Pinpointing exactly when drag racing began is a bit difficult, but nothing holds more history than the race tracks themselves. These tracks were the backdrop for legendary runs by Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen, and many more. Unfortunately, a lot of tracks have closed throughout the years, but many are still up and running. Check out our roundup below of some of the oldest operating drag strips in the United States.
Great Lakes Dragaway- Union Grove, WI
Opened in 1955, the Great Lakes Dragaway, also known as the “The Biggest Little Track in the World” became the oldest operating dragstrip in the country after the Inyokern Airport closed its doors. It has hosted drag racing legends like Don Garlits, Tom McEwen, and even Evel Knievel. It has without a doubt become one of the most significant dragstrips in drag racing history in the U.S.
Atco Dragway- Atco, NJ
Built back in 1960, the Atco Dragway is the oldest dragstrip in New Jersey and the busiest in the nation. Their opening ceremony had 1,500 people in attendance and over 200 cars competing in 38 different classes. Atco Dragway is under the new ownership of the Capone family, who are well known in the drag racing community (Len Capone Sr. was present for the grand opening ceremony of Atco Dragway).
Maple Grove Raceway- Monton, PA
Maple Grove Raceway has undergone a couple of transformations—it started out as a swimming pool, then turned into a racetrack, to its final form as the dragway it is today in 1962. Originally a ⅕ mile strip, it was then expanded to a quarter-mile strip in 1964. It’s also the track where Pat Dankin beat out Don Garlits for the Top Fuel title in the All-American Pro-Series. This wonderful piece of drag racing history is currently up for sale for a cool $8 million.
Bristol Dragway- Bristol, TN
The Bristol Motor Speedway was built in 1961, but the straight track wasn’t built until 1965, creating the incomparable monstrous sound of dragsters going upward of 300 miles down the stip, which gave the track the nickname “Thunder Valley.” Some unforgettable moments that have taken place at Bristol Dragway include Eddie Hill facing off against Art Arfon, and runs from “Bad Buddy” Ingersoll’s turbocharged V-6 Buick, which was later outlawed.