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Penwell Knights Raceway Continues to Be Premier Venue Under IHRA Sanction

Thursday, 05 January 2023

HOUSE SPRINGS, Missouri — Penwell Knights Raceway at Caprock Motorplex bills itself as the premier state-of-the-art drag strip in West Texas.

It’s easy to see why. The Odessa, Texas track places a huge emphasis on taking care of its racers. The latest way is by renewing its sanctioning agreement with the International Hot Rod Association.

Over the years, the IHRA Summit SuperSeries, the most prestigious national championship in bracket racing, has been something that Penwell Knights has embraced. 

“It works really well for us. I like the direction the IHRA is going,” Penwell Knights track owner Gary Gardenhire said. “We try to cater to the racers and the races. You can’t do that without good leadership.”

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Leaders at the West Texas track in 2022 included those who qualified for the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals. Among those were: Wes Snodgrass (Box), Benny Gossett (No Box), Taylor Sawyers (Sportsman) and Cayden Keyes (Junior Dragster).

Keyes went on to finish runner-up at the 2022 IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals. He credited the competition faced at his home track for a big reason for his success on the national stage.

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While Penwell Knights caters to the grassroots, Sportsman racer, the biggest names in drag racing have made passes down the 1/4-mile drag strip. In fact, the most prolific champions of all-time “Big Daddy” Don Garlits and John Force, are among those to rocket down Penwell Knights which first opened in 1966.

The track’s current schedule places a huge emphasis on bracket racing, but there are other major events like the Bounty Hunters No Prep to kick off the season and Funny Car Chaos. In fact, the calendar stays full most of the year.

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“We start testing in February, usually have our first major event in the first weekend of March and our last major event the first weekend in December,” he said. “Looking ahead, we’re just expecting more growth and improvement.”

That seems like a reasonable goal. Over the years, the track has encountered its share of setbacks like the tower literally being hit with two major fires in recent years and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Through it all, the determination of Gardenhire and others at Penwell Knights allowed them to come back stronger than ever. Under Gardenhire’s leadership, improvements have included work on the drag strip itself along with concession stands, remodeled restrooms and a newer track equipment shop. 

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Racers appreciate the work that has gone into making it a good facility and they’ve traveled near and far to support the track.

“We have a family atmosphere and a nice clean facility,” Gardenhire said. “West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, we pull in a lot of cars.”

There has been a major push to get cars off the street and on the race track which Penwell Knights Raceway has been very successful at. With the Caprock Motorplex, there are plans to add a road course and dirt track at some point.

For now, the emphasis is the state-of-the-art drag strip, which truly makes it a premier facility. Click here to check out the Penwell Knights Raceway website.

Last modified on Thursday, 05 January 2023

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