Maple Grove Raceway is nestled in the midst of towering trees and acres of farm land. Most days, the property is quiet and serene, but all of that changes on race day when the screams of excited fans and the smells of race fuel and burning rubber fill the air. Thousands of fans come through the gates to enjoy drag racing, but Maple Grove Raceway didn’t start as a drag strip. The property opened its gates for the first time in 1937 under the name Brecknock Speedway with a half-mile oval dirt track made for sprint cars and motorcycles. The main event that year was held in front of 5,000 racing fans and featured a 16-lap motorcycle race won by Stanley Witinski. On September 12, 1937, the track hosted its first midget car race with world-renowned midget car racer Doc Shanabrook in attendance. The first year was most certainly a success.
In 1940, Brecknock Speedway was purchased by Alfred Stauffer with the help of the Eastern Custom Car Association. Shortly after in 1942, the economic devastation of World War II caused Brecknock Speedway to close its gates…but not for good. 15 years later, Stauffer was approached by the Friendship Motorcycle Club who were looking for a place to hold safe 1/8-mile drag races. Concerned about the amount of rocks that would likely be kicked up during racing on the strip that was built inside the old oval track, Stauffer paved the starting line (a racing first) thus starting a racing trend.
In 1960, a group of local racers from the Eastern Custom Car Association wanted in on the action, and approached Stauffer with the idea of converting the track into a full drag strip to be used by cars. Needless to say, Stauffer loved the idea and closed down the track to make the adjustments needed for a full drag strip. In August 1962, race fans were in awe of the fifth-mile long, 30 ft. wide track when Maple Grove Drag-O-Way opened to the public for drag racing excitement.
1963 brought 10 more feet to the track width for safety reasons and a dual-lane timer was installed. In 1964, Bob Eveland leased Maple Grove Dragway, joined the NHRA divisional program, and lengthened the track to 4,000 feet long and 60 feet wide to allow for 1/4-mile racing. That same year, racing legend Bob Cassidy hit 180 mph in an AA/Gas Dragster and J.D. Zink ran 225 mph in a jet. After the death of Alfred Stauffer in December 1965, Maple Grove left the NHRA for NASCAR drag racing sanction.
While NASCAR was successful, Maple Grove was missing the fun and excitement of NHRA racing and made their comeback debut in 1969. Many facility improvements have been made over the years, hundreds of famous racers have gone down the track and many records have been set and shattered. The one thing that has stayed steady throughout all of Maple Grove’s impressive 56 year history (81 years if you go all the way back to the first time the property gates opened) is the love of racing. This weekend marks the 3rd year Maple Grove is hosting the Dodge NHRA Nationals, and you don’t want to miss this kick off for the Countdown to the Championship!