MOUNT VERNON — Some of the fastest cars in the state of Ohio will hit the track at Pacemakers Dragway Park this weekend for the July 4 Firecracker Blast, presented by Dukes Quick Lube & Quality Auto Service. The event will feature the Duke’s Quick 32 and both Pro and Super-Pro competitions with over $5,000 up for grabs.
The Quick 32 race will be the second of the season at Pacemakers, but could draw the biggest field of the year, according to Duke’s owner Earl Clinedinst, who sponsors the series.
“My son Kevin and I came up with this to help Pacemakers,” Clinedinst said. “What we did was helped build a purse so people can enjoy this great racing right in their own back yard. Where else can you go spend $5 for admission and be entertained for five or six hours? Most of the racers are local racers — Bob Bebout, Rob Zolman, Bill Webb, Jeff LaFever, Jason Hendrickson, Bob Rudrick — you’ve got some heavy hitters right here in central Ohio that are some of the best drivers around. I could go on and on, but they really put on a great show.”
The field for the Quick 32 event is determined in a pretty simple fashion — the fastest cars in the field get in.
“How it works is, several cars — up to 45 or 50 — try to make it into the fastest 32 cars,” said Clinedinst. “The top 32 is made up of 16 dragsters and 16 door cars. The top 16 in each category all run each other, then at the end, the top dragster and top door car run off to see who wins. It is a dial-in race. We’ll have blown small-block Chevys, big-block Chevys running on nitrous oxide, raw horsepower from 500- or 600-cubic-inch motors; it is basically a bracket race with really fast cars. In a door car, you are probably going to have to run 6.00 or maybe even 5.90 to qualify. The dragsters, depending on who shows up, may have to run a 4.60 or 4.50 just to make it in. There won’t be any dragsters slower than four seconds I don’t think.”
Clinedinst will have the car he sponsors in the mix, driven by his son, but even he isn’t sure how the field will shake out.
“I’ve had so many people contacting me this week,” Clinedinst said. “Our car can run in the 5.50s, and I’m not sure we are going to make the program. On one hand, I’ll be sad if we don’t make the program, but on the other hand, I’ll be overjoyed because that mean’s we were able to promote this well enough that people came to Mount Vernon and race our local track.”
To help kick off the weekend, Duke’s is hosting a race car show on Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in conjunction with other Fourth of July activities sponsored by the Heritage Association.
“I joined the Heritage Association because of a good friend of mine Dee Allerding. Her brother, Terry King, is my best friend and they race a dragster that we help sponsor,” said Clinedinst. “(Dee) has been after me to join, and after I did, we got the idea for this. I got to thinking, ‘(The Heritage Association) has the stuff going on out at Memorial Park at 2:30. What if I put a car show on to show off the cars that will be attempting to qualify for Saturday’s races? So I invited some of my friends, who are coming to show off their cars and give people the chance to look at the cars up close and talk to the drivers.
“We are doing the car show on Friday so people can come out and see some of these cars,” added Clinedinst. “Some of the cars that will be competing are just amazing. Rod Zolman has a Falcon Wagon. When was the last time you saw a Falcon Wagon with a 500-cubic inch motor running five seconds? It is just not heard of. There will be Chevelles, Pontiac GTOs, our chop-top ‘55 Chevy, Mopars, Fords, about anything you could want to see. We will have three or four dragsters on display. ... We’re hoping that after people see these cars up close and personal, they’ll come out and cheer on Saturday.”
Aside from the racing aspect, Clinedinst looks at this series as a way for him to support the racing community and his local track.
“We are trying to be entertaining, but also give back to the community,” Clinedinst said. “They’ve supported our business for seven years, so we asked ourselves what could we do to give back. (Pacemakers) is very family oriented; it is great entertainment. ... I was hoping this series would draw some attention from the public and draw some attention from around the state of Ohio. We want people to come to Mount Vernon, spend some money and support our local economy.
“I went around the community to people I knew were supportive of racing, and we were able to pick up 14 sponsors to help us put this race on.”
There is a test and tune scheduled for Friday evening with the main event scheduled for Saturday. Time trials begin at noon, with Quick 32 competition starting around 2 p.m. Half-off discount coupons are available at Herald’s Appliances, W.S. Hogg Insurance and Duke’s Quick Lube.
“We’re hoping for a great turnout,” said Clinedinst. “A lot of the other area tracks are off this weekend. I don’t think Norwalk is open, and I know National Trails is closed. We’re hoping that we might get a little different draw to the field that we normally wouldn’t have. I think the purse will draw a lot of people to town, so it should be a great weekend of racing.
“I talk to people all the time that say, ‘I haven’t been out there in 10 or 12 years.’ All I say is, ‘Come out,’” said Clinedinst. “This is not the racing that we saw 10 or 12 years ago. You still put your foot to the floor, but it has really changed. The track has been upgraded, and the facilities have been improved. It is very family-oriented. ... It is great entertainment.”