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Don Carlton Memorial Nostalgia Pro Stock Race Returns to Wilkesboro

In the world of motorsports, there are few events that captivate audiences quite like the Don Carlton Memorial Nostalgia Pro Stock Race. This race takes you back to an era where the drivers and the cars alike were larger than life. The electric atmosphere of three Nostalgia Pro Stock groups coming together make for an unforgettable experience.

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023. Story by: Gena Ellis-Rudisill and Cindy Meredith]

This year, the race was proudly hosted and returned home to where it all began eight years ago at Wilkesboro Dragway in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, known to locals as Little Thunder Valley. After being held at other locations for a few years, with new management in place, it felt good to return to its roots.

The stars of the show were the immaculately recreated and original Pro Stock cars from the Southeast Nostalgia Pro Stock, Midwest Nostalgia Pro Stock, and The Legends Pro Stock groups. All the groups having one common goal: keeping the memory of this great era alive, as well as honoring the late Don Carlton.

These cars truly capture the look, sound, and feel of the vehicles raced in previous decades. There were 10 original and nine tribute cars participating this year. Participants in this race came from Canada, South Florida, and numerous points in between.

The highlight of the cars was the original “Motown Missile” ’72 Barracuda that was driven by Carlton himself. Accompanying the car were co-owners Mark Williamson from Canada and Teresa Merritt from Georgia, restorer George Paul from Mississippi, Carlton’s widow, Jonnie Carlton, from Hudson, North Carolina, and original crew member Joe Pappas from Michigan.

There were also a couple of surprise guests: Johnny Dowey, former Pro Stock driver and track owner, and Todd Mack, former Budd’s Creek track owner and former promoter of the Mountain Motor Nationals, who both came out to support this historic event.

One of the track’s most attended races to date was fueled by track announcer Gordon Moore and special guest announcers Satch Gragg and Alvin Dildine. Their combined knowledge and history of this sport is unmatched and kept the fans eagerly awaiting more.

This year’s race changed from exhibition run style to competition with three separate groups: All-Clutch, Tribute, and The 70s. Driving the Frank Iaconio Oldsmobile Cutlass, Terry Adams won the All-Clutch class. Ed McNaughton drove the Ewing & Ewing Camaro to the win in the Tribute class. The 70s class win went to Steve Stanick in the Machak & Offerman Vega. 

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Along with Adams, McNaughton, and Stanick, this year’s participants included Steve Price with the Kurt Johnson Cavalier, Jeff Rudisill and his Bill Orndorff/Jerry Eckman Camaro, Mark Johnson with the Bob Glidden Thunderbird, Michael Roppo and the Butch Leal Rod Shop Trans Am, Steve Hitch with his Turner Motorsports/Fred’s Speed Shop Trans Am, Mike Ruth and his Bob Glidden Fairmont, Danny Sisk and his “Dyno” Don Nicholson Fairmont, Mike Robbins and his Rick Kent Dodge Mirada, Keith Bronson and his Robert Patrick Probe, Keith Bronson Jr. with a Bob Glidden Thunderbird, Clinton Snead and the Charlie Peppers EXP, Eddie Hall and Larry Snead with their Eddie Ratliff Dodge Demon, McGrath Keen and his “Motown Missile” Barracuda, Ed Eichelberger and his “Grumpy’s Toy” Camaro, and Michael Sipe with his Dodge Colt and Plymouth Arrow. 

Everyone involved with the Don Carlton Memorial Nostalgia Pro Stock Race extends a special thanks to track management: Paul Salvatore and Cindy Meredith. The group plans to host the event at Wilkesboro again in 2024. 

This story was originally published on December 22, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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