Drag racing returned to the area for the first time since 2015 during this year’s Graffiti Days weekend June 7–9, and organizer Dwight Toews says that there was a great turnout for a first-time event in a new venue.
Toews, who is president of Thunder in the Valley Raceway and the organizer of the drag races, says that a crew of volunteers had to create a track at the Campbell Hill airstrip south of Cache Creek in eight weeks.
“We went from nothing at all to what it is today. People said it now looks like you’re driving to a dragstrip, not an airstrip.”
Cracks on the airstrip had been filled with a rubber compound, which volunteers cut out where needed. Some of the asphalt had buckled due to weather and the elements, with weeds growing up through it, so old asphalt was cleared away where needed.
“Fred from Kamloops Asphalt stepped up and gave us a cut rate to make it happen,” explains Toews. “He said ‘I want to see this thing go for everyone around here.’ He came in and patched it up with proper asphalt, not rubber.
“Hopefully it will hold through the season. We’ll find out next spring.”
The Ashcroft Rodeo committee donated their bleachers, as well as their old tower. “We cut the tower off at the base, loaded it onto trucks, and Dave from Roadhouse Towing and Steve from Ashcroft Home Hardware shipped it up to the airstrip.”
Races started at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 7 and ran until 5 p.m. that day. “Unfortunately, we had some weather issues—rain—so we ran a few cars, then stopped when it became too dangerous to carry on any further.”
Toews says that Saturday and Sunday were good days, with no glitches whatsoever. He adds that there was a great turnout of racers and spectators through the entire weekend, with about 1,500 people coming through the gate.
“It shows that the interest is there. A lot of people who live here had given up on the idea of a dragstrip. Now they can go there for the weekend with family and friends and have fun.”
Toews adds that the dragstrip also provides a boost for the local economy.
“An airstrip doesn’t make money. This brings money back to the community: people going to restaurants, hotels, gas stations.
“And people [in the area] might decide to build up their car, now that there’s a dragstrip back. They’ll work on it, which is good for the parts stores.”
He notes that some people were skeptical about the prospect of drag racing coming back to the area. “There was a bit of confusion about the races: were they happening? Not happening? But we ended up with 66 cars, and lots of people stepped forward to help in the tower and wrangle cars. If we end up with 100 cars for the next race we’ll be a bit more prepared.”
A sanctioned event is already planned for the weekend of Aug. 24–25, and Toews hopes to hold one or two more races before the end of September. “If we can get three or four races under our belts this year, we’ll be a lot more prepared for the next Graffiti Days. There were no glitches, but there were a couple of learning curves.”
One learning curve concerned a slight hump on the dragstrip. “It was the one issue with the track. The first car through was 1,000hp, and it gave the car a bit of a jump up.” Toews plans to speak with Kamloops Asphalt to see if the hump can be graded down to make the track safer for everyone.
He adds that there were some really fast cars. One driver from Lumby, who hadn’t had his car out for a year, hit 170mph and had a time of 5.1 seconds on the 1/8 mile track.
“Everyone had a really great weekend. People here hadn’t seen drag racing since 2015, and they were really ecstatic to see all this going on. And everyone said ‘Hats off to you for what you pulled off in a short period of time.’”
Toews says that the next step is to get more people from Ashcroft and Cache Creek up at the dragstrip to watch the racing.
“We had a lot of spectators from Kamloops, Kelowna, and the Lower Mainland, but it would be nice to see more spectators from this area. Getting more local people up here to check it out is what we’d really like to see. They might like it, or they might not, but they should get up and try it. It’s a lot more entertaining than sitting at home texting to your friends.
“We’ll put up more posters, do more advertising. It will only go from here, and get much larger.”
For more information about upcoming races at the Campbell Hill dragstrip, visit the Thunder in the Valley Raceway Facebook page.