The breeze was warm and the smell of high-octane race fumes filled the air as muscle cars, street rods, off road trucks, pro streeters, and more made their way down the back roads to New Life Church in Wallingford, Connecticut. Enthusiasts were all revved up because it was time for the 23rd Annual Connecticut Dragway Reunion / CT Nostalgia Night (CNN). On June 16th, 2014, over 700 enthusiasts took their show cars and specialty vehicles through gates to enjoy what is one of the coolest and most nostalgic car shows in Connecticut. In addition to the massive number of cars that this show routinely pulls in, spectators can enjoy the cackling sounds (and nose burning aromas) of the fleet of vintage drag racing machines that come to life at this special event. Held on the Monday after Father’s Day every year, this show is a step back in time to the days of Connecticut drag racing. Those that are old enough to remember can relive those glory days and those who are young come here to make memories of their own. No matter the age, no one can help but smile with that much horsepower surrounding them.
The History Of Racing In Connecticut This show would never have come to be if it weren’t for 1320 feet of asphalt buried deep in the Connecticut boondocks decades ago. Anyone who is old enough to have been there retells countless tales of horsepower and camaraderie. Anyone who is too young to have lived through those stories has certainly listened to them. Connecticut Dragway was CT’s first and only drag strip. Over time Connecticut has had 31 oval tracks with anything from horses in New Haven to NASCAR in Thompson. Out of those tracks there are four still left in operation today. Stafford Motor Speedway, the oldest, started out as a horse track in 1892 and held its first automobile race in 1934. The original dirt track was paved with asphalt in 1967 and it has remained in operation ever since. Thompson International Speedway was built in 1940 and was one of the first paved tracks in the country. Waterford Speedbowl, built as a dirt track in 1951 and converted to a paved track a month later, is still in operation as-is. Lime Rock Park is the only active road course left in the state. Opened in 1957, it has been the site of numerous major road-racing events. Thompson and Lime Rock both used parts of their tracks as drag strips in the late 1950’s but the only purpose built drag strip was Connecticut Dragway. Located in East Haddam, CT near the Colchester, CT town line, the drag strip was started in June of 1961 and was run by Frank Maratta of Hartford until it closed down in 1985. The strip actually closed in 1979 but with the help of many investors it reopened in 1980 as Connecticut International Raceway. Unfortunately it closed forever after the 1985 season.
Show History The CNN show was started in 1991 by the Connecticut Street Rod Association to show the young and old alike what the early car culture was like back in the days of the drag strip. The first CNN show at Falcon Field in Meriden, CT showed 197 cars. The show eventually outgrew the field and was moved to the PNA park in Wallingford, CT. Now over 20 years later the show attracts over 700 cars and is hosted at New Life Church in Wallingford, CT. According to Pete Bozzo, the event coordinator for the CSRA, “After over 20 years the show runs pretty smoothly with enough help from our members at CSRA. The toughest part is getting the cars in place for display in such a short amount of time.”
Everything Under The Sun The show attracts many awesome vintage cars. In addition to classics, muscle cars, street rods, race cars, and everything in between, appearances have been made by Bruce Larsen (1989 Funny Car World Champion) and the Stone-Woods and Cook car (a very famous race car from the West Coast that is displayed in the NHRA museum). Two years ago Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars made a special appearance.Reunited: Bob Bogdanoff And His 1966 Chevelle SS While meandering around the show we struck up a conversation with Bob Bogdanoff, the owner of a beautifully restored 1966 Chevelle Super Sport, which was parked with the drag cars. The fact that the car was done to such a high level caught our attention because many of the vintage drag cars were un-restored. We asked Bob what the deal was with his Chevelle and what he said took us by surprise!
Bob is the original owner of this car and raced it out in Arizona while he was in college. Life happened and he sold the car in the 1970s. It was out of sight, but never out of mind. Fast forward to just a few years ago. Bob was perusing a drag racing message board online and stumbled upon a 1966 Chevelle in the classifieds. What stood out to him was the homemade roll cage in the interior, which looked a little too familiar. Luckily, Bob had kept records of all of his vehicles and still had the VIN number of his old Chevelle. He contacted the owner and low and behold it was his old drag car! A deal was made and the Chevelle was shipped back to Connecticut. Over the last few years Bob restored the car to exactly how he built the car in 1966 including the flared quarter panels and roll cage, but this time he added a 572 big-block.While the CNN show is home to many cool cars and special guests everyone’s favorite part of the show is the “Cackle Fest” at 7:00 PM, which has become a CT car show tradition. Imagine the sound of several dozen vintage dragsters revving up their engines with open headers. For about 30 minutes all you can hear and feel is the earth shaking with unmuffled horsepower coming at you from all angles-the mountainside provides great natural acoustics. Ear plugs were not factory options on these cars. From the vintage hot rods and the CT dragway memorabilia to the sounds and smells of dozens of dragsters taching out their engines, the Connecticut Dragway Reunion / CT Nostalgia Night is a truly a journey back in time!
Bring Back The Track! There are have been rumors over the last few years of the revival of the CT Dragway. From private contractors to Mohegan Sun there has been interest amongst businesses and enthusiasts alike. Currently, the closest track is Lebanon Valley Dragway in upstate New York which is about two hours away from central Connecticut. If you are interested in signing the petition to bring back Connecticut Dragway, click here! Check out the gallery full of pictures below!