PUTTING A WRAP ON 2018
The racing season for 2018 began with much promise and hope, but as in all situations, reality and time have a way of changing things. This year was a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly, very ugly. And while the bad stuff is likely to be what is most remembered of this season, there were a lot of good things that happened as well. As for the ugly, well, I still aint got no prettier.
Let us begin with the big list of the bad. Weather was either wet or cold in the early part of the year and that led to the first competitive race on April 14. Throughout the first half of the schedule only about half of the events were able to be completed. As an example, only one bracket race was run in May, and due to conditions that race was not totally completed, and the planned doorslammer race with the top sportsman cars was washed out. More rain outs hampered the second half of the points season with no races run in the month of August for the classes. The rescheduled T/S race was held but with the ultimate winner being decided on reaction time only rather than a full race due to track conditions. And of course there was one race where the track temperature reached 140 degrees. Go figure.
The anniversary race was shaping up to be the biggest and best exhibition show in decades. Originally the show included a mix of injected and blown alcohol Funny Cars, some fuel F/C entrants, a couple of nostalgia AA/FD racers and the jet cars of the Hanna family. So what happened? Initial date, rained out. Rescheduled to the following week, rained out. Moving to the Ol Daze Drags September date we were lucky enough to have many of the alcohol burners and the fuel funnies available. Result, rain out. Make up date we still had the floppers on hand and they did a magnificent job and provided a great show. But any time you need to reschedule an event it has a tendency to draw a smaller turnout. That is just the way it works. But those who came to watch were treated to passes like Joe Morrison’s scoot that had him pushing the Super Camaro blown alcohol machine to a speed of 197.36. And Chris Massarella made a pair of runs in excess of 193 in his supercharged Monza. The Fall Nostalgia event was completed using the bogey qualifying process because one lane had been oiled and it was judged that by the time it could be cleaned the track would have been too cold and unsafe. So innovation was used whereby all remaining contestants got one shot to put up a run and the best package was declared the winner. The NETO and East Coast Gassers decided to just call it a day without finishing there event. And the 3K Footbrake race that was supposed to happen on the Sunday of the bracket finals had to be moved due to weather. When that date came, rain overnight and cool temps shortened the race track to eighth mile. And wouldn’t you know, as the sun was setting a test and tune car oiled the track, forcing an early halt to the program at the beginning of the third round, and the total purse was split with those still in contention. Even as of this writing, the track is under water for the second time this year due to extremely heavy rains on Friday night that made the top end surface look like the River Stix, a place right out of Dante’s Inferno.
So now that we have a pretty good picture of the bad, what about the year was good? Well, we fielded a bracket finals team that not only had a good time at the race but finished third in team points and notched a runner up in Pro with Chris Cassidy. But the big news from the finals was that the finalists in Bike were two long time Island Dragway racers in the form of Barry Stephens and Don Hookway. Hookway was successful in the effort and will be heading to Pomona in quest of a national championship. Now that would really be good news.
Prior to the season opener, many volunteers descended on the facility to make improvements and spruce the place up a bit. Truthfully I could not list all those who chipped in with material and labor and would hesitate to try to make a list for fear of missing some. But I do want to say a huge thank you to all those folks who worked so hard. The place looks great and all that effort is greatly appreciated.
The track was able to pick up some extra equipment to provide back up for systems and items to assist in track maintenance . The long road to installing a septic system was finally realized and the new bathrooms are a welcome addition to the facility. And with that project complete it allowed the reopening of the concession stand, again a welcome development.
For about two decades we had a computer operator who worked practically every event, including Friday nights and Sundays as well as the regular Saturday races. Colleen was very good at the job and I came to depend heavily on her. While it appears easy to run the electronics I can assure you it is a challenging job that requires concentration and the ability to get things right in the midst of chaos. And she performed extremely well week in and week out. Perhaps one of the hardest tasks of the job is working with me, and she excelled at that as well. So that would be a bad thing as she has relocated to Florida to pursue her chosen profession. The good news is that Jeremy has taken over the seat, at least for the remainder of this season, and has done an excellent job on the computer. Every job at the track is important and vital to the overall success of an event, from the inspectors to the starting line crew and those in the staging lanes and at the top end. The pieces all have to fit together. But if the computer function is poor, the event can lag and sow confusion that detracts from the smooth operation of a race. We are fortunate to have had a great person in the seat in Colleen and then to replace her with another super person in Jeremy.
So 2018 was a rough year for the track. We can only hope that next season will be better in terms of weather and all those things that can negatively impact operations. For now it is time to start winding down as the holidays and off season approaches. I want to thank all the staff of Island Dragway for all their efforts this year often under very trying circumstances. And I want to thank Melissa and Carl for all of their hard work and determination to make Island Dragway the iconic facility it has been for almost 60 years. And I hope they can continue to provide a great place to race for many years to come.;
But most of all I want to thank all the racers and fans for sticking with us this year. To Muller Custom for contingency awards to the Street bracket and Barry Stephens for contingency to the Bike racers. We hope your experiences with us were pleasant and that you feel the type of family connection we try to instill here at Island. Have a safe and pleasant holiday season, and we hope to see you again in 2019.