Recently on the Cycledrag Youtube channel we posted a video tribute to one of our favorite tracks and one of the most important tracks in motorcycle drag racing history, Atco Dragway, which unceremoniously closed forever this past summer.
AMA Prostar funder Keith “Scooter” Kizer, who started his series at this legendary track sent along some of his favorite Atco memories.
Scooter writes “The wonderful story and great archive of videos really brings back memories and hundreds of stories come to mind. Here are a few –
1) In the summer of 1989, Debbie and I drove to an IDBA event to meet with Jack O’Malley of Orient Express. This who my brother (Terry) raced for. I was there to meet with Jack, who was privately my money guy to start what was then the IHRA Motorcycle Division. From the race, we then travelled to Bristol, TN to meet with IHRA President, Ted Jones. When I got there he had already made arrangements with Bob VanSciver and Joe Sway to oversee the new sanctioning body from Atco, NJ. I was soon off to Atco, which I had been to many times, to work out the arrangements. I met with Bob, Joe and Carl Stieffenhofer. The four of us found the sanctioning body that would two years later become Prostar.
2) In September of 1989 we put on our first race calling it a Race for the Championship. It was based on points, so even though Dave Schultz won Pro Stock, John Myers won the championship because he qualified #1 and set both ends of the record. My bother Terry won Top Fuel against legendary Elmer Trett.
3) In 1996, sadly, Elmer died at the NHRA Indy event. The funeral was the same weekend of our U.S. Nationals at Atco. Sheila LaChance and I flew to Atlanta to attend his funeral. When we got back we held a special service at Atco Dragway in honor of Elmer. It was a moving and touching weekend.
4) Back in the early 90’s I remember Elmer and Tony Lang making a pass when a deer ran across the track behind Elmer and in front of Tony. It was a close call that would have been devastating.
5) One of the night qualifying sessions is where Dave Kommel of Auto Imagery took the top end photo of Elmer Trett that be immortalized by Kenny Youngblood in his painting “World’s Fastest Drag Bike”
6) Getting back to the track closure, my favorite quote from VanSciver was related to people building houses near a drag strip. He said, “It’s like building a house next to a garbage dump and then complaining about the smell.” I’ve re-quoted him a thousand times over the year. Going, going, gone are the local race tracks that depended on the local racers on a weekly basis to keep the bills paid. The future of drag racing will fall on the Super Facilities with major events incorporated with sideshows to lure in the non-loyal motorheads to see a circus as opposed to just drag racing.
What’s on the track me just be background noise, but the platform will still exist for us purist. Just looking at NHRA, it will take fewer National Events to stop the saturation of weekends and focus on one race per year per surviving track.
The fewer opportunities create the greater need to attend. Like Baseballs Candlestick Park, Riverfront Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium, Shea Stadium, Astrodome, Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium, Yankee Stadium and others, gone but not forgotten. We will always remember Atco Dragway. – Scooter Kizer