TOP FUEL DRIVER MURT STAYING BUSY

Written by Tracy Renck; Photos by Roger Richards.

MURT

MURT2When the Southern Nationals resume Friday at Atlanta Dragway, Keith Murt will make his 2013 NHRA debut.

Murt is driving a Top Fuel dragster for John LaPorte.

“I do have my own car, but something happened with him and his driver Ike Maier,” Murt said. “He just called me kind of last minute and he said he wanted to take his car to Atlanta and he wanted to know if I would drive it and I said H*** yeah.”

The Southern Nationals were originally scheduled for May 3-5, but had to be rescheduled to Friday and Saturday because of rain.

Friday will include two qualifying sessions at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday final eliminations are slated for 11 a.m. All times are Eastern.

“I have been out of the car about six or eight months, so I’m ready to go,” Murt said. “I was disappointed it rained out last weekend because I was ready then.”

A year ago, Murt competed in NHRA events at Gainesville, Houston, Norwalk, Brainerd, Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Murt is not sure if this is just going to be a one-race deal with LaPorte.

“He has asked me to do it more than just that (Atlanta),” Murt said. “He wants to do Indianapolis (Aug. 28-Sept. 2) and maybe a couple in Canada.”

LaPorte, a business owner, is from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

This year, Murt’s driving schedule was put on the back burner because he is opening a brand-new race track in Paducah, Ky., which is Murt’s hometown. The track is named Beacon Dragway.

“It is a Division 3-sanctioned NHRA eighth-mile track,” said Murt, a successful businessman in construction. “It used to be an old airpark, but in the 1960s and 70s it was actually a quarter-mile dragstrip, but that failed. Then, they turned it into an airpark. For 34 years it was an airpark and of course aviation is down right now and I just got a wild hair and decided to make it a dragstrip. I always wanted a dragstrip. I put a 200-foot starting line of concrete and I had 1,800-feet of it laser paved. There also are new guardrails, a new concession stand and a new tower.

“Carl Weisinger, from Orlando Speed World, retired, so I went down there and bought all his safety equipment, his track scrubber, his VHT sprayer. I bought everything he had down there basically, including a 1,000-seat aluminum grandstand that I put up here. The place is really, really nice. I have the best equipment to run an eighth-mile track you can imagine.”

Beacon Dragway is hosting its first race Saturday, which includes Summit Series bracket racing. May 18 is the grand opening of the track which is being dubbed a Funny Car Spectacular.

“I’m having the Great Lakes Nostalgia Funny Car Circuit race at the track, so we should get a good crowd,” Murt said.

According to Murt, he also may do some driving of his own at his track.

“I have two cars here and I think what I’m probably going to do is probably match race a few racers here to draw a crowd,” Murt said. “Scott Palmer is going to come here (to Beacon Dragway) and match race with me on July 27th.”   

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