Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Track History (Gateway International Raceway)

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Track History (Gateway International Raceway)

Article excerpt

1967

St. Louis International Raceway is born. Wayne Meinert leaves Pacific Raceway and becomes president of United Promotions. SLIR has seating capacity for 6,000 in the bleachers, and room for 1,500 in the pits. It opens as a one-eighth-mile drag strip.

1970 The American Hot Rod Association brings its Spring Nationals to SLIR. The field is headed by driver-of-the-year Dickie Harrell of Kansas City. 1971 Meinert acquires more land and expands the drag strip to a quarter-mile in just 14 days, paving the way for the first "Gateway Nationals." 1972 The AHRA's Grand American Series - 10 national races - includes the Gateway Nationals. Entries include Mickey Thompson, Gene Snow, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Don "The Snake" Prudhomme. 1973 Grumpy Jenkins sets a world record of 8.97 seconds for the quarter-mile in his Pro Stock Vega on Friday night. On Sunday morning, he finds that Grumpy's car has been stolen from the motel parking lot. He misses the final eliminations and eventually finds the shell of the $35,000 car on a weedy farm lot in Cahokia. The transmission and motor are missing. 1974 Some 75,000 fans are expected for three-day Gateway Nationals in July. Meinert, still owner and promoter, decides to sell beer for 10 cents on the spectators' side of the track all three days. "We thought we needed to add a little fuel to the fire," he said. During the final eliminations, Bill Bagshaw's Pro Stock car blows two pistons, does an abrupt right turn, hits the guard rail head-on, and crashes through a fence and into the bleachers. Two sections collapse. Two teen-agers are killed, and 19 other people are injured. Meinert's wife faints, and he leaves to take her to the hospital. Jim Tice, head of the AHRA, takes over. 1976 The AHRA continues to thrive at St. Louis International Raceway. A crowd of 15,000 gathers Aug. 1 for final eliminations. The Spring Nationals also are still on the calendar at SLIR. "This is the only place we come twice a year," Tice said. "It's one of our very best markets." 1967 (1977) Garlits rips off a time of 6.10 seconds in the quarter-mile in the semifinals, setting a Top Fuel dragster track record. He backs that up with another victory in the final. The King of Drag Racing loved the old SLIR track, winning 33 consecutive races during one stretch. "St. Louis was one of those tracks that could be real tricky," he said. "But if you were able to get the combination and get the read on the place, you could have a lot of success. The fans were great to us there. It was a place we really enjoyed coming to each year, because of the enthusiasm you found when you got there." 1980 Shirley Muldowney smokes Garlits in a match race Friday night, but in the Sunday afternoon Top Fuel finals, Garlits breaks his track record, with an elapsed time of 6. …

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