Jerry Summers: Drag Racing in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama
In addition to stock car racing, the Chattanooga area has been a hotspot for the popular sport of drag racing.
At the height of this type of racing in the 1950s and 1960s, at least 11 drag tracks existed within 100 miles of Chattanooga. Today, only the Brainerd Optimist Club in Ringgold, GA and Paradise Drag Strip in Calhoun, GA are still in operation. Bands in Covington, Georgia; Blue Ridge, Tennessee (Double H. Drag Strip); Dallas, Georgia (Southeastern International Dragway); Smithville, Tennessee (Smithville Drag Strip); Blairsville, Georgia (Lloyds Drag Strip); Harriman, Tennessee (Harriman Drag Strip); Glencoe, Alabama (Greenvalley Drag Strip); Ringgold, GA (Drag City) and Loudon, Tennessee (Loudon Raceway) are closed and are only part of drag racing history.
Chattanooga was the hub of the drag strip industry and the other defunct tracks mentioned above were all within 100 miles of Hixson’s original location and the Brainerd Optimist Club’s current Ringgold locations.
The popularity of the sport was not hampered by the release of the film “Rebel Without A Cause” (1955) starring James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo which dealt with the problem of adolescents in adolescence and juvenile delinquency.
In the late 1950s, drag racing was still primarily a sport played on the West Coast.
However, in 1957, the Brainerd Optimist Club commissioned the erection of a 3,160 foot long and 40 foot wide runway in the suburb of Hixson outside of Chattanooga. John âBuddyâ Houts, a local newspaper reporter and auto enthusiast, was able to get approval from city and county officials to build the track under the sponsorship of the Brainerd Optimist Club for charitable purposes.
Unfortunately, the noise from the runway angered neighbors living nearby, and they threatened to take legal action for interfering with their “right to enjoy the peace and quiet of the area. “.
As a result, the runway was moved to the Ringgold area off I-75 and remains there today. The Saturday night races always show strong support for the sport. The Hixson runway in 1964 was converted to the Dallas Bay Skyport for use by pilots of small planes.
The Ringgold Strip has seen its ups and downs over the years with several management changes, but has been recognized as one of the best trails in the South East. Its excellent accommodations led the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) to select Brainerd as the location for one of its national meetings.
Like most previous tracks, it has been shortened from a quarter-mile drag track to an eighth-mile track due to increased safety regulations.
Hopefully the track will continue to be upgraded to meet the needs of repairing damage from occasional flooding in this low lying area.
The other surviving band is Paradise Drag Strip, which opened in 1961 in Calhoun, Georgia. The track was popular for Super Stock drag racing.
Like most tracks, racing activity has declined over the years in Paradise, but the revival of interest from the nostalgic drag racing crowd has boosted attendance and a few of these events still take place each year. .
Although they are now closed, each of the old tracks had unique characteristics. The highlight of Double H Drag Strip history came in May 1965, when it was the third and final race of a three-day Super Stock competition called the World Series of Drag Racing in Paradise Valley. , Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip and Double H Drag Strip.
The drag racing centre’s oldest track was opened on July 4, 1955 in Dallas, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta. Southeastern International Dragway drew crowds from Chattanooga and Atlanta. The trail operated until December 11, 2005, when the land was sold for development that was planned but did not take place.
A tornado in April 1968 was responsible for the closure of the Smithville Drag Strip in Smithville, Tennessee.
Located in the woods of Blairsville, Georgia, the Lloyd’s Drag Strip opened in 1962 and initially featured a concrete launch pad, then a dirt track. A fully paved running surface was put in place in 1963, but operations ceased in the late 1960s.
Harriman Drag Strip was never mentioned, but it was a popular track and attracted many fans from the surrounding area during its weekly runs. The nearby Emory River produced additional excitement when a stuck throttle or brake failure could result in the water running out for participants.
Green Valley Racing Drag Strip received excellent reviews in Glencoe, Alabama, after it opened in 1959. It operated until the 1980s when it closed, but was successfully relaunched and continued to operate until 1997. When it closed, the track became a parking area for the Green Valley Speedway dirt track.
Drag City was also located in Ringgold, Georgia, and opened in the 1960s. It served as a large home for gas and stock car racing. It was a fifth mile track and it was running simultaneously with Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip without any major issues between the competitors. It closed in 1984.
The Loudon Raceway site is now underwater following flooding of the land as part of the controversial Tellico Dam project in 1979. The track has attracted many runners from Chattanooga and Knoxville.
The history of existing and abandoned drag tracks as well as others is described in Tommy Lee Byrd’s book, “Lost Drag Strips – Ghosts of Quarter-Miles Past”, which lists a total of 15 tracks within a radius of 100 miles from Chattanooga.
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