This year’s reunion will once again showcase 3 historic Louisiana dragstrips, Pel State Dragway, LaPlace Dragway and Southland Dragway. This year we will also celebrates Southland Dragways 50th Anniversary of it's opening. These raceways were built and operated during a period from the late 1950’s thru 1970’s. A period of dynamic men and their racecars that built the foundation of what makes drag racing what it is today.
Pel State Dragway was located at the airport in Opelousas. It was run by members of the Pel State Timing Association, a Lafayette based car club. Since the track was situated on an airfield there were no guardrails, fencing etc. The crew had to install temporary fencing and a PA system before each race. Also there was not a physical tower so a portable tower was utilized by building a platform with a canopy atop a 1951 Chevy Panel truck. (This truck is still in existence today and they are making plans to have the truck at this year’s reunion). Pel State Dragway was operated from 1958-1968.
LaPlace Dragway was located in LaPlace La just west of New Orleans. The entrance and pits were right off Hwy 61(Airline Hwy) and houses were located on the right side of the strip. It was not unusual for people to be sitting in their back yards watching the races. Because of the layout of the track, Laplace had a short return road so dragsters were not push started from the “top end” as was customary of that time. Instead LaPlace had rollers installed that were turned by a V8 engine that would spin the dragsters tires to jump start their engines. In the 70’s the track was sold to and operated by “Moose” Pearah a famed track owner and promoter of the time. LaPlace was the location of the very first Cajun Nationals which was a national event promoted by NHRA. The track opened in 1962 and held it last drag race in 1980.
SouthLand Dragway located in Gray La north of Houma was built and modeled after Orange Country Raceway in California it’s octagonal shaped tower was a landmark structure for the raceway. Covered grandstands also lined both sides of the track. The track was state of the art for dragstrips built in its time. Dave McClelland (who went on to become the voice of NHRA in the 1970’s) was the track manager from 1969-1971. The track opened in the summer of 1969 and operated until the end of the 1970’s.
These 3 tracks formed the basis of drag racing in Louisiana during this time period. Local sportsman racers made up the bulk of the racers at these tracks along with just about every big named professional racer of the time. Racers such as Don Pruhomme, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Tom McEwen and of course Louisiana’s own Candies and Hughes. At this year’s South Louisiana Dragway reunion we are looking forward to showcasing the cars and the stars of this era especially those that raced at these three great tracks. Detailed plans for this year’s event are contained on this webpage.