Kansas Speedweek has arrived. The much anticipated nine-day event will shine the spotlight on Great Bend as the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association celebrates it’s 60th anniversary with a whole slate of activities that will draw visitors from across Kansas and out of state to the city.
“I’ve been flooded with calls and interest,” SRCA president Hank Denning said. “As long as the weather holds, it looks like we’re going to have an amazing weekend.”
Saturday, the National Hot Rod Association presents its first ever West Central Super Quick Series. The series will consist of dragsters and fast door cars competing in separate ladders until the winners of each ladder runoff in a final to determine the overall Ignite High Performance Ethanol Series Super Quick winner. Spectators can expect to see cars racing at speeds over 200 miles per hour at this event sponsored by Ignite racing fuel. The Summit Point Series will also be featured, as well as several tests this weekend.
Roger Evans, Amarillo, Texas, will be making the trip up to test out his alcohol dragster. SRCA member Kevin Peterson, Garfield, gets the credit for getting convincing Evans to take the plunge into racing he said during a recent telephone interview. After helping Peterson work on cars, he put together his racer last year. His driver, James Stevens, is from Nebraska, so the Great Bend track is a good halfway point, but that’s not the only reason Evans picked it.
“Great Bend is a good track and a good facility,” he said. “Everyone is super nice and helpful.”
The history between the NHRA and the SRCA goes all the way back to the beginning. In 1946, the U.S. Army abandoned their base in Great Bend, and granted the property to the City of Great Bend. It sat idle for a few years when members of the SCRA convinced the city council to allow the use of the former B-29 bomber runway as a place to race cars. Then, in 1955, the association joined the NHRA and with the help of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, petitioned Wally Parks, president of the NHRA, to hold the first national event there. They were successful, and Great Bend and racing have since been forever linked.
Glen Amerine, owner of Amerine Utilities, Inc. has been a lifelong resident of Great Bend and can remember attending this first NHRA national event with his family when he was nine years old. When he was serving in the Air Force, stationed at Dover, Del. in 1969, he entered his first race. “I drove a brand new 1969 Camaro,” he said. He raced for a few years, and then he and his wife agreed to stop in order to raise a family. In 1994, he got started back up again, and now racing is a family affair. Amerine races, as does his son Craig and his wife Missy, his daughter Marcy Smith and her husband Mark, their son, Jeremy Smith and his wife Rachel and their other son Jared Smith. The family has eight or nine cars at any one time, and races them as they can. This weekend, Amerine said the family will enter four into the competitions.
The fun isn’t over when the sun goes down Sunday, either. On Wednesday evening, May 1, close to 100 cars will surround the Courthouse Square for the Kansas Speedweek Cruise Night. Bumper to Bumper of Great Bend is the sponsor, and has arranged for several SRCA hot rods and Vintage Wheels car club cars to take part. Other muscle cars will also be included. The cars will line up at 7:00 p.m. at the Courthouse, and begin the cruise travelling north on Main Street to 24th, then on to Patton until it meets up with 10th Street. They will then head East, travel back to Main Street and finish by circling the Courthouse Square once again at 7:45 p.m. The rest of the evening will be spent socializing, weather permitting, Denning said.
The following weekend, May 3 through 5, brings the NHRA Lucas Oil Series Division Five race to the track. “Thunder on the Plains” will feature even more cars reaching top speeds over 210 MPH. Friday will be a day for test and tune and tech, with check-in starting at 7 a.m. Saturday time trials and qualifying will begin at 9 a.m. and Top Dragster and Top Sportsman starting at 11 a.m. and continuing through the evening. Eliminations will start at 9am on Sunday.
When everyone has had a chance to catch their breath, on Saturday, May 18th the Barton County Historical Society Museum will host the 2nd Annual Rolling Sculpture Car Show. Car clubs and individuals can begin registering at 10 a.m., and the public is invited to come out and not only enjoy the cars, but also explore the museum displays commemorating 60 years of racing in Great Bend, with photos, flags and club shirts as well as other memorabilia and more. Participants can learn about the SRCA’s application for the dragstrip to be designated a national historical site. If successful, the Great Bend SCRA dragstrip would become the only drag strip in the nation with that designation. It would join the ranks of two other racetracks , The Occoneechee Speedway of North Carolina and the Bonneville Speedway, of Utah.
“The chances are good, with the help of the NHRA, that the SCRA drag strip can earn that designation,” Denning said.