It was nearly 50 years ago that Alfred Stauffer with some help from the Eastern Custom Car Association carved a fifth-of-a-mile long drag strip out of a field in Brecknock Township, Pa.
All the ECCA wanted was a safe place to race their cars. Stauffer, a local businessman who started a logging business in 1923 and built a pool, picnic area and restaurant onto the cleared land, knew the potential of such a venture.
Today, Maple Grove is a quarter-mile long and a world-class racing facility that hosts races from April to November, including drag racing’s elite series – the NHRA Full Throttle Series. Over the years some of the most colorful personalities in all of motorsports, including Don Garlits, “Jungle Jim” Liberman, Shirley Muldowney, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, John Force, Tony Schumacher and Kenny Bernstein have all competed at The Grove.
To celebrate everything that has happened over the decades, Maple Grove Raceway will present the 50th Anniversary Spectacular on Saturday, June 23. The event will feature a bit of everything that has built the track, from the local racer taking part in the weekly bracket series, to nitromethane-powered Funny Cars that have thrilled generations of fans who have come through the ticket gates.
“The time has finally arrived for Maple Grove to celebrate its past, present and future,” said MGR vice president/general manager Lex Dudas, who has planned this event since last fall with his staff. “This will definitely be a ‘can’t miss’ show.”
Pit gates open for racers at 9 a.m. with spectator gates opening at noon.
The day kicks off with bracket racers from Super, Pro and Junior Dragster classes taking part in a special event. Super and Pro will qualify, using closest to the dial-in, to make a 32-car field for each eliminator. The Juniors will race in a normal track trophy program. Winners for each class will receive a special commemorative trophy.
Qualifying runs will be made at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with eliminations at 1:30 p.m.
Also through the day there will be a car show, including a special “Where Were You in ’62?” corral that will feature cars from that year. Drivers who come in a 1962 car to display will be admitted free.
The car show opens at noon with grand marshal Don “The Snake” Prudhomme picking his 25 favorites at 4 p.m. with awards at 5.
Some car aficionados can begin their day at Wimpy & Dee’s Classic Diner in Honey Brook. There will be a free car show starting at 8 a.m. while participants are welcome to eat breakfast. They can also buy admission for the 50th Spectacular for $25 (a $5 discount). The cars will then cruise at 11 a.m. to Maple Grove and take part in a special parade before moving to a special parking area.
The build up to the main event will begin at 6 p.m. with NHRA announcer Bob Frey serving as master of ceremonies for the prerace introductions. Members of Maple Grove’s Walk of Fame – including the 2012 class of Prudhomme, the ECCA, Dale Pulde, Raymond Beadle and Frank Hawley – will be introduced along with all champions from the weekly Money Trail E.T. Series that began in 1971.
At the center of the main event that starts at 7 p.m. is the Auto-Plus Cavalcade of Funny Cars. Eight nitro-powered cars will take to the track including several favorites as Pulde’s War Eagle, Hawley’s Chi-Town Hustler, Beadle’s Blue Max and Peter Gallen’s Poverty Stricken. Eight alcohol-powered Funny Cars will take part, too.
The Winged Express fuel altered will make its return to Maple Grove for the first time since 1971. This fast car, known for its unpredictability on the track, has been a fan favorite since the 60s.
Jet car fans will get more than their share of thrills. Al Hanna’s Funny Car duo of Top Secret and Gojo Firebird will be racing each other, as will K.C. Jones’ Team Steam of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the Cannonball Express.
If that wasn’t enough, Bob Motz’s Jet Truck and its wall of flame will be lighting up the evening sky.
To top it all off, fireworks will light up the evening sky.
Spectator admission is $30 with teens ages 13-15 $10 and children 12-and-under free with paid adult.
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