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Rocket City Dragway Invests in Racers With IHRA and Other Programs

Rocket City Dragway director David Sharp shares a vision with the International Hot Rod Association of bringing the best bracket racing to North Alabama. That’s why they’ve recently announced a multi-year sanctioning agreement.

Sharp, who took over as RCD Director in October, sees great opportunities with programs such as the IHRA Summit SuperSeries, the most prestigious championship in bracket racing, and special events like the IHRA Sportsman Spectacular presented by Moser Engineering and FuelTech.

“We want to get back to our core, to our roots and have a strong bracket racing program,” Sharp said. “Where some fans have photos of Don Garlits on their walls, my young son Dawson has bracket legend Scotty Richardson on his wall. Bracket racing is our foundation, but we also want to have great heads-up racing consisting of Pro Mods, Index, Street Cars and the newly-announced IHRA Real Steel class.”

Few places can match the varied history of the former Huntsville Dragway. It was opened in 1961 at Turner Farms and was originally sanctioned by the IHRA in 1975. The track hosted an IHRA Bama Nitrous Nationals in 1993, with Hall of Famer Scotty Cannon taking the Pro Mod victory. Huntsville was the site of the first million-dollar race in 1996, the first $101,000-to-win Top Fuel purse in 2005, and the first Radial Fest in 2014.

With safety listed as RCD’s No. 1 focus area, some recent purchases include an ambulance, aircraft twin-engine (dry and foam) and Rapid Deploy Enforcer 10 (firefighting) systems. The first sponsor on the website is DRE Engine Diapers. While not mandatory, Sharp encourages racers to have the blanket on their cars. 

“Spectators don’t want to see downtime,” he said. “They paid and want to see cars going down the track.”

On the issue of safety, the eighth-mile track already had one of the longest shutdown areas around. It is now being extended 400 feet for a half-mile overall stopping distance. 

Sharp has a host of other improvements planned for the 100-acre facility. They include an expanded pit area, a new stage and camp area, a tractor pull area, added parking, and a new exit for the multi-use venue, which is actually called Rocket City Dragway and Event Center.

He’s also challenging his staff and racers to be more efficient and timely. In jest, Sharp has said, “We want to be the Chick-Fil-A of race tracks.” It’s important and a big deal for spectators who pay to see the race. They deserve to see the finals and have the races not go into the wee hours of the night. It’s part of the RCD “Top 10” Focus Areas listed below:

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  1. Safety is No. 1 (Kids off the street and at the track)
  1. Family environment and value for money spent
  1. Professional diverse team
  1. Timely and efficient execution
  1. Being a good engaged neighbor
  1. Track and facility improvements
  1. Community and business engagement
  1. Increased purses and a monthly big money race
  1. Better value for sponsors and promoters
  1. Dual-purpose event center (Also hosting concerts)

Beyond the IHRA Summit SuperSeries points races, other great events planned for 2024 include Radial Fest in April, a Top Fuel showdown in May, the “Night of Thunder and Fire” in July with Pro Mods and Jet Cars, as well as heads-up drag radial racing. 

David and Dawson Sharp first announced their intention for Rocket City Dragway to join IHRA at the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis. Since then, the interest level has been incredible.

“A lot of people thought the track was dead and gone. Now, they’re seeing all the posts, and our phone is ringing off the hook,” Sharp said. “I don’t take the historical significance of Huntsville and the foundation that previous owners have built lightly. My mother brought me here when I was six weeks old to watch my dad race. This is hallowed ground for me. 

Sharp continued, “We are beyond excited to begin this journey with IHRA. If you have never been to this historic facility, give us a chance to earn your business and let us prove we are the friendliest track in the South. Our experienced and diverse team is committed in continuing the “tradition of horsepower and speed” at Rocket City Dragway. Our following at RCD is huge so we’re putting the investment back into the racers so they’ve got a great and safe place to come to. It’s like ‘Fields of Dreams,’ I believe as we build it, they will come.”

This story was originally published on December 19, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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