Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Westhampton Drag Strip, Yesterday & Today


Billy Stein and Ed Talerine
in my '50 Merc at the entrance to
Westhampton Drag Strip, in 1961.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, anyone with a
hot rod or custom car on Long Island
headed to a drag strip at Westhampton
most Sundays.
This was a 1/4 mile track where cars raced
in classes outlined by the
type and weight of the car, size of engine,
and extent of modifications overall.
Two cars at a time started from a
standing stop and those with the
lowest elapsed time won each "run".
By a process of elimination, one car
in
each class would emerge the final winner.
I shot the following photos
during the early to mid 1960s.
(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

The Dodge above ran with a
471 cubic inch engine and
turned 112 M.P.H.
during its run
for "Street Eliminator" trophy.

The white '59 Chevy was a
constant winner at 'Hampton
as evidenced by the numerous
"kill" decals on the rear quarter glass.

'47 Ford convert (above)
had a late model Buick OHV 8 engine;
belonged to one of my friends
from the 116th Street garages.

1955 Ford from another of the guys
at 116th Street,
photographed on Sunrise Highway
along the way to the strip.

I recently ventured back to the site
of the
Westhampton Drag Strip on a rainy weekday
and found that Timber Ridge Homes has
built a housing development on the site.


A gated community portal replaces
the old entrance to the drag strip.

The homes on the left are
about where the pit area and stands used to be;
the street in the middle is
about where the drag strip once was.

The area on the left being cleared
for more homes is about where the
spectators' parking lot and stands once stood;
the new road is about where the
drivers once returned after a race
on the "return road."

(Any comments on the old drag strip?
...Or its replacement?)

12 comments:

Chris Brandstrom said...

This makes me sad. I used to go here with friends, and ran time trials myself there once after finishing a project car.

I was reminded of it because just this past Saturday I was at the Super Nationals qualifying at Englishtown. I went searching for the Westhampton strip on Google maps. I knew it was closed down, but didn't realize there were condos there now.

Ken B said...

Many of us will miss the old drag strip. Luckily, I have some still photos and a couple of reels of 8mm movies to remember it by.

Johnny C said...

It brings back a whole lot of memories to me , my family owned it. I can remember leaving our house in Huntington at about 3pm Friday and getting back home at about midnight Sunday. I had a blast there every weekend with my cousins. Some of you might remember the Sunday before Thanksgiving when my dad would release live TURKEYS half way down the track andthen drop the flag letting all the drivers at the line race for their Thanksgiving dinner, GOOD TIMES. Johnny C.

DR. RICH ANDRIA said...

I RAN "THE OX" A 1963 RED 421 370HP BONNEVILLE CONVERT. WON MY CLASS AC/S
EVERY TIME OUT;WINDOW FULL OF STICKERS "CLASS WINNER". WE ALL WENT TOGETHER FROM BROOKLYN NY SAT NITES OR SUNDAYS TO RUN OUT HOT RODS. MISS THAT ERA VERY MUCH !

Anonymous said...

That was the great drag strip we use to go every Sunday get a cup of coffee at the donut shop on Sunsise Hy on the way to the drag strip....miss those days so sad to see it gone ,

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Billy said...

Started going to Westhampton in 1959. Was living in West Sayville at the time so it was a short drive. I remember your Merc - wasn't that many quality customs out there in those days. My favorite was the Gas class with 40 Fords and Willys coupes. Left the Island in 1963 but moved back to Richmond Hill in 1966 (Denton 126 st). Got a SS 396/375 HP Chevelle in 1967. Had it set up at Motion in Baldwin and raced at Westhamption and National Speedway from 1967 thru 1969. Those were great years and I consider myself lucky to have enjoyed that era of cars and racing.

Rick Bonanno said...

I raced my 56 Olds & before that a 54 Ford....Took ONE trophy with the Ford running F stock...Lots of great memories. I used to wait till I got to the strip to tune up & new plugs just before the race.

Anonymous said...

Ran my 75 Duster and won a trophie for my class still have it till this day sad to see the track closed.

Jay Gingold said...

Raced a '55 D-Gas Chevy called "Miscalculation" at Westhampton on fri. Nights and Sat mornings in the '60's and won a number of class trophies. Best time 12+seconds and 112+mph in the quarter.

Friends with Jack Merkel, Vinny T., Alcoa Presents, Kenny Haynes, the Brute, and many others. Also raced street cars at Westhampton and at the famous Connecting Highway.

Ken B said...

Hey, Jay! Thanks for your comments. Of course, I knew Jack Merkle (not personally) since many of my friends lived in Glendale, but the other names don't ring a bell. Best wishes to you!