Flashback Friday: California’s Fremont Dragstrip
During the 1960’s, quarter miles were scattered all up and down the hot rodding heavy West Coast, leaving no shortage of places for one to display their racing machines. One of the popular hot spots for more than thirty years, thanks to its central location within the state of California, was the Fremont Dragstrip.
In the late 1950’s, Freoment’s own Ron Lawrence partnered with several local area individuals to propose the construction of a quarter mile dragstrip that would be located off Durham Road next to the Fremont Skysailing Airport and West of the Nimitz Freeway. Inrrest in the sport was soaring, and despite the presence of other tracks in the area, including Half Moon Bay, Cotati, Vacaville, and Lodi, another track would be a warm welcome to the infantile but fledgling sport.
As with any racing venue, receiving the permits for the project was a struggle for Lawrence and company, but once finalized, two perfectly straight paved roads measuring 3/4 of a mile long appeared on the site of an abandoned air field that served as an auxiliary landing strip for nearby Moffett Naval Air Station during World War II.. Amenities like grandstands, concessions, a timing stand and announcers tower, and ticket booths were then added and Fremont opened for business in 1958.
The thousand of racers and fans that poured into the facility was a huge boon to the area economy and more importantly, it virtually eliminated illegal street racing in Fremont. From the outset, the Fremont Dragstrip was the site of world record performances by the likes of “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Don Prudhomme, Art Malone, and others. It was said by many top racers that visited the track that the low humidity air in the nearby San Fransisco Bay area helped them to attain incredible numbers.
While the nationally known drivers brought fame to Fremont, it was the weekly grudge racing, offering a safe and controlled environment for former street racers, that was the real heart and soul of the track. All one had to do was show up, sign up to race, pass a simple safety check, and you were ready to race.
Fremont hosted several NHRA national events and appeared in multiple Hollywood flicks, including American Graffiti II, along with spots in several television shows and commercials.
Fremont operated until November of 1988, then under the name Baylands Raceway Park, and after its closing, the site remains in a vacant lot. In 1996, a proposition by the Cit Council was made to transform the flat cow pasture into a vast business park. Twelve years later, approval was given to move ahead with the project, and soon, the site that once hosted legends will sit under office buildings and warehouses; a fate all too common for dragstrips of the era.