35 Years Later, The Onondaga Dragway Is Coming Back To Life
It’s been almost 35 years since the gates of Onondaga, Michigan’s dragstrip were open for competition, but that is about to change. After injunctions, court delays, and years of uncertainty, Onondaga Dragway is set to open this summer.
Onondaga, Michigan is nestled between the cities of Jackson and Lansing, in southeastern Michigan. In the 1960s, this was place where many legendary drag racers tore up the quarter mile. Creating memories of Don Garlits’ legendary dragsters and EJ Potter’s V-8 powered motorcycle, these moments at the great strip appeared to be lost when it closed in 1978, but would not be forgotten. After attempts to reopen the raceway in 1985 failed, many dismissed the idea that it would ever reopen.
Luckily, the Onondaga saga didn’t stop in the mid-80s. In fact, much later, around 2007, a local concrete contractor and weekend gearhead named Dan Pranshka was looking for a place to test his race car. Dan made a bold move and contacted Ray Comer who owned the farmland where the remnants of Onondaga Dragway sat. Dan asked Ray if he could clean off the track and make some passes. When Dan unloaded his Chevelle and fired a pass down track, the local racers took notice. Pranshka and Comer quickly gained a number of new racing friends and for the next few years following that fateful run, Dan and and his buddies spent weekends making passes down the legendary track.
The number of racers showing up on the weekends grew to the point that Pranshka was forced to turn many away, and that’s when the decision to reopen the track to public began. In 2010, Pranshka and Comer were given temporary permission to open the track by the township. After a number of upgrades were made, a small group of local residents filed an injunction against the track. Two more years of this would pass, but Pranshka and Comer and their numerous supporters never gave up.
Currently, a select group of racers are making the final preparations to open the facility in June. The premise is “to have a dragstrip for the racers, run by the racers. We plan to run grudge races and bracket or index races. The track will be open on Saturdays, not on Sundays,” Pranshka stated. “Above all, I hope to provide a family-friendly track where the racers and their family can enjoy the sport of drag racing.”
Thank you to Ray Comer, Dan Pranshka, Jeff Cook, Rob Coats and the rest of the crew at Onondaga Dragway for taking the time to talk to us.