It was definitely not the first track in the area but is the one with the most history. The alleged 204 MPH run there is still discussed on national television by such greats as Connie Kallita and Don Garlits.

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The track was built in 1958 by 3 gentlemen, John Storey (my father), Milton “Fat” Kingston and Allen Tite on 60 acres along Fosterburg Road, 1 mile north of Highway 140 on the east side of Alton, IL The idea of the track was pushed heavily by Garland Tyler of Wood River, who later became the manager of Mid-America Raceway in Wentzville, MO.

The track was scheduled to open on July 5th and 6th of 1958 but a rainy spring moved that up to the first race being July 13, 1958.  At that first race Norm Rexing won B/S @85 MPH, Wayne Artega won C/A @100 MPH in an Oldsmobile powered Henry J and Art Badgley won E/S @75 MPH.  An actual Grand Opening was held on the 26th and 27th of July 1958.

Definitely the most famous run at Alton happened on April 24, 1960, when Chris Karamasines sat the drag Racing world on fire with the first run over 200 MPH. This run was witnessed by over 10,000 spectators. Not really but over the years at least that many people have told me that they were there and saw it. Many dispute the speed. There are a number of things to consider. There was a Nitro ban on NHRA tracks. Alton was not NHRA sanctioned and this ban did not apply. Tommy Ivo ran 180 on pure gas in his dragster just 2 months later at Alton. Don Garlits questions the speed but does not question the first run ever recorded over 240 when he was racing Ivo on July 13, 1968 at Alton.

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Fans that went to Alton witnessed the birth of the “FUNNY CAR”. In the early 60’s the racers took the stock factory race cars, the Mopars, Chevys, and Fords and started doing strange things to them, like altering the wheelbase, adding fuel injectors then blowers. Things that were not needed to make it go down the track like seats, headliners and even windows were discarded.

During the years Alton was open, drag racing went from being a hobby to a profession. Bill “Maverick” Golden started touring the country in the “Little Red Wagon” going the quarter mile on the back 2 tires.

The Coca Cola Cavalcade of Stars presented plenty of action with 8 big name funny cars racing a series that was at a different track 2 nights a week from April through October.  There were circuits for Top Fuel and the pro-stock was filling in were the Funny Car had been. Racers actually got paid to race.

In the 60’s a promoter by the name of Ben Christ got going in Chicago. He was overseeing 13 different tracks in the Midwest at one time. He hired a guy by the name of Jan Gabriel to make radio spots for all these tracks. Jan is the guy that came up with the SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY phrase that went on to be Saturday Night, Saturday Night Under the lights. Jan cut 2 tapes each week for Alton that were sent to KXOK radio station in St. Louis. Ben knew to make money Alton had to be advertised to the entire St. Louis market area. Ben booked the appearance cars, rotating them between tracks so all us small tracks got big name racers.

The last drag race at Alton was held on October 1, 1972. It closed for a number of reasons. Some make sense some do not. Articles will be run later trying to explain some of these reasons. Art Badgley’s son, Kenny raced Art’s Rambler at this last race and won, just like his father had done at the inaugural race 14 years earlier. Art passed this spring and is sadly missed by everyone that raced him or had work done by him or bench raced with him at his shop in Godfrey, everyone in the local drag racing family.

Riverbender.com is looking for more content for our new motorsports section launching soon! Have an old classic car you are restoring? News on upcoming car shows? Any races we should know about? Let us know!

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