Over the past decade we’ve seen the number of quality dragstrips closing outpace the number of those opening by a large margin. Many of the older tracks that had character have shut down due to a lack of profit, noise complaints, or government intervention. But Ohio drag racer and businessman Ron Matcham saw an opportunity to purchase one of these older tracks, the famed Dragway 42 in West Salem, Ohio, and he jumped on it. Now Matcham’s grand vision of revitalizing a classic track is nearly complete, and racers across the country will reap the benefits.
The new Dragway 42 is a race track that’s been rebuilt from the ground up by a racer, for racers. Matcham made his intentions known back in 2014 when he released renderings of the facility that illustrated a true racing paradise. To get the facility exactly how he envisoned it, Matcham would need to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch.
One of the biggest changes made is the direction for which the track runs. After a huge chunk of Earth was moved, the track now runs North to South, rather than South to North as it once did. Matcham also added 40 foot tall dirt mounds for grass seating to go along with the new bleachers. This will give all of the spectators a great view of the entire track. The strip will use an Accutime timing system with 12 foot by 48 foot tall scoreboards at the top end.
As the racers would hope, the surface was made a priority in the rebuild and a lot of thought was put into it.
“I went with the asphalt and concrete because it’s easier to clean the rubber off the concrete. I did my research with the track prep guys. They recommend to go this route since it’s easier to keep the asphalt from peeling. The mix Melway Paving used has a polymer blend that has almost the same hardness as concrete, and was very smooth when it was laid down,” Matcham explains.
One thing that was left out of the paving process was the heated and cooled track surface, but there were solid reasons for this. “I didn’t go with the heated and cooled track for two reasons. There’s too much risk turning the track to dew with the cooling side, and the heating side just wouldn’t benefit us enough here in northern Ohio, so that’s why I didn’t go that route. It had nothing to do with money, it just was something I didn’t want to do after talking with experts in the racing world,” Matcham says.
With a project of this magnitude, there will always be delays that occur that are outside of your control. Matcham acknowledges things didn’t go as he planned, but is ready to move forward with getting the track ready for racing.
“This project was over 142 acres. We turned the track around to face a new direction, and had to build a complete infrastructure for it … it was a lot. There were weather issues that impacted the ability to do a quality job for the paving at times, too. The track is done, so let’s just stop all the hearsay and doubts right now. Anything that Ron Matcham has started, he has finished and we will be racing at Dragway 42.”
So, when will we hear fire in the pipes at Dragway 42? According to Matcham, the gates will swing open this coming spring. “The target date for the track to open is sometime in April, weather permitting. It will be a soft start opening with test and tunes and things like that. The first year will be kind of a feeling-it-out phase, and year two is when we will do a lot bigger things.”
The racing future is extremely bright at Dragway 42 and Matcham plans on having events that will cover all forms of racing. “We’re going to run a points series that will be 10 to 12 meets the first year. There will be some bigger events that will be announced later, which will include some big money bracket races. To spice things up, don’t be surprised if you see some special events scheduled a month out as well.”
“There will be heads-up racing at the track in the future, with possibly be one big money race per month at the track. I’ve seen the void for heads-up racing — we have racers here that are driving south to race, so we’ll address that with our program. That exciting style of racing brings in the spectators, and people love to see it,” Matcham says.
Now that there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Dragway 42, Matcham is ready to show off the fruits of his efforts. “I want to thank all of the racers who have been supporting me and my family during this process. Our General Manager Paul Bursley deserves a ton of thanks as well, he has been huge in making this happen. I also want to thank my kids — this has been a great family affair. Nobody wants this project done more than I do, and to see Dragway 42 returned to a top-notch facility. I wanted to leave a legacy for my family. We all love drag racing and want this track to be part of that racing legacy.”
Make sure to check out the Dragway 42 Facebook page here for tons of videos, progress updates, and information on the opening date!