Hank Denning and the other volunteer members of the Sunflower Rod and Custom Association often ask themselves if what they do at the famed Great Bend dragstrip is worth it. Then, they see the track featured nationally and realize it is.
“Sometimes we ask ourselves why we do go through the work, expense, grief and financial risk for this event or even the entire season as a total volunteer group,” Denning told the Great Bend City Council recently. The association president was giving his annual report on the city-owned facility which is maintained by the SRCA.
“It’s not only for the passion of the sport,” he said. The city receives exposure when the Great Bend track is mentioned in an article, photographs or during a televised event.
There are only 120 NHRA sanctioned Tracks in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. “The dragstrip and city are mentioned many, many times and old footage from the first U.S. Nationals is shown. It really makes us very proud that is our city they are talking about.”
And, there will be only 44 Lucas Oil events scheduled by National Rod and Custom Association races nationally in 2018. One of those is at the SRCA Dragstrip Great Bend.
“How cool and unique is that for our city to be one of those facilities?” he said. “That is why we continue.”
By the numbers
It was a mixed year for the track, Denning said.
“We had combined spectators of 4,666 and 2,373 drag racer entries attending in 2017, up a little from 2016.”
The Lucas Oil Event this year in June was the largest turnout since 2009 with over 400 teams taking part. This is up 22 percent from 2012.
In 2017, they scheduled 10 NHRA Summit Series points races combined with 10 test and tunes on the same weekends.
The track hosted the Street Race, Rocky Mountain Race Week, Wichita Pontiac Uprising, Sammy Mathews Charity Race and the NHRA Lucas 0il event.
The complex also got some attention from the group.
Volunteers did a lot of patching in the concrete areas. “I think the figure was around 4,000 pounds of material to help in the maintenance of the facility,” he said.
“In 2018 we again scheduled 10 NHRA Summit Points Races and test and tunes,” Denning said. There will also be the Rocky Mountain Race Week in June.
The Wichita Pontiac Club also will be returning in September for the third straight year with the annual Pontiac Uprising. This was the last year for the Sammy Mathews Charity Race, but Denning said they are looking for some type of charity event to take its place.
They are also looking to bring a Big Money E.T. Bracket Race to Great Bend in July but they are still negotiating that.
The Lucas Oil Races were eventually scheduled on the last weekend of September, even though that is the same weekend as the Hahn Bros Supercross Shootout event in Great Bend. “We decided to just pull the trigger on everything as one huge weekend,” Denning said. “It will be quite interesting logistically to pull off.”