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The local race track, which crowned its season-long champions last weekend, may be 'the best-kept secret in Oregon.'

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - James Heriford II gets his Chevy Camaro off the ground during the King of the Track weekend at Madras Dragstrip, Aug. 6-7, 2022.

Another year, another coronation day for the top racers at Madras Dragstrip.

This past weekend, Aug. 7-8, the local dragstrip held its King of the Track races. These races determined the season-long winner in each division, based on total points earned at the track in Madras.

Corey Seekins and his No. 6052 Chevy won King of the Track out of the Pro division, Suzie Uppendahl and her Super Pro No. U601 Mustang took home Queen of the Track honors and Shahalie Peters rode her No. 6200 dragster from the Junior Lightning division to the Kid of the Track award.

The King of the Track — or KOT — races were the culmination of roughly three months of racing at Madras Dragstrip, pitting the season's top talents against one another in a bracketed tournament that is in keeping with NHRA Summit Racing Series standards.

"We've been running since April, and we've had several race events already that have gone really well," noted Madras Dragstrip operations manager Johnny Martinez.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Johnny Martinez is the operations manager at Madras Dragstrip, and his team ensures the race track is always running smoothly.After joining the track two years ago, Martinez was promoted to operations manager when that job came open.

"Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I'm the first one in and the last one to leave," Martinez said. He and his crew attend to every detail of track prep, from signage to electrical work to spraying down the track between cars and everything in between.

Martinez noted that the fast track draws in drivers from all around the Pacific Northwest.

While everybody is hopeful for their moment in the winner's circle, only a few end up there each weekend. Still, these races mean much more than just wins and losses — race days at the dragstrip bring together a scattered community of drivers and drag racing fans.

That community, as Martinez pointed out, spans across Oregon and even bleeds over into the neighboring states.

All of those folks are making the trek to what Madras Dragstrip P.A. announcer Jeff Lancaster calls "the best-kept secret in Oregon."

"What I'm trying to do is get more people on this side," Lancaster said, gesturing toward the bleachers that had yet to fill up during Sunday morning's time trials. "It's kind of the best-kept secret in Oregon. We have some great races here."

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - It's hard to tell what was more eye-catching: the scenic beauty of Central Oregon, or Marty Boldt's Baskin Robbins-themed dragster.Lancaster, who hails from Culver, has been the P.A. announcer at Madras Dragstrip for seven years now following a career as a rodeo clown.

He didn't have much experience outside of his naturally boisterous personality, but he quickly learned that may have been the best possible job qualification.

"I knew very little," he admitted. "My job interview was, 'Can you start next race?'"

"You talk about the cars, you talk about the people," said Lancaster, noting some nicknames like 'Wild' Willie Hudson and Rick Froehlich's '57 Chevy that was dubbed 'Dirty Harry,' or 'the fastest Excursion in the world.'

While he may not provide all the details from the races — and, he admits with a laugh, he may even make up a few of them — Lancaster certainly provides heart and soul. Indeed, he is a big part of what makes Madras Dragstrip a special community.

For those in the know about this well-kept secret, this past weekend was a great example of why the dragstrip is such a special place. Following Saturday's races, in which King of the Track qualifiers doubled as the Shannon Tatum Memorial Races, the Madras Dragstrip board put on a prime rib dinner to honor Tatum's memory and to show appreciation to the track employees.

The following morning, everyone was up and at it again early for Sunday's time trials. Those warm-up races were finished quickly, and almost without incident, thanks in large part to the organization and quick work of Martinez and his team.

Even when David Rockwood's rear axle broke and his car had to be pushed back to the pit, it was a total team effort as a handful of officials, fans and other drivers all raced to aid one of their fellow community members.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - Gary Boldt (front) and Billy Ledford (back) race during time trials at Madras Dragstrip this past Sunday, Aug. 7.After a lunch break — another time when the community aspect at the dragstrip was on full display — the races resumed, and champions were crowned. Still, the wins seemed almost secondary to getting everyone out to the track so they could share their love and passion for drag racing.

"I have neighbors, the Uppendahls, for 10 years they said, 'Come on up to Madras,'" explained Alex Peacock, who lives in Bend but has made a second home at the dragstrip. "We finally did, and it was like, 'This is a ton of fun!'" He and his dad have been coming for two or three years now.

Peacock was one of roughly 70 drivers to participate in the weekend's races. Winners from Saturday's races included: Walter Parris, junior thunder division; Shahalie Peters, junior lightning; Zach McFaul, junior street; Jimmy Heriford, sportsman; Jason Harmon, pro; and Rick Froehlich, super pro. On Sunday, the winners included: Cody Mackey, junior thunder; Shahalie Peters, junior lightning; Alex Mackey, junior street; Jimmy Heriford, sportsman; Corey Seekins, pro; and Rick Froehlich, super pro.

While Lancaster seemed to be happy with the participation numbers for King of the Track, he is even more excited for next month's Nostalgia series.

"In September, we have a race coming up that's going to be absolutely insane," he said.

Over Sept. 10-11, Madras Dragstrip will play host to more than 200 drivers and their cars, all of which must be from 1988 or earlier.

Lancaster is hopeful that with driver registration tripled, the number of spectators will also increase.

"If we've got 200 cars down there," he says, pointing toward the pit area, "I need 500 people here (in the stands)."

So, while Madras Dragstrip may be the best-kept secret in the state, Jeff Lancaster, Johnny Martinez and the rest of the crew at the track won't mind if you let the cat out of the bag this time, for Nostalgia's sake.

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