Julesburg Drag Strip
© October 31st, 2020
It was a nice, fall Saturday afternoon. Really. Not too hot or windy and the perfect mid-October day to enjoy some car racing. I was making my way to Julesburg on US-385 from Burlington and that afternoon I felt like I had the whole roadway to myself. Part of me wanted to put my pedal to the metal a bit, but I decided to leave that speed to the pros.
However, the NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) was started for that very reason. People wanted to race but were getting in trouble street racing (`a la, American Graffiti.)
It was created in the mid-20th century to pull street racing off the roads and structure it a bit more. Founded by Wally Parks, it’s an incredibly popular sport to this day. The more I experience this type of racing, the more drag racers seem like an extension of each racer’s family.
That sentiment felt especially true in the tiny town of Julesburg, CO where campers parked together and each racer had their car out, some with the hood up, getting ready for a tech inspection. On the car windshields, a few digits were written in white so that the tower could identify each driver. As I looked down the track, a silver pickup sat at the finish line waiting for two racers to blow past – fast!
The Julesburg Dragstrip, originally known as the Platte Valley Customs is considered the oldest, original drag racing track in the country. Holding races at the Julesburg Municipal Airport runway, they have officially been racing for 62 years in their current location west of town.
The dragstrip is one of the 120 member tracks in the country and second in popularity to NASCAR with 70,000 members and counting. According to the NHRA site, it is also one of the most diverse sports allowing youth to get their start and giving the opportunity to black, Hispanic and women professional drivers to win award after award.
This year, sadly, the founder and director of this Division 5 racetrack passed away three months prior to my visiting. Known as Zim, Darrell Zimmerman was a car guy who started drag racing in nearby Nebraska. He used to work at a car dealership in the 1950’s and won about 122 racing trophies. Zim loved cars and liked to have fun and was well known in Julesburg as well as in the other west and mid-west communities where other Division 5 NHRA tracks are located. The people around him liked to have fun too and today his love of racing showed in each heat I observed.
The races I was able to make it to were the last ones of the 2020 season… The Season Closer Box, the No-box Surprise Race – Fun for All Racers and the Julesburg Track Champion Race. I came in around the Fun for All and they were having fun.
Any car or, I should say, any vehicle was racing with any other vehicle… old vs new, motorcycle vs car, each taking off into what looked like a never-ending stretch of road, trying to get past the finish line first. A female voice came over the speakers after every turn, “Terry wins on a twelve-fifteen on an eleven-twenty dial. Craig runs at a fourteen-fifty-one on a thirteen-flat dial.” Down the line they continued to come as the prior set of racers made their way to grab their E.T. (elapsed time) at the booth.
For those spending the weekend, there’s a restaurant, restrooms and showers. The great thing about the NHRA is anyone is welcome to try their hand at racing and you can just observe too. It’s a sport where Zim brought the family and many still do today. The laid-back atmosphere is what I enjoyed most about the afternoon. Catch a race or two on their newly paved track during their main season from April to October. You can check out their schedule on the website below and drop in. Either way, it will definitely be a memorable afternoon.
17454 US Hwy 138 Julesburg, CO 80737
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