Another of drag racing’s vital local establishments shuttered its gates earlier this month, leaving a whole crop of racers in the West Virginia and Southeastern Ohio region without a venue to call home.
The owners of the Kanawha Valley Dragway in Southside, West Virginia announced two weeks ago that the 1/8-mile drag strip would remain closed until further notice, after it was unexpectedly shut down in August of last year, prior to the completion of its planned racing season. Fortunately for those area racers, the fate of the Kanawha Valley strip — which is part of a motorsports complex that also includes a dirt oval for karting— doesn’t lie in the hands of commercial developers or politicians bending to the demands of the tracks’ neighbors.
According to WSAZ NewsChannel 3 in Huntington, longtime track owner Tim Bell, citing a declining interest in racing and a downturn of the local economy, could no longer operate the track. Danny Clagg and his wife, Denise, who had been operating the karting track, stepped in to help run the drag strip when its future under Bell became uncertain. Their mission was to increase racer participation, which was averaging 30 to 60 cars each weekend in early 2016. “Our main goal is increasing that,” said Clagg in May of last year. “Every time we drive to the track to mow the grass or do some maintenance, we make it a point to stop by some business we’ve never been to before, to talk to them about racing and ask if we can put a flier in the window.”
But the turnaround didn’t come, and in the latter half of 2016 Bell closed the gates and placed the track up for lease. Now, he’s listing it up for sale outright. Fortunately, the Kanawha Valley strip is far from a lost cause, with plenty of quality infrastructure, from the tower and a suite-style concession building overlooking the grandstands, to restroom and paved roadways. Of course, the fact that the track and its structures are still in such great shape and fully operational would make its potential but hopefully unlikely demise all the more sad.
The Kanawha Valley strip gained a bit of notoriety on June 23, 2007 when, during its Thunder Jam event, legendary drag racing exhibitionist Bob Motz suffered burns over 40 percent of his body in a terrifying starting line blaze in his jet-powered Kenworth truck.
Interested parties in assuming ownership and operation of the facility can contact Tim Bell at 304-389-6126. And if you buy it, we want to hear about it.