Drag Illustrated Issue 168, May 2021 | Page 58

Another notable change began in 2014 when Buff straightened the infamous curve in the shutdown area . The bend was so sharp that cars would actually disappear as they rounded the curve after a run , which left faster cars with no room for error . The entire project cost a small fortune and Buff worked at it for several years .
“ It was my dream to see someone run 200 mph at Shadyside , but I knew that in order for that to happen I needed to straighten the curve in the shutdown ,” Buff said in an interview after the project was completed in 2015 . “ I was literally jumping up and down for joy as I watched Todd Tutterow fulfill that dream , and I ’ d have to say that seeing him run 200 mph was probably my most unforgettable day in 36 years of owning the track .”
Sadly , Buff became sick a few years later and passed away in 2018 . His family honored his wishes to be laid to rest at the track that he loved so much . “ He told us before he passed that he wanted to be pointed toward the starting line
when he was buried , so that ’ s what we did ,” says Zackary Buff , Ronnie ’ s middle grandson .
Zackary , along with the eldest grandson , Seth , and Bryson ( the youngest ) collectively make up a trio that Ronnie lovingly referred to as his “ grandbabies ” and no matter how old they became , it was understood that the moniker was theirs for life . It was also understood that these hard-working and talented boys would join their father , Lennie Buff , in continuing to operate Shadyside Dragway in Ronnie ’ s honor .
Lennie was 12 years old in 1980 when his dad bought the track and he grew up here , as did his own sons after him , and from Ronnie they each learned the ins and outs of operating a drag strip . They all agree that the biggest challenge of operating the track these days is having to do it without Ronnie ’ s irreplaceable work ethic . “ Dad loved to work !” says Lennie . “ His heart and soul was in this track , and yes , we definitely feel like his spirit is here .”
Lennie and the boys keep the track running smoothly , and if the weather cooperates the track never really has an offseason . “ We close down the week of Christmas and maybe a few more weekends depending on where other holidays fall , but generally the rule is if it ’ s 50 degrees and sunny , we ’ re running !” Seth says .
While Ronnie accomplished much in the way of improvements , Lennie and his sons want to continue updating the track as they can . In the short term , additional speakers and lights are on the agenda , along with LED scoreboards , which they hope will be installed in 2021 .
As for the racing schedule this year , many feel it ’ s the most action-packed roster of events that Shadyside has hosted in a long time . Typically open on Thursdays and Sundays , you ’ ll find everything from radial events to Harley Davidson meets , truck shows and gassers , along with the ultra-popular Shadyside Outlaws no-time series . No less than 14 points bracket races are also on
the schedule for 2021 .
“ We have a huge support team outside of our family who also helps ; people like Corey Stamper of Spoold Media , Junior Hampton , Stan Powell and Ron Eveland . Many of the workers here at the track are not our real family , but they ’ re family none-the-less , and if we have a holiday gathering or family get-together , they ’ re always invited !” Lennie says . “ We ’ ve even taken them on vacation !” echoes Seth .
It ’ s a tight-knit group here at Shadyside Dragway , a group that thrives on working hard and having fun , and all involved are pumped about the happenings of this small-town drag strip . “ I ’ m sure every track feels like this , but I honestly believe we have the best fans and racers in the world !” Seth concludes . DI
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