Cecil County Dragway, a sanctioned National Hot Rod Association track in Rising Sun, MD. had its humble beginning as a premiere drag racing facility on Sunday, April 14th in 1963. With 3,000 drag racing fans in attendance, the crowd was entertained by 135 drivers and cars vying for trophies. It was actually first known as Cecil County Drag-O-Way until the mid 70's when the four owners of ATCO Speedway purchased the track and changed the name.
Cecil County Drag-O-Way was once known as the "Traction Capital of the Nation" because of the humid weather conditions and the new composition asphalt surface. In the day, everyone knew that if you wanted to go fast, set national records of quick elapsed times and speeds, you head to Cecil County.
With such state-of-the-art features as the automatic wind judge and foul system, the Chrondek dual-lane timing system became a intrical part of the facility. The pit area would accommodate 800 cars and included running water. Today the track has room for 350 vehicles with trailers on pavement and an additional 350 vehicles with trailers on 45 acres of a well manicured green, grassy area. Along with side by side 1/4 mile racing, it has a 1/2 mile shut down area and a 550 foot concrete launch pad that sits at 320 feet above sea level.
Over the years, the track has entertained thousands of fans and has hosted such illustrious names as: Shirley Sheehan Bridges, Malcolm Durham, Bob Tasca, Sr., Bob Harrop, Tommy Grove, Don Garlits, Houston Platt, Phil Bonner, Sr., Dyno Don Nicholson, Ronnie Sox and Bruce Larson.
Speaking with Shirley Sheehan Bridges she mentioned: "There were so many races and they seem to run together these days. I just remember that it was a long way away from California."
In talking with my long time friend and son of Phil Bonner, whose fame came from the "Daddy Warbucks" factory experimental Fords of drag racing, Phil Jr. a.k.a P B J said that: "Cecil was dads’ favorite place to race... the house of hook." He also said: "Really loved to see my dad interact with all of the fans there and how nice they were towards him."
Today this track plays host to numerous events that include the YellowBullet.com Nationals, Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Drags, the Summit E.T. Series and Jr. Drags, the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing series, and the Strange Engineering Outlaw Street Car Shootout.
The Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Drags and Car Show has become one of the biggest draws for the track. In its 9th year this season, the second Saturday in June was filled with side-by-side drag racing action and over 200 show cars, proudly being displayed. The pits were filled with cars, teams and fans.
The man behind the scenes is founder John Presley, who as a teenager was a participant that competed on opening day at Cecil County Drag-O-Way. What began as an idea between two friends over ten years ago, while enjoying a cold beverage at a local watering hole, has grown into one of the biggest nostalgia events in the mid-Atlantic region. With funny cars, gassers, slingshots to a full-on bracket race in the nostalgia stock and super stock categories, this event seems to have become a north eastern Maryland tradition. The bleachers were filled with spectators as well as both sides of the fence that line the strip. It was standing room only.
On behalf of Nostalgia Drag World magazine, I would like to thank John Presley and the entire staff of the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Drags and Car Show for having us. They were wonderful hosts and they put on a great event. We will be looking forward to number 10 in 2018.