Last day to burn rubber at Kansas City raceway

The roar of hot rods filled the air at Kansas City International Raceway for the last time Sunday as diehard fans faced the cold to cherish the memories.

“It’s really sad because there are so many generations that grew up around here,” said Mystie Bailey of Odessa, who came with her husband, Jay, and their kids Justice and Josten. “You see new cars and old cars and a little bit of everything. There are a couple of $100,000 cars that are going to race today.”

Sunday’s free “Test-N-Tune” had been rescheduled from Saturday because of rain. It was the final event at the raceway at 82nd Street and Noland Road after Kansas City bought the 93-acre property to turn it into a park.

All kinds of hot rods and muscle cars lined up in the staging lanes for their turn to peel down the straight-line track at speeds well over 100 mph. It was a scene that has thrilled drivers and spectators since the place opened in 1967.

“This is a very historical track,” said Rusty Small of Lee’s Summit. “This was the home track of the American Hot Rod Association. Some of the drag racing legends have been here.”

Small was at the track to run his 1969 Hurst/Olds against a 1970 Dodge Challenger 426 Hemi 4-Speed owned by friend and longtime racing partner Steve Hodges of Baldwin City, Kan. Both men were sad to see KCIR go.

“We’re really running a shortage of quarter-mile tracks,” Hodges said. “This is a better track than Topeka. Topeka is a big, nice facility. This is a very racer-friendly track.”

Dozens of people have written messages on the side of the announcer’s tower.

“Thanks for a lifetime of memories,” wrote Bill Rousseau.

“Good times here at KCIR. Hate to have to say goodbye,” wrote Bailey Crouse.

Mark and Kristy Paddy of Kansas City stood on the top row of the metal bleachers, bundled against the wind, to catch the action.

“Let’s see, 1975 was the first time I raced here,” Mark Paddy said. “We had to come (today) and get a few shots of the track and a few shots of the cars.”

Kristy Paddy recalled Friday and Saturday nights in high school when many of her friends ran their cars at KCIR.

“You would just run whatever you had,” she said. “Some of them were really, really fast and some of them not so much. It was lots of fun.”

Mark Paddy and others are worried that the closing of KCIR may lead to illegal street racing.

“We don’t want to see anybody get hurt on the street,” he said. “This was a great place for everybody to come and get that wild hair out, on the track.”

Mike Watts of Raytown had been coming to the raceway since it opened and said he would not have missed Sunday for anything.

“I still get as high from it as I did as a kid,” he said.