New England Dragway: A Brief History
An aerial view of the New England Dragway
Drag racing’s New England debut was at the old Newington Airport back in 1953. Even though Newington's racing scene was short-lived, it set the foundation for other locations to spring up across New England. Among these, the racing track at Sanford, Maine, had the most significant impact on the development of the New England Dragway. A few enthusiastic members of the New England Hot Rod Council (NEHRC) commenced racing at the Sanford Airport in July 1955. Over the next ten years, some of drag racing's greatest figures would help shape this legendary location.
In the early 1960s, these members of NEHRC realized that they would need to find a more permanent base of operations. They started scouring the land to find a suitable location to build a state-of-the-art drag strip. In 1963, the council members met with local realtors on New Hampshire's seacoast. They needed a piece of land stretching over a mile. Initially, their meetings were unsuccessful, and most realtors would dismiss their demands. Fortunately, one of them would take their request into serious consideration, and within weeks, he would call them back with good news.
The realtor, Benjamin D’Agostino, had found a strip that met their requirements. However, there was still work to be done since the strip's ownership was divided into two different people from adjoining towns. One part was owned by the Trefetheren family, and the other by a man living off the coast of South Carolina. Once the council members had looked over the land, they gave Benjamin the green light, and an agreement was reached.
The new location was ideally suited for drag-racing. It was close enough to Boston and other populous areas of the Eastern part of New England to bring in crowds for big races. The road, Route 27, passing the front side of New England Dragway, could easily be accessed from Route 95. This made the commute to and from the dragway very convenient for NEHRC racers and members. Both nearby towns, Epping and Brentwood, were enthusiastic about the construction of a major tourist attraction and landmark.
Heavy equipment was brought in to thrash away and heave thousands of yards of dirt to prepare for the grand opening in the September of 1966. While shareholders went about wheeling and dealing, the crews worked tirelessly on the track surface and roads to ensure that opening day would be a smashing success. Organizers spent countless hours deconstructing and reconstructing bleachers, moving them from Epping to the new location. Crews were brought in to repaint the facility, install fencing and build a massive tower. On the 11th of September 1966, the New England Dragway was primed and ready to open its gates to race fans across the country.
The New England Dragway is still owned by the many racers who founded it, along with a couple of new investors and shareholders. It also retains its place as the only quarter-mile drag strip in all of New England to this day. It’s open four days a week, starting from April all the way till the end of October. It features exhilarating and gripping events ranging from grudge racing to world-class events like the NHRA New England Nationals.
Staying true to its roots, as a dragway that’s built by racers and for racers, the New England Dragway continues to improve its facility to keep up with the needs of a new generation of racers who bring quicker and more intricately designed machines to race at its legendary ¼ mile drag strip. The old bleachers have been replaced by new and spacious grandstands brought in from a university in Massachusetts. The old PA system has been thrown out for a state of the art sound system featuring Bose acoustics. The concrete pad was extended in 2010 from 745 feet to 1320 feet, accompanied by a specialized finishing process to reduce friction and help racers go even faster. Since then many more features have been added enhancing the viewing experience while helping local businesses grow along the way.
The New England Dragway is set to host Street Outlaws No Prep Kings’ races on May 28-29. Be sure to book your tickets for this exciting event where the fastest drag racers compete for a generous cash prize and the title of “No Prep King”. You can purchase your tickets here!