Tuesday, June 5, 2018

2018 Summernationals

That's right folks, there is no 2018 Summernationals. Old Bridge Townships Raceway Park is closed for drag racing. This is the week I mark on my calendar as the week to be at E'Town. It has been a small tradition of mine over the last few years. In January of this year (2018) the ownership of Raceway Park released the news that they would close for drag racing thus ending the event known as the NHRA Summernationals. The reasons for the closure are unimportant. The result is thousands of drag racing fans will be denied seeing the stars of the NHRA moving forward. Those stars have been coming to the central Jersey track since 1965 when E'Town opened for business. Names like Garlits, Muldowney, Prudhomme,Jenkins,Pedragon,Force as well as thousands of sportsmen have raced on the legendary black top at Englishtown. This was a place that was my second home growing up in the '70's. Going there to see the various events, then later on running my 1974 AMC Matador.
In the 70's there weren't as many national events to keep the pros busy so they toured the country for events. 16 funny cars, fuelers or pro stocks would show up on a Sunday and make runs down the track. It was, and probably still is, the most accessable pro sport. For only a few dollars you can get access to pits while the drivers and their crews worked on the cars and signed autographs. This is,of course, nothing unusual for any drag racing track. But Englishtown was our track in our home town and that was special. We didn't have to hop the train to get there. All we did was get
 in our cars and drive over there. Up until last year, that is how it was. What other sports facility in New Jersey could say that since 1965 every major star made an appearance and was openly accessable to every fan walking around. Today it is not unusual for big athletes to walk around with security to prevent fan access. Drag racers thrive on the access.
In later years,as many of our heroes began to die, drag racing tried to immortalize these heroes with nostalgia events. While the racers themselves were not there, tribute cars were built and raced as a reminder to us old guys of how things were back in the day. The biggest of these stars was Jungle Jim Leberman and his constant companion Jungle Pam. He called E'Town his
home track and we embraced him as our own despite his national audience.
While most of the memories I have are good ones, there were numerous bad memories there as well. Namely the deaths. Scott Kalitta being one of the recent ones in 2008.
Now the track at Englishtown is history. It is still opened for special events, motorcross, drifting and road course racing. But drag racing is gone in central Jersey. We fans didn't know this was coming until it happened. If we did, nothing would have changed except we would have had a chance to say good bye to the place where a lot of us grew up and witnessed drag racing history. If I knew last years Summernationals would be the last, I might have taken a few more photos of the facilty itself. I know for a fact, thousands of fans would have apprecieted another event, just to say "Good-Bye". In the mean time, please enjoy some of the photos I have taken at E'Town over the years.

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