Mark Twain once said “the reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated”. Last December it appeared that the demise of Island Dragway was not an exaggeration, but a cruel reality. Suffering financially from a number of factors, not the least of which were back to back seasons from hell as far as the weather was concerned, it looked like the track that set the standard in the early 1960s had gone the way of the Dodo bird. But, like the mythological Phoenix bird, which seems to arise from the ashes and is reborn, Island Dragway was rescued and reopened starting this weekend under new management and with a new set of dreams to provide a safe, friendly place to pursue the need for speed. Taking the reins at the facility is Melissa DeMarckey, the granddaughter of original owners Ed and Kate Kowalick. Melissa has grown up around the track, competing in the Junior Dragster class for a number of years and then graduating to a Super Pro/Comp dragster. Along with long-time employee John Ringwald assisting with the management duties, DeMarckey brings a different perspective and energy to the venerable old facility and a new vision of what is desired and needed to make the operation a success.

The grand reopening weekend started off with a tremendous turnout Friday night for Street Legal drags. For the first time in many, many years the local police were needed to control the line waiting to get in off of Route 46. Saturday brought a bracket racing tune-up and test and tune session. Sunday was committed to a Nostalgia event with any entry older than thirty years eligible to compete and more test and tune action for the rest. All in all a terrific start to the next installment of drag racing at the Cabbage Patch.

With no points at stake the bracket contingent was out just to get the feel of the surface and the thrill of the competition. Scott Vanderlely and his Chevelle out of Ottsville Pa emerged with the Super Pro title when he punched out the RED entry driven by Martinsville NJ’s Randy Kurachik. Mark Smith in a SBC Pinto dropped the QF round to Kurachik when the former broke out by a thousandth of a second to advance the dragster. Chris Hunt moved his Vega into the semis with a win over Brian Mursky’s 66 Chevy. And Vanderlely took out Marc Pullen after Pullen was super late on the tree. An automatic advance for Vanderlely with a bye in the semis left Kurachik to face Hunt for the other spot in the final. The digger rapped out a 6.47 at 157 mph in the 1000 foot race to get the light over the Vega’s 8.34 and 122.62. Vanderlely cut a .008 RT in the final dash and was never headed as he covered the distance in 8.16 seconds at a speed of 124.64 mph for the initial S/P victory of the year. Kurachik was second best via his 6.53, 157.17.

The Pro division, as has been the norm over the years, contained the largest contingent of the day. When it was all over Jim Young had another trophy to put in his case when he bested Frank Armando in the title run. Armando had lost in the first round but bought his way back in and gunned down John Lobosco in the quarters. Young was better than Pat Conway and Mick Lucas turned back the efforts of Carmen Bruno in the QF. Young was guaranteed the final with a semis bye run and Armando rode his Camaro to a 14.06 at 96.41 to bump out Lucas’ Chevelle that posted up a losing 10.42, 130.25 after a foul start. Young was near perfect in the final with a run activated by a .002 and a slip showing 10.86 at 114.69 to turn on the win light. Runner-up numbers of 14.12 and 92.30 went to Armando.

Bill Voelzke piloted his Dart to the Street honors, finishing off the night against Rob Hammer in a Malibu. Tom Woods lost in the QF as his T-bird was not good enough to get by Hammer, and Voelzke bested the Maverick of Jerry Ackerman. Armando and Russ Picone also advanced out of the round to make it a full four car semi. Armando had also lost in the first round in this bracket and after buying back in fell out to Hammer in the semis. Voelzke sent Picone to the exit and made ready for the deciding race in the class. This looked to be a good one but it was over as it started when Hammer tried to take too much advantage on the tree and it popped up red, tossing out his 13.15 and 100.60 time slip. Voelzke was all smiles as his 11.64, 113.09 gave him the crown.

Don Hookway put his Suzuki in the winner’s circle in Bike by taking the measure of Scott McGrath. McGrath made the mistake of fouling out his 10.28 and 125.95 that made the too quick pass of 9.37 and 143.81 the victory ticket for Hookway. Trophy class belonged to Joe Lasler and his Pontiac out of Langhorne Pa. Gary Coleman drove his 31Ford Coupe into the trophy race with hopes of putting it in the spotlight, but the foul light turned his 13.26, 101.84 into a runner-up effort. Lasler took home the cup on a pass of 12.06 at 110.19. Randy Pobutkewicz defeated Steve Gillan in Consolation Two when Gillan fouled to eliminate his 10.72, 124.38 from the count, Randy P recorded a 12.22, 110.82.

Sunday turned out four class winners for the Nostalgia Nationals competition. The N-1 class, the quickest of the group, was taken by Paul Crispyn and his Dodge when he outlasted Gerry Capasso. Although Capasso had the better light he ran an off the pace 9.28 and 148.94 that allowed Crispyn to grab the win light via his 9.27, 144.69. Sal Albanese won the N-2 division in a final round victory over Bill Voelzke. The Dodge driver, looking to make it a perfect weekend, fell just one round short as Albanese and his El Camino used a 12.12, 112.92 with a great RT to get to the stripe ahead of the losing 11.80, 110.18 effort by Voelzke.

Moving into the N-3 racers, Ray Keegan was better than Jerry Ackerman for the trophy. Keegan hit a 14.15 and 95.79 that held off the 13.59, 100.20 by Ackerman. Blaine Hertzog nailed down the N-4 honors with a victory over Greg Schreiner. A 14.32 at 95.43 held sway for Hertzog’s AMC Hornet 360 machine while Schreiner’s Camaro dropped the final at 14.09 and 96.85 mph.

So, the first weekend of the modern era is in the books. We thank all those who contributed their time and or funds to help make the rebirth of the track a reality. And we thank all those who came out and joined us over the three days. We hope you enjoyed yourself and will come back to see us again. And remember to tell you friends and bring them along. We’d love to meet them.