These days, there is more news about the next drag strip to be closed than the next one to be opened. Many strips have closed due to lack of interest, while others changed hands and either became privately owned or torn down to make room for other developments. Others simply languished in limbo, slowly returning to the landscape as ghosts of the past yearned for one last run down the 1,320.
Such is the fate of the U.S. 30 Drag Strip, located in Northwest Indiana. The fate of this once-famous strip of asphalt is chronicled in Lost Indiana, a website dedicated to abandoned structures and facilities in the vibrant state of (you guessed it) Indiana.
Indiana has always been a hot bed of hot rodders, and today maintains some of the world’s premier racing facilities. There is of course the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home to the Indy 500, the epicenter of the NASCAR world. Less known (at least these days) is the U.S. 30 Drag Strip. Located in Northwest Indiana, not far from Chicago, this drag strip became a mecca of sorts for high speed motor sports. Opened in 1954, just as drag racing was starting to take off, U.S. 30 quickly became famous for a number of firsts that took place there during the following decades.
In 1965, Rob Pellegrini ran his Super Mustang at U.S. 30, the first funny car of its time (and which we chronicled earlier this year). Many of the most famous drag racers of their time also passed through U.S. 30, such as Don Schumacher and Bobby Kerr. For almost two decades it dominated the MidWest as a must-visit place for horsepower enthusiasts. The AHRA (American Hot Rod Association) counted U.S. 30 as one of its premier tracks. The two strips of tarmac ran East-West, parallel to U.S. 30 itself, and amateurs also found their way to the track on any given weekend to test their mettle.
Like so many other drag strips though, U.S. 30 fell on hard times during the 1970’s as competition from the NHRA cut into its profits. Then when the founder of the AHRA, Jim Tice, died in 1982, things started going rapidly downhill not just for U.S. 30, both the AHRA as well. Jim’s wife Ruth sold ownership of the AHRA to Mike Grey, who made his fortune with a moving company. U.S. 30 and several other drag strips attempted to form their own sanctioning body, the American Drag Racing Association, in 1984. That would prove to be the last season for both U.S. 30, and the AHRA. The owner of the land that U.S. 30 sat on saw potential for land development and refused to renew their lease. Without a sanctioning body, U.S. 30 was doomed anyway.
Time has slowly overtaken U.S. 30, much of which remains in a dilapidated state even today. The two strips remain, mostly intake, though overgrown with weeds and bushes. Just one building, the “Goodie Shack”, remains, the others having been torn down either by vandals or neglect. The bleachers have been moved to a former parking lot, the wooden planks that made up the seats left to rot next to them. The starting line is still visible (albeit barely) as is the AHRA logo. The city of Hobart, Indiana annexed the surrounding land many years ago in the hopes of building shops or expanding the Southlake mall, though neither has happened.
Rumors have been swirling for nearly 30 years that the track might yet re-open one day (though we won’t hold our breath). The developer has been trying to sell the land to commercial or industrial interests for the better part of two decades, without success. For now, the U.S. 30 drag strip remains a silent testament to a time long gone past.