It has been fifty-five years since Island Dragway opened its gates for the first time, and while almost everything has dramatically changed over that time, the one thing that remains steady is a good time at the track. With the National Dragster Challenge race sandwiched in the middle on Saturday, Friday night featured some of the best jet car exhibition runs ever, and Sunday included a mixture of old and new racers along with an eight car nostalgia funny car show. Anybody who couldn’t find something to like on this weekend had to be in a coma. Let’s start with the Friday night jets.

          The Funny Cars and Dragster of Hanna Motorsports headlined the evening’s program with a match between Rich Hanna in his GOJO machine taking on Ken Hall aboard the Top Secret entry. Hall, who had set the 1000 foot track records just a year ago, was looking to take another three straight rounds from Hanna, and had an auspicious start when his first blast netted him a win light. Hanna was determined to not go down without a fight and pulled even in the second round that just added to the excitement for the final match between these two jet jockeys. Hall was able to pull off the deal and lower the elapsed time track record for the class to a whopping 4.914 seconds at a speed of 248.93 mph. The close and fast racing is testament to why this crew lists among this year’s events appearances at four NHRA national events.

          While Hanna and Hall were duking it out in the floppers, Jill Canuso Fazekas was strapped inside the Hanna Motorsports jet dragster, the Queen of Diamonds. This lady can flat out drive the unique side-driver wingless flyer, and put on three great runs, all straight as an arrow and faster than grape nuts through a goose. Her best effort for the evening was a 4.615 second, 264 mph lap that had everyone on their feet.

          A pair of wheelstanders were also on hand and looking for some speedy quarter mile junkets with sparks flying behind as they covered the distance with the front wheels high in the air. K.C. Jones and his trick looking Crazy Train ride is as unusual as any you can find, but he had some trouble keeping the rig up for the total distance. No such problems appeared for the driver of the quickest and fastest wheelstander in the country, Danny O’Day and his 34 Ford Superwinch creation. Two full pulls resulted in a best time slip of 9.33 seconds and 148 mph. Now remember, this is with the back tires planted on the track and the front end of the car waving in the air. A true feat of skill and daring by any standard.

          Sunday featured several “Then and Now” race categories, a car show and eight funny cars in Chicago match race competition. Four injected and four blown alcohol burners were on hand to expand the nostalgia experience with three rounds of racing, finished off by the two quickest runners facing off in the final. Long, smoky burnouts, some pretty neat back-up ladies and a feeling like it was forty years ago made for a fantastic afternoon. When the déjà vu experience was over, the best of the bunch in the supercharged category turned out to be the “Time Bomb” Chevy Vega of Bob Toth. The Keith Black hemi-powered NFC turned in a best performance of 5.587 seconds and 193.49 mph in the thousand foot race. The injected cars raced the quarter mile distance and Frank Barnard emerged as the best of the best in that lot aboard his “Poison Arrow” Plymouth Arrow fiberglass creation. Motivated by a Dart Chevrolet motor carrying Enderle injectors, Barnard set the standard for the class at 7.867 and 168.20 on his title run.

          The rest of the Sunday event rounded out with a victory in NETO Comp eliminator going to Greg Georges and his Camaro when he outlasted the altered driven by Lou LaFerrara. A two second head start for the Hugger and a couple of hundredths on the tree equaled a win light on a pass of 9.237, 145.81 while the open wheeled entry dipped under the handicap with a stout 7.72 and 168.26. The large contingent in NETO Nostalgia class worked down to a match between Vince Judd and his 70 Cougar and the 69Chevelle of Wayne Farquher. The final became a case of the calculator as both drivers were quicker than expected and the difference in run out was only a thousandth of a second, but it was in favor of Judd. The Cougar trophied at 10.768 and 123.34 to a close but losing 11.297, 116.82 for the Chevy.

          MANDRA circuit racers also had their turn at the track, and at the end of the day, Merritt Snyder and his Comet went off against the Monza of Jim Shearer. Shearer was to get the head start but wanted a little more and pushed the tree to red, wasting a 10.59, 127 pass for second place. Snyder carded a 10.37 time at a speed of 128 for the trophy.

          The nostalgia classes were divided up by elapsed time into three segments. C.Mark Abrams won the quickest bracket in his Demon Mopar when he cranked out a 9.59 and 131.72 in the final. Keith Stancyzk fouled out with his Vega bodied racer that gave no chance to his time of 8.87, 154.67. In the 10 to 12.99 bracket Dan Caissie pulled off the title with a title dash victory over Dave Miller. Caissie’s Ford handily won the deal at 11.49 and 109.87 after Miller went red at the start in his gorgeous 55 T-bird and slowed to a 12.51, 110.60. Regular attendee Gary Coleman took his Caddy powered 31 Ford coupe to victory in the 13 and slower category when his opponent fouled away and the old Ford ticketed a 13.16 at 101.98.