For the last seven years Jay Eastgate has been putting on events as part of his Hole Shot Drag Racing Association at the Waterford Speedbowl.
Eastgate told RaceDayCT that he is readying to submit plans for building a drag racing facility in the town of Windham.
Eastgate said if all goes right with the plans the facility could be partially operational by next summer.
The Hole Shot Drag Racing Association hosts 100-foot drag racing events at facilities throughout the Northeast. The 100-foot drags are held weekly on Friday’s at the Waterford Speedbowl during the traditional short track racing season.
Eastgate though is looking bigger than 100 feet. He wants to build a facility that not only has a dedicated track for the Hole Shot Drag Racing Association but also an eighth-mile drag strip that could host national drag racing divisions.
“There’s nothing guaranteed in stone yet,” Eastgate said. “We still have to go through zoning and public hearings and that’s going to be brutal. But a lot of people are excited about it and I think the way we’re going about it is correct.”
The proposed 50-acre facility would be situated on a piece of property off Route 32 in Windham near the Franklin town line.
Eastgate began hosting Hole Shot Drag Racing Association events at Waterford in 2007. He has been running a regular weekly show at the track since 2009.
“I’m grateful for the Speedbowl,” Eastgate said. “The whole idea of the Hole Shot Drags was to put it on the front stretch straightaway and utilize and existing facilities. I would continue to push for doing stuff at the Speedbowl, but there’s compromises when you’re dealing with a facility like that. Our burnout box was never ideal. Some guys cannot get it done properly in the cars. There’s no proper concrete launch pad. We cannot prep the track like we’d do with a drag strip. So a lot of guys stay home and we lose a lot of customers that way.”
Eastgate believes having a standard drag racing setup for the 100-foot drags would attract a greater participating group.
He said the plans call for the 100-foot drag track to be up and running first with the eight-mile track to follow. Eastgate said he has been in talks with the nationally known International Hot Rod Association about preparations for building the eighth-mile spectator facility. The IHRA is considered the second tier level of national drag racing bodies behind the National Hod Rod Association.
Eighth-mile strips are becoming more commonplace around the country. For years the quarter-mile strip was considered the standard for drag racing, but safety concerns have changed the minds of many in the drag racing community about the advantages of the eighth-mile.
“The eighth-mile, it’s plenty fast,” Eastgate said. “You get 70-80 percent of your speed in an eighth-mile. The cars are still going very fast. The programs run quicker. It makes it more interesting. You can seem more of the race. You’re not looking in binoculars at the finish line. There’s a lot of good thing about it. A lot of guys that have raced an eighth-mile don’t want to go back to a quarter-mile. It’s easier on the motors. It doesn’t mean that they don’t have accidents, but the amount it happens is so infrequent so it’s just that much safer.”
The quarter-mile Connecticut Dragway in Colchester, the only previous purpose built drag racing facility in the state, operated from 1961 until 1986.
Eastgate said he is working with former nationally known drag racer Ron Colson, who operates a consulting firm called Track Planning Associates. Colson’s firm helps track planners work through all phases of facility creation, from zoning issues and design to construction and operational management.