In November of 1963, Jan &
Dean had a big hit with their song Drag City. To guys growing
up in South Carolina in the 1960's, their "Drag City"
was Blaney Drag Strip in Elgin, SC. When I first attended Blaney
in the late summer of 1969, it had been a going concern for years
and was a reputable NHRA-sanctioned strip. Blaney was a modest
affair, no different from most drag venues of that era. However,
it was a mecca for me. In addition to hosting one of NHRA's Div.
2 WCS points races, the track featured the annual year-end Dixie
Finals and many great match races in its heyday.
Knowing that the strip had long
since shut its gates for good, I wondered what had happened to
the old quarter mile and whether anything remained. On a visit
to the site several years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to
see that portions of the strip and pits were still recognizable
to anyone who knew what to look for. However, a more amazing
discovery was that the mobile home park now occupying the old
site had drag racing-related street names! Names such as Liberman
Lane, Platt Drive, Ivo Circle and Garlits Drive abound on neighborhood
street signs. It was really something to see those street names
neatly lettered on the residents' mailboxes. I had to wonder
whether the folks living there had any idea where the street
names came from or just how famous their namesakes were in drag
Fortunately, there were enough
common areas in the mobile home park to allow me to walk around
and recognize many old paved patches of pit space. I saw a asphalt
patch close to a old tree I remembered. It brought back a vivid
memory of seeing Pete Robinson's 427 cammer Ford rail pitted
near that tree one night in '69 or '70. Even though he was busy
working on the car, he still had time for a friendly "hello"
to a kid (me) who idolized him.
Although the bleachers were gone,
the earthen berms that they sat on were still there. The actual
paved strip surface was mostly gone, but it was still very level
and flat. This, combined with the raised earthen berms, gave
you the distinct impression of a strip surface with grandstands
on each side.
Some of the fence surrounding
the track was still standing. The entrance leading to the pits
still exists and now serves as the main gate leading into the
mobile home park. I couldn't help thinking that all was missing
was the old wooden ticket-taker's booth. It was here that fans
were encouraged to buy a pit pass to rub elbows with their heroes.
For a rural southern strip, Blaney
offered real variety for the spectator. No doubt it helped that
it was a sanctioned NHRA strip and that Buster Couch visited
at least once a year to put on the WCS points race. Various cars
that the author saw over the years included Garlits (many times),
Jungle Jim, Roland Leong's Hawaiian, the Tennessee Bo Weevil,
Alan Starr's Starrliner AA/FD from North Carolina, Cyr &
Schofield, Tommy Ivo, Clayton Harris, Sox and Martin, Connie
Kalitta, Pee Wee Wallace's Virginian, Bill Flynn's Yankee Peddler,
the Trojan Horse, and many more. One regular competitor at Blaney
was the Powell & Burnett Rat-motored top fueler from Charleston,
The strip was owned and operated
at first by the Smith family of Columbia, SC. Blaney was clean,
with reputable Chrondeks. I well remember the announcer's comic
chatter about the shutdown area; he noted that there was a lengthy
shutdown area, followed by a hundred acres of "soft pine
trees" if a car's chute failed to open. One day, Floridian
Lou Azar's unique AMC Gremlin-bodied funny car roared through
the traps at 200 mph. That was an excellent time for those days,
especially for the very unaerodynamic Gremlin. Unfortunately,
the parachutes were late in coming out. Lou somehow managed to
get the car stopped but the announcer joked that they had to
practically pry his hands off the wheel.
Some time later, Johnny Dowey
of the Columbia area managed the strip. Dowey was an active racer,
with a series of Home Wrecker Camaro pro stockers. This writer
does not know the exact date that Blaney closed.
Unfortunately, old drag strips
are closed and bulldozed or even turned into mobile home parks,
but memories linger. Compared to the legendary Lions Drag Strip
in California, Blaney was surely small-time. However, as long
as there are those who remember rosin being sprinkled on the
strip for Ronnie Sox, or of two front-engined diggers being push-started
for the first round of top fuel, Blaney Drag Strip will always
live in the vivid world of memory.