U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way, Part II: ‘The traction at York U.S. 30 has never been better’
Bill Stiles and Jere Stahl of York ran their 1966 Plymouth Belvedere in National Hot Rod Association competition and won every national event in ’66. The photo was taken in 1966 at Stiles Performance. Jere Stahl received drag racing’s Legion of Honor award at Musclecar Madness several years ago. The seventh annual racing event concluded over the weekend. Background posts: U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way, Part I: ‘It was a great way to spend Saturday nights around here’ and U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way, Part II: ‘The traction at York U.S. 30 has never been better’ and U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way, Part III: ‘We would watch the dragsters on trailers head for Thomasville’ and The night the furnace ‘blew’ and Wheels of York.
The news stories say that the U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way’s 20-year run ended in 1979.
The York Airport’s wide, long runway had served area piston-heads well.
As far back as 1972, the dragway had been struggling. It had even resorted to a promotion in which a dozen topless women would make an appearance.
The lure of demeaning promotions had been used in York County before in an attempt to bolster desperate situations… .
For example, the York Fair had featured “Hit the Coon” in the 1930s.
And desperate measures have been used since 1979. York city ushered in the various racy bars along East Market Street about five years ago, which certainly shouldn’t be the Brenner administration’s proudest moment.
Columnist Jim Hubley (8/3/08) told the story the 1972 moment at the dragway in “Back in the old days of racy racing:”
Longing for the “good old days” is an activity that will remain a staple of our life, regardless what, where or when the circumstances.
Never was this more evident than at the recent two- day muscle car “revival” staged at the York Expo Center.
On display were a large number of colorful motor vehicles known as “Funny Cars.”
The best way to describe Funny Cars is that they were just that, funny-looking vehicles designed to compete in an acceleration contest between two cars from a standing start.
The race course was over a straight-line, precisely measured quarter-mile course. Simplified, the object for each competitor is to reach the finish line ahead of the rival car. During the late 1960s and 1970s, such races became known as “drag” racing. Quicker than the speed of Funny Cars, the sport mushroomed. Eventually there were 160 drag tracks throughout the nation with few, if any, more popular than the strip alongside the York airport near Thomasville.
That is why the Musclecar Madness bash turned into a nostalgic binge for most of the patrons who strolled around the Expo grounds a few weeks past.
They were recalling the “good old days” of Saturday night drag racing at that strip recognized far and wide as York U.S. 30 Dragway. Crowds reaching nearly 10,000 or more regularly attended the races.
At that time I was sports editor at the Record. I never became a true drag-race fan, but always was impressed with the efforts of the strip’s public relations and promotion staff. We never covered the drag but accepted limited publicity offerings from them. Usually those were publicity blurbs welcomed, in good taste, and rarely rejected.
However, in early May of 1972, they came up with a beaut. Permit me to offer the release, from the original copy, which I have saved as my personal “good old days” of drag racing. It follows:
“Drag racing history will be made on the week-end of May 20-21 as York U.S. 30 Dragway initiates topless girls at its spectacular Funny Car Nationals drag meet.
“One dozen bare-breasted beauties will be working throughout the drag strip at such tasks as handling pit entrance gates, handing out time cards and trophies, and serving as hostesses in the VIP Press lounge. This fantastic display of feminine charm promises to revolutionize the sport of drag racing!
“These lovely, topless young ladies will highlight the largest Funny Car meet ever held on the East Coast. A cash purse of more than $75,000 will be up for grabs during the full two days of competition featuring 64-car Funny Car elimination.
“The traction at York U.S. 30 has never been better. Be there as drag racing history is made! The dates are May 20-21. The place is York U.S. 30 Dragway, 6 miles west of York, Pa., on U.S. 30.”
End of publicity release except for a little private note as a post-script, “For members of the press who would like an advance preview, the drag strip will have two topless girls available for a photo session on Saturday, May 13.”
Also included in the publicity release package were 8-by-10 photos of five of the young ladies who were to participate in the program designed to revolutionize the sport of drag racing. They were not returned.
My first reaction was shock and disbelief. My next step was to check with our advertisement department. I learned the dragway had purchased three, two-column, 12-inch ads, but the so-called revolutionizing female feature was far less sensational. It read, “Girls with California-style exposures join the working staff for this event only.”
There was a photo of a Funny Car with the ad, without girls.
Fortunately (?) I had a prior engagement on May 13. I don’t know if the press preview was ever held. As for the revolutionary event for May 20, the only female performance was by Mother Nature. The program was postponed by rain.
A gathering announced at 11,477, plus 11,000 more outside the track, was reported by the public relations people when an expanded program of drag racing was conducted Sunday, sans any of the would-be revolutionary females.
Not too long later, drag racing lost its local following, and the York track ceased operating. So, while many fans at the Musclecar Madness fete were enjoying the “good old days” of drag racing, I was reliving the “good old days” of proposed revolutionary drag racing.
And that’s the bare facts.
Other York Town Square posts drawing from Jim Hubley or his work:
– ‘We would ‘hex’ them if they ignored us’
– Giving news, sports junkies their fix
– Bury’s burgers: ‘That was it — no slaw, no relish, no pickles’.
– ‘That’s a stupid question;’ Brooksie played second base.
– Butch Wynegar ranks bright among York’s sports stars.
– York County, Pa.’s Cameron Mitchell agonized over career choice
– Playland plays nostalgic note for York countians