The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the City of Great Bend, will welcome drag racers to town this upcoming weekend for the Rocky Mountain Race Week. The public is invited to a special welcome event at Jack Kilby Square starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 17.
This family-friendly event will bring together the community with the racers as they kick off their annual race week in Great Bend with races starting Saturday, June 18. Dragracers will have vehicles staged around Jack Kilby Square in downtown Great Bend for the public to view.
Chamber President Megan Barfield hopes the community gets involved this race week.
“We really encourage the community to come and help make Great Bend a memorable and welcoming stop for our out-of-town guests,” she said. “They’re driving hundreds of miles along their seven-day race period. Having them start and stop in Great Bend is a huge win for the SRCA Dragstrip.”
The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Ambassador Club will also be in the square from 4-8 p.m. serving popcorn and passing out special race week promo books, while supplies last. Visit with the drivers, check out their cars, welcome the drivers, and then do some downtown shopping while redeeming the special race season promos.
The SRCA dragstrip has strong appeal to racers across the country and having this series in Great Bend bodes well for local businesses and hotels, said SRCA volunteer and local car enthusiast Chad Ehrlich. “Most of them (racers) will get here the Friday before the event. We’ll start racing on Saturday and we don’t leave for the next track until Sunday.”
Racers will arrive back in Great Bend Friday, June 24, with many staying overnight in local hotels. Ehrlich adds, “We have a great opportunity to show how great Great Bend is, how awesome our track is, and the support our racetrack has from the City of the Great Bend, which is something a lot of people don’t have.”
Over 250 racers will make the trip to Great Bend for days one and seven of racing at the newly resurfaced SRCA Dragstrip located at 455 W. Barton County Road, Great Bend. Races will take place Saturday, June 18 and again Friday, June 24. Spectator tickets are available at the gate for $15. Children 12 and under are free. Gates open at 9 a.m. Racing starts at 3 p.m. Visit rockymountainraceweek.comfor a full schedule including stops in Colorado and Nebraska.
About Rocky Mountain Race Week
In the grand tradition of Funny Car Summer, Two-Lane Blacktop, and Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week, the Rocky Mountain Race Week competition spans seven days and four racetracks. Competitors must drive their cars between tracks without the help of support vehicles or chase vehicles. Multiple classes fit a large variety of cars from 6-second bruisers to rat rods and everything in between.
Rocky Mountain Race Week (RMRW) is the ultimate test of drag racers, competing on quarter-mile strips every day for a week in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas in mid-July.
Learn more and view the schedule at http://www.rockymountainraceweek.com/. Follow them on Facebook at @rockymountainraceweek.
The City of Great Bend acquired the B-29 Army Air Force Base from the military after it was declared surplus in 1946. The first race was held May 12, 1953. Sunflower Rod and Custom Association (SRCA) was formed Jan. 19, 1954 and joined NHRA in April 1955.
The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce on behalf of SRCA wrote a letter to Wally Parks requesting that Great Bend be the site for the first National Event. NHRA said yes and this race would establish the official acceleration records for stand and start quarter-mile racing.
The first nationals started with 219 cars and 15,000 spectators. Art Chrisman ran 146.16 MPH and Lloyd Scott set a new speed record for American drag racing at 151 MPH. In 1956, the one-year-old AHRA said they would like to have their first National event at Great Bend on the 8,000-foot-long track and did so until 1959. In 1960 the President of AHRA moved the event to Kansas City International Raceway.
The club ran races after that and as time went on, they slowly fell away from running the track and disbanded. In 1993 the club reorganized and went back to the original name of Sunflower Rod and Custom Association. They did this to help in maintaining the track. It was pursued to have it recognized as a Kansas Historical Site and in 1994 was successful. At the same time, the track went back to its original name of SRCA Dragstrip, for which it is registered. The facility is now eligible to be registered nationally.