Legendary Legacy

As we continue to look back at Atlanta $10,000 from this past weekend, it is appropriate to take a closer look at the venue that hosted this event. The Atlanta Dragway was crafted back in 1975 in Commerce, Georgia with the help of Gene Bennett. Originally, there were plans for the area to be an airport. When that idea never materialized, the Atlanta Dragway quickly became a drag racing hot bed. Now recognized as a “cutting edge” facility by drag racing experts, the Atlanta Dragway has been the home of the NHRA Southern Nationals for three decades. Drag Racing legend Kenny Bernstein scored one of the earliest of his many career wins at the Atlanta Dragway in 1979 as he won the IHRA Dixie Nationals. Bernstein recalls his experience at the Atlanta Dragway as being “a diamond in the rough.”

Beer in Gallon Jugs

When the Atlanta Dragway was first built, the parking lots were big hills. Bob Frey recalls a comical occurrence that took place at the inaugural IHRA event at the Atlanta Dragway in 1976 involving the aforementioned hills. According to Frey, “They (spectators) used to take their street cars and try to drive them up the hills. If you had some rain there were times they would slide down and end up on the roof.”One of the factors that has always made this Banks County racetrack stand out is the raucous atmosphere created by the fans.

According to Kurt Johnson, who only a teenager during his first trip to Atlanta Dragway, “It was wild, they sold the beer in gallon jugs, it was definitely interesting.” Oddly enough, the Atlanta Dragway did not allow beer bottles in the gates, so fans were encouraged to swap out their bottles for the less hazardous gallon containers. Fan participation did not stop with a little liquid courage.

A Passion for Racing

Fan hijinks aside, the Atlanta Dragway was sold to Norman Pearah in 1980. Pearah was a retired pro football player who turned to his passion for drag racing when his playing days were over. The track was renovated and became an NHRA sanctioned racetrack. However, this meant that the Atlanta Dragway was only open twice a year for big races. Following this upgrade, the Atlanta Dragway was sold again in 1987, this time to stock car driver Gary Brown, and his associates J.D. Stevens, and Rudy Brown. The venue would receive more upgrades throughout the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Improvements included aluminum grandstand seating, a rebuilt concession stand, and permanent restrooms. Following these major reconstructions, the Atlanta Dragway was purchased by the NHRA in 1993.

Atlanta Dragway Today

At present, the Atlanta Dragway is part of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. The track has been the home of some memorable moments in National Hot Rod Association History, including Ashley Force-Hood’s gender barrier breaking victory in 2008, when she became the first female to win a funny car event. Ashley’s father, renowned NHRA competitor John Force has won several Atlanta Dragway hosted events. The Atlanta Dragway continues to be a premiere location for NHRA sponsored events, as cars have been roaring down the track for 37 years.

Dixie Twister in the twilight at Atlanta Dragway 2012. Both legends still alive and better than ever.


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