He said it was easy to see that this was the biggest Rock’N’Race ever as well as the biggest event of the new era of Dragway 42. He’s already looking forward to improving on it for next year.


The Supercharged AA/GS field started with 10 supercharged beasts looking to take the win, some series points and some bragging rights away from the 2019 Rock’N’Race. Aaron Reid fired the first shot taking the low qualifier spot with a 4.87. The battle went into a second day with Aaron taking the John and Aaron Reid "JAR" car into the finals with a bye in the semi's, while Matt King took the win over Brian Spotts.

When King and Reid met in the finals, Aaron was still running faster at 139.71 with a 5.37 to King’s 5.43 at 125, but Matt took the win on a holeshot to claim his first win in only his third race in the "Junkyard Dog". While on the day Reid was faster, on the line King was quicker.

Brian Spotts in his "It’s Crazy II" earned enough points to take home the crown in the first year of the Gasser Madness AA/GS Heads Up All Out Series.

Jim Oddy (at right) with Fred Hahn back driving.


This year’s Rock 'N' Race saw the return of the dynamic duo of Jim Oddy and Fred Hahn. With some recent participation in the Supercharged AA Gasser class, Oddy decided it was time to build a new car out of a '48 Austin. (He formerly owned and tuned the “Junkyard Dog.”) So, he turned a four-door into a two-door, put a blown small block under the hood, and recruited a proven winner to get behind the wheel. The pair won 12 championships in 15 years together when they competed in the Pro Mod class more than a few years ago.


They knew there may be bit of a learning curve but the saddle was ready to get back into. The horse, or the "Bulldog" in this case, wasn't as ready but the Rock 'N' Race was a good place to start. Oddy knows his new "Bulldog" will be up against his record-holding "Junkyard Dog" that is now owned and driven by Matt King who took the win here. It’s safe to say that some fine tuning, some new paint and a dog fight won’t be far off.

The winners circle is supposed to be a happy place, but few were as happy as Rick and Terri Osburn who were both quick to explain that Rick doesn't win trophies; he does wheelstands. On the final day of the Rock 'N' Race he did both by taking the finals of D/Gas with a starting line win over Fred Desch. The Osburns purchased the '38 Chevy in 1994 and it was a street rod until 2008 when Rick got some track time at a nostalgia drag race and realized what his calling was. Now the '38 Special and Rick are flying high and he and Terri are taking home trophies -- and on this weekend also celebrating their 33rd anniversary. Plenty of reason to be happy!

The Sunday Nostalgia Altered class found “Thumper” face off against “Lil Thumper” with Dave McCauley behind the wheel of the Opel Kadett getting the head start, but Rich Miller ran him down in his '48 Anglia to take the win.

Nine-year-old Anders Rekow looked right at home in the seat of his dads front engine dragster. Normally Anders has his own seat behind the wheel, racing for his first year in a junior dragster.  His dad, Davin, must have been pretty comfortable in the seat as well, taking the Open FA class with a final round win over Jim Howe.

Longtime Dragway 42 racer J.R. Phillips made his last pass down the track. With his friend "Chico" Caraballo behind the wheel of J.R.’s '66 Nova and his wife, Pam, riding along, the ashes of J.R. who passed away in January were let out on the track when the chutes deployed.

Cleveland photographer Nico Pico Train leaped her way to the win in the annual flag girl competition.

Rocco Bevelacqua was temporarily lost in all of his smoke till a hose broke on his ‘52 Chevy. He got the burnout championship.

And raising only the front wheels wouldn't do as Wally Peterson had lift off in his '65 Coronet to take the wheel stand crown.

It would seem you can’t make a trip to Dragway 42 without passing or at least seeing an Amish buggy on the way. This years’ event went one step further and had one on the track. Not your ordinary horse-drawn buggy but a jet-powered one! The "Thunder Buggy" was the creation of Chad Clark, though it wasn't his initial intent. The available Boeing jet engine he had his eye on wasn't quite the right size for the pulling truck he had in mind, so he set his sights a little smaller. Chad lives in Holmes County, Ohio, which has the largest Amish population in the country. In his search for something different and creative the answer was right at home. The buggy was a used 14-year-old buggy that remains as it was except for the addition of a steering wheel, disc brakes and a Boeing 502-12 jet engine. The “Thunder Buggy” was quite a crowd pleaser as it went through the normal jet car theatrics on its approach to the line before making its pass, reaching a top speed at 45 mph. It has run 55-60 mph at venues with a little more space.

John Patterson drove his Tin Knocker '56 Chevy to the winners circle on both Saturday night as well as Sunday, taking the final round win over Wayne Stine in the "Haymaker".

Shaun Bemiller drove his ‘33 Dodge Roadster to the Sunday Hot Rod 1 title with a win over the '39 Plymouth of Wanda Johnson in the finals.

The Rock 'N' Race drew a huge collection of show cars as usual that were narrowed down to group of 20 that took home hardware.  



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