NASCAR & Auto Racing

Drag racers take their turns — but make no turns — at Kansas Speedway

Tyler Van Lant (right) and Andy Asmus drag raced during “Operation Octane” on Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
Tyler Van Lant (right) and Andy Asmus drag raced during “Operation Octane” on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. Special to the Star

The cars lined up two by two, the smell of burned rubber and fuel filled the air, and a few drivers even briefly lost control of their cars.

But instead of racing around the Kansas Speedway track, the cars sped down pit road.

Saturday offered a unique racing setting even for Kansas Speedway as the track in conjunction with local club Wyco Racing hosted the street-car racing event, “Operation Octane.”

Muscle cars dating from the 1970s to late-model editions — and even a few station wagons reminiscent of the late 1970s and early 1980s — raced head to head for an eighth of a mile down pit road. For a $30 entrance fee, participants competed in one of three classes: small tire, big tire or true street class.

“This is cooler than hell,” said Kendall Goin of Independence, who won a first-round matchup in his 1990 Ford Mustang. “To go from the street to an event like this is awesome. For Kansas Speedway to let us do this in a professional environment is awesome.”

The event brought out a crowd in the thousands, many arriving well before the scheduled 5 p.m. start time. Some fans sat in the stands, while others lined the fence along pit road, being roughly 30 yards away from the action. Children raced hot wheels down a wooden track between the pit road and the garage.

“We are tickled to death with the response. This is what we’ve been working for the past year to get something like this out here,” said Russel Edwards of Overland Park, a member of Wyco Racing who helped organize the event. “I don’t think they were prepared for what it would bring. There’s racers from all over the country that have come here. It’s a big thing and it can be a good thing for Kansas City.”

Edwards, who raced his 1981 Buick Regal, said the experience of competing at Kansas Speedway is an unforgettable one.

“It’s a rush, it really is. It’s adrenaline mostly,” he said. “You’re nervous, and you’re excited. You’re hot and sweaty and thinking about everything that can go wrong and praying that everything goes right. We’ll go up to the drag strips every now and then, but I’ve never raced in a setting like this.”

Steve Hansen of Kansas City, Kan., came to watch the event and said it could be considered one of a kind.

“The last time I saw something like this was back in the 1970s at Kansas City International Raceway,” he said. “Other than that, I haven’t seen anything like this before.”

Chris Hogan drove all the way from Springfield to watch the racing, and hopes the event starts a trend across the country.

“I’m not surprised by the turnout. You’ve got some well-known internet cars here and some cars that have been on (the Discovery Channel show) ‘Street Outlaws,’” Hogan said. “That show has made this whole scene huge. Hopefully it keeps on going and they bring some more races back as I think it could get even bigger.”