After 20 years of finding an abandoned strip of road to race and hoping police didn’t break up the race, drag racers coming to Graffiti Weekend had a place to race legally for the first time.
Jason Chrisenbery from Roseburg watched carefully as drivers tested the track at the Myrtle Creek Municipal Airport. The “no prep” grudge race had some cars spinning their wheels in the hot Friday sun as they raced 1-on-1 down the 660-foot track.
He has been taking his vibrant yellow 1967 Chevy Camaro to races in Medford and Coos Bay for about 30 years.
Chrisenbery didn’t take part in the illegal racing that happened every year around Graffiti Weekend, he said.
“This is as local as it gets for me,” Chrisenbery said. “It’s nice to see people who don’t usually come out to the race track.”
Western Oregon No Prep President Katie Jones said they wanted to have a race like the good old days so they didn’t put anything on the track to increase friction.
“This is heads-up racing on a non-prepped surface,” Jones said. “When you go to the drag races, they put all kinds of shit on the pavement to make it sticky and to make the cars get better traction and they use all the lights. We are authentic, old-school, street racing.”
Chrisenbery parked his car at the front of the pit area where he had a small crowd of people talking to him about racing and about his car while the cars that finished rolled behind him — including a black Chevy Novas, Chevelles and other classic cars.
“Anybody could go out and buy a new car,” Chrisenbery said. “It’s different when you build something.”
Katie Jones and her husband, Mark Jones, have been looking for a place to hold a drag race for 20 years, even asking the City of Myrtle Creek in previous years to use the airfield, to no avail until this year.
“They would always go out racing late graffiti night somewhere, so this was kind of a way to tie it in with all the cars from out of town can go race and do it legally,” Katie Jones said.
Sean Negherbon, city administrator for Myrtle Creek, said in an email that city agreed to hold the drag race so that the drivers would have a safe place to race and it would create an entertainment event for the community.
“The buzz about this event has been huge and people are excited,” Negherbon said. “Our airport is not a busy one and serves mainly as a heliport these days. This event also serves to generate revenue for the airport operation, which is a self-supported operation and not supported by tax dollars.”
Father, son, Glen and Albert Burnett, came out together to see some old cars and get to watch some racing. Albert Burnett said he goes to drag races frequently, but his dad hasn’t been to a drag race since 1970 when he was 18 years old.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Albert Burnett said. “When you go to the big drag races, not only do you watch it, but you can feel it. The whole stands shake, the whole grounds shake — it’s just an experience.”
Glen Burnett said he’ll probably come to more of the races the organization has planned. He has a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette that he drives around town with Albert Burnett’s 16-year-old daughter, but he hasn’t raced since he was 18.
“I just want to see them go fast,” Glen Burnett said. “It’s mostly an old-man sport because those are the people that can afford to do this.”
The race brought Kelly Chambers from Paradise, California. He has been racing for about 40 years but didn’t bring his Plymouth. He called it his baby and said he wouldn’t bring it to just any race, but he would bring it to charity events, like the ones he hosts all over the country raising money for children with cancer.
“Whenever we have races in Medford, it seems like the whole town of Roseburg shows up,” Chambers said. “I’d be a real dirt bag if I didn’t show up.”