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Friday, July 3, 1970

Carlisle Dragstrip

Grog at Carlisle Dragstrip. A regular I saw many times.
Note: there is very little on the web about  Carlisle (Ark) Dragstrip. Sorry my recall lacks for a proper essay on the place. From the looks of it this may be the only online record of the place.

Carlisle Dragstrip was Central Arkansas's main or only official dragstrip. I'm not sure of its exact years of operation, but I know first hand it was open all through the 1960's and early 70's.

It was situated just outside of Carlisle Arkansas. It wasn't a full time raceway. It was actually an airport for the crop dusters that serviced the local farms. Only on weekends was it in use as a dragstrip. All the concession stands and other things needed for running a dragstrip were in portable trailers.

Even though it was not a full-fledged big deal dragstrip, it did feature every big name in drag racing at the time. I saw Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen "Snake and Mongoose" (movie: Snake and Mongoose), and I probably saw The Little Red Wagon a dozen times over the years. Don Garlits even gave me a spark plug used in his world famous dragster (its in a museum now) .

My dad, Tommy "T" Miller, raced his first few cars there. Yes, his cars he drove everyday. He didn't have average cars. He owned a series of GTO's with special edition motors (I believe with three four-barrel carburators) and purple paint.

My first visit to the dragstrip was after my dad's years racing there. It was maybe the summer of 1970, or 71 at the latest. My dad usually stood near the starting line. For me that was all fine...till the funny cars. For any who don't know, funny cars and dragsters are a breed above all other drag race cars. They burn a higher grade fuel, and have horsepower in the thousands. When their motor revs even a little bit, the earth shakes several hundred feet away.

So there I was, 9 years old and standing less than 30 feet away from two of these funny cars. I was dealing with it till the staging lights went green and they took off (they reach 60 miles per hour in one second). I panicked and ran from my dad back to our car. I never had bolted from either of my parents like that before, or since. My dad came looking for me and was totally understanding.

I know that sounds like drag racing wasn't going to be my thing...but the trauma of that first race didn't last. I loved drag racing after that, and stood at the starting line both at Carlisle and Memphis dragstrips.

A funny story about one Sunday at the Carlisle Dragstrip. It was my dad, Murray Draper (owner of The Gun Exchange), and me. We were in my dad's 1969 Pontiac Bonneville, which is pretty low riding long wheelbase car. My comment about low riding and long wheelbase is important in this story. My dad was a to save a buck (and died with 60,000 in the bank and no debts). Him and Murray planned to get in the drag races for free, by taking backroads that eventually end at the back end of the drag strip near the pits.

These roads were dirt roads for farm tractors, they didn't have a single house or business on them, they were just paths between field crops for the farmers. The drag strip didn't manage these road entrances because no one without a giant farm tractor would drive down them.

One more thing to add to this story: a torrential rain storm had just waterlogged the region over the last week. Carlisle is situated in the southern delta, all flat land. Away from cities, in the delta farm country, rain has nowhere to go other than into the soil or sit as mud and giant puddles. When there's an especially long duration of rain, the soil is saturated, and then the delta becomes a mud bog.

When we got to Carlisle all was easy till my dad got the end of the blacktop and saw the backroads: they were nothing but mud. ....we went anyway.

Miles and miles of slowly trudging our big Pontiac through mud. Then we came to IT. It was a half mile stretch of water, under it somewhere was a muddy road, but all we could see was the surface of a huge pond of questionable shallow depth.

...we went anyway.

The story ends with us making it to the races without ever getting stuck. God only watches over Southerners, especially those not going to church and sneaking into drag races.

The last time I went to Carlisle Dragstrip had to have been no later than 1975. My dad got more interested in dirt track racing, and began going to the Benton Speedbowl on Interstate 30 south of Little Rock. The rest of his life he was a fanatic about dirt track and especially the World of Outlaws.

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The author of this blog also has two books available on Amazon. Athena Techne uses some of the autobiographical content of this blog and adds a philosophical perspective utilizing the ancient Greek god Athena.

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Autistic Crow Computer is a fiction set in Seattle, about an autistic boy and two crows. The book was written for young autistic readers, although reviews by non-autistics have been positive.

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