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Photographs by Van Abernethy, Beech Bend Park

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Kentucky Classic: Beech Bend Park Provides Unique Destination for Racers and Fans

When it comes to drag racing facilities that offer additional entertainment, Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Beech Bend Park is among the most unique you’ll ever come across with its lineup of diverse entertainment. 

In addition to its legendary NHRA-sanctioned quarter-mile dragstrip, the neighboring amusement park offers everything from roller coasters to bumper cars to the Splash Lagoon Water Park. The sprawling 379 acres of rolling Kentucky hills is shaded by numerous beech trees, while the Barren River snakes its way through the property, and even features a campground that contains 400 camping spots, including full electrical hookup, as well as primitive tent camping along the river. 

[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #183, the Sportsman Special Issue, in July/August of 2023.]

Amazingly, Beech Bend Park dates back to 1898, when it offered just two attractions to the community: A swimming hole in the Barren River, and pony rides. The facility has seen many changes over the last 125 years, as the original swimming hole in the river was replaced by a large swimming pool, while other attractions that came and went include a roller-skating rink, dance hall, and bowling alley to name a few. 

The original dragstrip at Beech Bend dates back to the 1950s and was dirt, eventually being repositioned within the park and paved. The late Dallas Jones is credited with the revitalization of the dragstrip (as well as the amusement park), which was not even in operation when he bought the dragstrip in 1984. 

The entire facility is operated by Jones’ heirs, including his widow, Alfreda Jones, and a host of other family members. Jones’ grandson, Broc Porter, manages the dragstrip and has for years, with an involvement that dates back multiple decades. “I basically grew up here at the track,” Broc says. “Between Music City, the amusement park, and the dragstrip, it’s a family affair.” 

The dragstrip’s schedule in 2023 is as robust as ever, although the weather has been challenging during the first part of the season. “We were open and racing in March, but the weather conditions have been less than ideal early on this year,” says Porter. 

In May, Beech Bend hosted a four-day event from TB Promotions, which awarded $100,000 to win on Saturday night. The event featured wheelstands, fireworks, a free-entry car show paying $500 to the winner, and also $500 going to the lucky spectator who was the 500th fan through the gate on that weekend. Also in May, the track hosted the Buick GS Nationals, a staple event spanning three days. Another Beech Bend classic is the NHRA SportsNATIONAL event, which dates back decades and once attracted 655 entries for the 1985 gathering. 

Slated for June is the beloved NHRA Wally Parks Nostalgia Nationals, followed by the Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings. The Outlaw Diesel Super Series gathers in July, along with CamaroFest and Street Car Takeover. August is action-packed with many great events, including the Verge Motorsports Quick Outlaws, along with the Danny Coffman Memorial $5K SS/S combo. 

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Three events from Holley are slated for September, including LSFest, MoParty, plus FordFest, which will run in conjunction with the NMRA All-Ford World Finals. 

Big-bucks bracket racing headlines the month of October with the three-day TenGatBG Big Bucks Bracket Race. The Nostalgia Fall Classic, plus SS/S combo is scheduled on October 14-15, with the Import Alliance Fall Meet slated for the following week. NHRA bracket racing King of the Track Wally Race, featuring a $5,000-to-win in Super Pro, closes out October. 

The racing season winds down in November, with a full month of activities, including O’Reilly Auto Parts Saturday featuring grudge racing, test-and-tune, plus the O’Reilly’s Shootout and Felts Towing Jr. Street season finale. The Fall Classic Swap Meet and Flea Market is held the same weekend to begin November. A pair of test-and-tune gatherings, three NHRA Summit ET series points bracket events are on tap in November, with the final day for season points slated for Sunday, November 19.

The original dragstrip at Beech Bend dates back to the 1950s and was dirt, eventually being repositioned within the park and paved. The late Dallas Jones is credited with the revitalization of the dragstrip (as well as the amusement park), which was not even in operation when he bought the dragstrip in 1984. 

The entire facility is operated by Jones’ heirs, including his widow, Alfreda Jones, and a host of other family members. Jones’ grandson, Broc Porter, manages the dragstrip and has for years, with an involvement that dates back multiple decades. “I basically grew up here at the track,” Broc says. “Between Music City, the amusement park, and the dragstrip, it’s a family affair.” 

The dragstrip’s schedule in 2023 is as robust as ever, although the weather has been challenging during the first part of the season. “We were open and racing in March, but the weather conditions have been less than ideal early on this year,” says Porter. 

In May, Beech Bend hosted a four-day event from TB Promotions, which awarded $100,000 to win on Saturday night. The event featured wheelstands, fireworks, a free-entry car show paying $500 to the winner, and also $500 going to the lucky spectator who was the 500th fan through the gate on that weekend. Also in May, the track hosted the Buick GS Nationals, a staple event spanning three days. Another Beech Bend classic is the NHRA SportsNATIONAL event, which dates back decades and once attracted 655 entries for the 1985 gathering. 

Slated for June is the beloved NHRA Wally Parks Nostalgia Nationals, followed by the Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings. The Outlaw Diesel Super Series gathers in July, along with CamaroFest and Street Car Takeover. August is action-packed with many great events, including the Verge Motorsports Quick Outlaws, along with the Danny Coffman Memorial $5K SS/S combo. 

Three events from Holley are slated for September, including LSFest, MoParty, plus FordFest, which will run in conjunction with the NMRA All-Ford World Finals. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Big-bucks bracket racing headlines the month of October with the three-day TenGatBG Big Bucks Bracket Race. The Nostalgia Fall Classic, plus SS/S combo is scheduled on October 14-15, with the Import Alliance Fall Meet slated for the following week. NHRA bracket racing King of the Track Wally Race, featuring a $5,000-to-win in Super Pro, closes out October. 

The racing season winds down in November, with a full month of activities, including O’Reilly Auto Parts Saturday featuring grudge racing, test-and-tune, plus the O’Reilly’s Shootout and Felts Towing Jr. Street season finale. The Fall Classic Swap Meet and Flea Market is held the same weekend to begin November. A pair of test-and-tune gatherings, three NHRA Summit ET series points bracket events are on tap in November, with the final day for season points slated for Sunday, November 19.

Track manager Broc Porter

This story was originally published on October 6, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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