With clear skies expected in Great Bend Friday evening, the sound of thunder filling the air west of town won’t be coming from the skies. The 2013 drag racing season opens with a Test and Tune and Grudge Match at the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association drag strip located at the Great Bend Expo Complex. Marking the 60th anniversary of the SCRA, it’s not going to be a quiet one.
“Friday is expected to be in the 80s, so racers can generate the heat they need to make for a great race,” said SRCA president Hank Denning.
He’s been pinning down details of this historic season since October. In addition to pursuing a National Historical Register designation, The National Hot Rod Association will introduce it’s new West Central Super Quick Series at the track in April, and in May, Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign a proclamation declaring the first nine days of May “Kansas Speedweek” in honor of the SRCA’s 60th birthday. Not only will it bring national attention to SRCA, it will bring national attention to Great Bend.
With the help of the state historical society, Denning said there is a very good chance the drag strip could be given a National Historical Register designation. That would make it the only drag strip in the nation with that designation. There are two other racetracks that hold this honor, The Occoneechee Speedway, outside of Hillsborough, N.C. and the Bonneville Speedway in Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats. Denning says the chances are good, with the help of the NHRA, that the SCRA drag strip can earn that designation.
Millions of dollars were pumped into the B29 Army Air Force Base during World War II, but by 1946 it was declared surplus by the Army and became the property of the City of Great Bend. In the early 1950’s a group of racing hobbyists convinced the city to allow them to hold their a race on May 12, 1953, and that marked the start of Great Bend’s involvement with the world of drag racing. In 1955, The association joined the NHRA, and the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and the SRCA wrote to Wally Parks, president of the association, asking for Great Bend to be the site of the first national event.
“NHRA said YES and this race would establish the official acceleration records for stand and start quarter mile racing.,” according to the SRCA website. “The first nationals started with 219 cars and 15,000 spectators.”
The track has been used consistently since then, though the governing bodies have changed hands over the years, and was used heavily but not maintained very well. In 1993, out of concern that the city might be forced to close the track for safety reasons, Some longtime SRCA members approached the city about taking the drag strip back, and the rest is history. The group has not only reclaimed the track and brought it up to current NHRA safety standards, it has worked to support the Expo Complex too.
“The Expo Complex is a real important part of Great Bend,” Denning said. “While the drag strip is our main focus, we realize the Expo needs constant attention also.” The SCRA is a 501C-3 non-profit organization for the purpose of teaching safety and driving, and saving the dragstrip, Denning said.
The NHRA recognizes all the hard work the club has put into keeping the strip maintained and the spirit of racing alive in the region. This led to the decision to introduce the West Central Super Quick Series at the SRCA track on April 26-28, along with the NHRA National Open.
“The series will consist of dragsters and fast door cars competing in separate ladders until the winners of each ladder runoff in a nal to determine the overall Ignite High Performance Ethanol Series Super Quick winner,” according to Ignite racing fuel, the event sponsor.
Then, in May, the activity really heats up. Thanks to the help of Dennings brother, Kansas Sen. Jim Denning, the two have asked Gov. Sam Brownback to proclaim “Kansas Speedweek”, which is expected to be read on the Senate floor April 1.
In addition to several races planned for that week, Denning is moving into the staging lane, tying up some loose ends on a cruise night, car shows, and collaborating with state and local historical museums for displays and events yet to be announced.