Drag Illustrated Issue 173, December 2021 - Page 65

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Half-Century Milestone

Ardmore Dragway ’ s Cowpasture Nationals celebrates 50 years • By Van Abernethy
PHOTOGRAPHS BY VAN ABERNETHY

The legendary Cowpasture Nationals at Ardmore Dragway turned a half-century old in 2021 and has grown into one of the most celebrated and heavily attended events in the history of this fabled southern Oklahoma dragstrip , and that in itself is quite amazing since the event was started largely as a joke .

The two individuals responsible for launching the humorously-named event were both in at-tendance at the 50th running held in mid- October and offered their insights on how the event came to exist . Lonnie Sears and Johnny Laird were young men , 25 and 30 years old respectively , when they bought the track in 1970 , owning it jointly until 1976 .
Early on they observed such prestigious events such as Indy ’ s U . S . Nationals , fondly referred to as the “ Big Go .” Other events such as the Summer Nationals and Winternationals and many
Owners , Lonnie Sears and Johnny Laird
more were eventually ushered in on the national stage , so not to be out done , Laird and Sears decided they too could have a big race , albeit with a healthy dose of humor included , so alas , the Cowpasture Nationals was launched .
The comical name was a no-brainer for Laird
and Sears since Ardmore Dragway was quite literally located right in the middle of a cow pasture , and remained as such until the mid-1990s . “ We would have to bring the race to a halt twice a day during any event : once for cows to cross the track where they would feed all day , then again in the evening when the cows would have to be brought back ,” recalls Sears .
In those days the track was pretty primitive in every way imaginable . Oh sure , Ardmore had electronics 50 years ago , but in order for that to be possible Sears would have to plug a cord into the tower , then roll it off a spool and walk it down to the quarter-mile mark . “ This was before golf carts ,” Sears laughs .
The photocells had to be reinstalled every race , and the E . T . cards were hand-written in the second floor of the tiny tower , then dropped down a tube for the drivers to pick up at their con-venience . The racing surface also had to be
December 2021
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