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DIALED IN: Dragway of Magnolia’s 2023 Success Story

While the Ohio winters can potentially be brutal for racing, Tad and Jim’s Dragway of Magnolia has been pretty fortunate over the last several years, and a reflection of the 2023 race season proved some of the most cooperative weather in recent memory. In fact, it hardly rained out any events at all this year at this eighth-mile facility located just south of Canton. “We’ve been very fortunate this year with the weather,” says Jim Rankl, who’s co-owned this folksy dragstrip with Tad Ries since 2012. 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]

Rankl, the eldest of the two, first came to Magnolia Dragway more than 60 years ago to race, and he and Ries have both had a stable full of race cars over the years, along with a business partnership that dates back decades, beginning with a successful car dealership. Their core business at Magnolia is bracket racing, and they try to begin each season in May, although the weather rarely cooperates as well as it did this year. “There’s been seasons past when it rained the entire month of May and it’d be June before we opened!” recalls Rankl. 

Tad Ries (left) and Jim Rankl have jointly owned Tad and Jim’s Dragway of Magnolia since 2012.

While the track dates back to 1957, and is among the oldest still-active tracks in the state, to Rankl’s knowledge the track has never once been sanctioned. “We’ve actually had an IHRA official come out and look the place over, and while it wouldn’t take much for the track to become sanctioned, we continue to operate independently.” 

Magnolia offers its own points series, and anyone who races here is automatically entered. “We don’t make you sign up and pay a fee to enter our points program, we automatically keep track of your points, and the season lasts from, say, mid-May to early September,” says Rankl. 

Sunday bracket events are contested across three classes: Street, No-Box, and Box, and each weekly winner qualifies for the Dash for Cash run-off at the end of the year, where the winner receives $1,000 with $300 being awarded to the runner-up. The Dash for Cash has been a very popular attraction for the area bracket racers who frequent Magnolia. 

The United Manual Transmission Racers visit Magnolia twice-yearly and put on a great show for the fans, packing the pits with stick-shift race cars. The UMTR group had a roster of 12 events on their 2023 calendar, including stops at Magnolia in June and July. “Those guys tell me that they love coming here, and their Magnolia events pull cars that don’t attend any other venue, so that’s really great to hear,” dishes Rankl. 

Several years ago, the Ladies Racers were formed at Magnolia, and features all-female events held monthly. “Those events are typically held on Saturday, and the ladies pick their own race dates, and there’s test-n-tune and gambler’s races on the same day,” explains Rankl. The ladies drive street cars or all-out race cars, and they’re also diligent about collecting money from sponsors for their group, including Summit Racing, who’s generous to their cause. 

The ladies have also continued the initiative of giving away bicycles to the kids at a special event, usually held in May. This is a practice that’s something of a time-honored tradition at Magnolia for quite a while, and when the Ladies Racers got involved it further expanded the practice through their efforts. 

Magnolia has also capitalized on the no-prep movement through their involvement with the D-Team No Prep Series. “This is a group that races a lot in Ohio, visiting a number of tracks, including two stops here at Magnolia,” says Rankl. 

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By late October, the season is winding down at Magnolia, and the hopes of another mild winter and dry spring next year would please all involved. “The Almanac says this winter could be a bad one, so we’ll see what happens,” smiles Rankl. Regardless, though, when the weather breaks there’s a mainstay of racers who eagerly await each new race season here at their beloved dragway in northeast Ohio.

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