Drag Illustrated Issue 169, June/July 2021 - Page 64

Resurrection

Indiana ’ s US 41 Dragstrip is on an upswing after decades of neglect By Van Abernethy

US 41 Dragstrip in Morocco , Indiana , is a classic example of a beautiful dragstrip that lost its luster after decades of neglect , only to be resurrected with fresh new ownership that is pouring time , resources and a whole lot of love into this former national event facility .

Opened in 1994 , US 41 Dragstrip was the pride of IHRA and a gem of a facility that represented the sanctioning body ’ s footprint in the upper Midwest , with a total of three national events being held there . By the late 1990s and into the early 2000s , US 41 Dragstrip began a down-ward spiral , led by a series of ownership changes that never seemed to work out as expected .
The state of decline seemed to be never-ending when suddenly a lifeline was extended by brothers Bill and Jim Hupke , who own a successful speed shop in Chicago and passionately wanted the dragstrip to succeed . The Hupke brothers bought the track five years ago and thus began a turnaround effort to undo decades of neglect .
The brothers found the facility to be overgrown with weeds and garbage in every direction , with the wooden bleachers rotting away . The bathrooms were atrocious , and pretty much everything on the property was part of the original build , including the timing system , which was the source of many headaches early on .
Slowly but surely , one project after another was completed , beginning with a complete new
concrete racing surface install to the eighth mile . Bathrooms were remodeled ( now with showers ) and a new timing system was purchased . Additional lighting was also installed with more on the way . Earlier this year they performed a
Steve Keys
regrind on the entire racing surface .
The condition of the facility has been much improved in the last five years with many more up-dates planned , including upgrading the concession stand with outdoor seating and remodeling the tower , including a plan to return the VIP suites on the third floor , just as it had in the na-tional event days . IHRA sanction has also returned to the facility after years of outlaw status .
When the Hupke brothers took over , the bracket program was pretty much nonexistent , so they selected longtime racer and Midwest native Steve Keys to be in charge of rebuilding the brack-et program . Keys started with about 20 racers , mainly his lifelong friends who lived in the area .
“ I had been out here earlier and saw how bad the bracket program was and I just wanted to build it ,” says Keys . “ I brought my daughter out here when she was a kid , back when I used to race motorcycles . A lot of times it was just me , her and the bike , so this track has a special place in my heart .”
Five years after Keys took over the bracket program , car counts have been on a steady upswing .
“ We had 262 cars last week for our season opener , which was just a normal bracket race ,” he says . “ We rebuilt the program with trust and by doing what we say we ’ re going to do and not cutting the purse . In fact , last week we had more cars than we were expecting so we took some
PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRYAN EPPS AND VAN ABERNETHY
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