44 It’s the oldest operating purpose-built drag strip in the United States, but folks are still confused with two facts about Great Lakes Dragaway. Yes, the International Hot Rod Association member track’s name is Dragaway, not Dragway, and it is in Paris, Wisconsin, instead of nearby Union Grove. It was track founder Marge Bennett who first coined the term “Dragaway.” She was working in California around World War II when she first saw drag racing. When she came back to Wisconsin, she and her husband, Lynn, decided to buy property for a drag strip. Current track co-owner Randy Henning explained she would say, “We’re going to build a drag strip so all my friends can just drag away.” The historic track was opened in 1955, but, even literature today like the official Wisconsin state travel guide lists it in Union Grove, where the post office box is located. No problem for Henning and his partner, Marcel Kuper, who saw how much the historic track meant to both communities nine years ago. After a flood left the drag strip covered in mud and debris, both communities pitched in with a fire truck and over 100 volunteers who came out with squeegees to clean the track’s surface. “You run into people around the country and say, ‘Great Lakes Dragaway,’ and they say, ‘Union Grove, Wisconsin,’” Henning said. “It’s really in Paris, but our race track is strong and where it has been here so long, it’s truly a part of the community where everyone takes pride in it.” Henning shares in the affection, going down the track the first time as a 16-year-old behind the wheel of a 1952 Chevy. He later raced a variety of machines including a Volkswagen, an Alcohol Funny Car and a Jet Dragster. He is currently working on a Wheelstander to resemble Richard Hutchins’ famous Chevy Rebellion Wheelstander. Throughout its rich history, the flashiest promoter was “Broadway Bob” Metzler, who often wore wild- designed sunglasses, air-brushed T-shirts and Zumba pants. Metzler, the first promoter ever inducted into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame, brought in concerts, parades, the circus and even motorcycle daredevil “Evil” Knievel. “There is so much history there, from Broadway Bob to the salt-of-the- GREAT LAKES DRAGAWAY TRACK SPOTLIGHT AS NATION’S OLDEST RUNNING TRACK, THE DRAGAWAY IS AN INSTITUTION by JEFF BIRCHFIELD