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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Where Drag Strips Oughtn’t Be

By Vic Cooke

I'd like to ask if maybe any of you former touring nitro "shoes" recall P.I.D. from a driver's perspective. If you've been there, I'm sure you'd remember it. Maybe not fondly. But my perspective was from the other side of the fence, and the "keystone" role it played in my formative drag racing exposure.

Where should a dragstrip be? Guess if you're in SoCal, this means anywhere an Industrial Park or housing development is destined to fit. Elsewhere, it's geographically challenged sites or desolate, "field of dreams" locations.

I imagine many of us can share stories about such drag strips we have encountered, and I hope you will.

What brings this to mind are the Big Shows in Bristol and Denver. Today, both are reconstructed, "modernized" facilities, but originally they were in the spirit of "damn the torpedoes ...we're buildin' a dragstrip HERE!"

Another strip comes to mind with which I had a much more personal relationship... Pittsburgh International Dragway, now defunct. In many respects, it was like Bristol. It was situated in a ravine, and was flanked on either side by parallel mountainsides. Steep, close together mountainsides that not only contained the sweet song of racing engines but replayed it again and again in diminishing echoes.

About the only level section was the quarter mile itself. The staging lanes angled down one hillside toward the starting line, and the shutdown went immediately uphill, short and leftward curving around the mountain. Many scars on the outside guardrail down there where high speed machines set up to go straight attempted left turns under heavy braking.

Only the minimal excavation to make this all fit was done. The rubble, together with steel mill slag and coarsely crushed strip-mining shale ("red dog") filled the floor of the ravine to form a parking lot. Spectators viewed the proceedings either through a chain-link fence at strip's edge or over the tops of their parked vehicles from the
adjacent mountainside.

It may not sound like a particularly appealing place, and for certain, it lacked Bristol's charisma. But I remember it fondly because it was here that I was introduced to the rites of nitro, and in many respects, it was perfect for that experience. The whole place would tremble, the report off the mountain walls cracked like rifle fire, and the sweet,
spent nitro hovered and lingered in the narrow valley confines.

All this was thirty five years ago, yet the passion that ignited at this "dragstrip where a dragstrip oughtn’t be" seems a long way from being extinguished. Thanks, P.I.D.

Vic Cooke


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