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So Much to Drag About

Rubber meets road at Tulsa Raceway Park where monster trucks rule, the midnight drags live on and mud boggers show the ground who’s boss.

Article
Rob Harmon
Posted
July 29, 2017

The world has changed a lot in the last half-century. Back in the 1960s, computers were the size of houses. Now they fit in your telephone, which fits inside your pocket. Five decades ago the Beach Boys were singing about daddy taking away the T-bird. Now, daddy can’t take it away because the last Ford Thunderbird was made 12 years ago.

In 2011, the Osage Casino Tulsa Raceway Park was nearly lost when it was announced it would be closing its doors after opening as the Tulsa International Raceway in 1965. But fans of racing and of the park stepped in and rescued it before it was completely turned over to a quarry company. It is now one of only 14 race tracks in America that have existed for more than 50 years.

Today, it’s a pretty happening place.

“What makes people come out here,” says general manager “Big Don” Ellison, “is that we’re not just a raceway park.”

Ellison and the rest of the staff have hosted some of the coolest events this year, including the Blacklight Run, one of the hippest 5K races going these days. How many races out there come with a pre-party and a post party and a complimentary neon glow pack? The Blacklight Run doesn’t exactly focus on how far its participants run, but how much fun they have before, during and after the event. A great event to promote exercise, it also has a charity component. Charities like Miracle Flights and other organizations benefit from every Blacklight Run the Tulsa Raceway Park hosts.

The Tulsa Raceway Park is one of only 14 race tracks in America that have existed for more than 50 years. (Photo: Marc Rains)
The Tulsa Raceway Park is one of only 14 race tracks in America that have existed for more than 50 years. (Photo: Marc Rains)

And who doesn’t like a little ‘run what ya brung’ madness? Every month at Tulsa Raceway Park, the tradition of the legendary midnight drags continues. If you think you have the fastest car, truck or bike, you have a chance to prove it one night a month. And you get to do it all in front of a roaring crowd, instead of on regular streets where it’s not as safe and certainly not legal.

The list of everything they have going on doesn’t stop there. The all-weekend Mud Down in T-Town is another exciting event that gives amateur mud boggers a chance to show their stuff while the rest of us watch. The tricked-out mud trucks, and the drivers who drive them, come ready for a challenge. Camp out for the weekend or just bring a tent and some chairs for the night to watch the fun. Either way, this free event hosted by the Raceway Park is a blast. The event also has a free concert Saturday night. 

For those who want to do a little more than spectate but don’t have a vehicle entered in the main event, human mud races for children and adults are also available and tons of fun.

“Going on 52 years,” says Ellison, “this place has been a drag strip. But we’re really an entertainment destination. That’s what we strive to do.”

If you think you have the fastest car, truck or bike, you have a chance to prove it one night a month. (Photo: Marc Rains)
If you think you have the fastest car, truck or bike, you have a chance to prove it one night a month. (Photo: Marc Rains)

Of course, the raceway has its drag racing events. They’ve been doing drag races at the same location nonstop since before many of our readers were born.

On Aug. 10-12, the raceway park will host the Professional Drag Racing Association Summer Nationals. One of the park’s largest crowds ever is expected to witness explosive power ripping down the historic eighth-of-a-mile track like they’ve never seen it or heard it before. Racers from all over the world will meet each other to decide who is the fastest drag race king.

Maybe the biggest draw for the venue would be the monster trucks. Mammoth machines made for high jumps and crushing landings take center stage at this month’s Monster Crush. The Monster Crush event (Aug. 4-5) invites all of the biggest names in the monster truck scene to Tulsa. The Big Kahuna, a custom 1961 Chevy truck and regular on the Monster Jam circuit, driven by Shane England, will be there. Big Chief, out of Texas, a Ford Raptor style truck driven by Chris Trussell, will be making an appearance too. Also, Big Foot is rumored to be featured at some point during the weekend’s festivities. Other names joining the line-up include Heavy Hitter, Damage Control and Mean Machine, to name a few.

“We’ve built a world-class mud racing facility,” says Ellison. “The fact that we’re doing mud racing outdoors is a big draw. You can go to the BOK Center, but they’re in a 200-foot arena. They can’t jump. They can’t go fast. They can’t do anything. Here, we’ve built giant jumps. So, when people come here, it’s like, ‘My God! It’s monster trucks like I watched them when I was a kid.’”

LOCATOR
Tulsa Raceway Park
3101 N. Garnett Road | Tulsa
918-437-7223
tulsaracewaypark.com