Another One Gone: Pacemakers Dragway Park’s Future In Doubt

Drag strips across the country have been closing at an alarming rate and it appears another track has fallen silent for the foreseeable future, if not permanently. Historic Pacemakers Dragway Park in Mount Vernon, Ohio has been closed since 2020 and Dragzine has learned the track won’t likely open again.

Pacemakers originally opened in 1956 and was one of the oldest continuously running NHRA tracks in the country. The facility hosted weekly test and tune sessions, bracket races, and special events. Pacemakers had a hardcore following of racers thanks to its small track atmosphere and good racing surface.

Rod Zolman was the last track operator at Pacemakers and he explained why the track wasn’t opened in 2021.

“I made the decision not to open the track this year; COVID was just the straw that broke my back financially. The facility is owned by the Nelson family and it was a rental situation with how the facility operated. The property was in need of some significant upgrades with paving and lighting, and I couldn’t justify from a money standpoint to rent the track again.”

There was nearly a resolution to the situation before the 2021 season began. Zolman was actively looking for financial backing to open the track this year, but ultimately things didn’t work out as planned.

“During the winter months one of my track sponsors Lubrication Specialties Inc. (Hot Shot’s Secret) that’s based in Chesterville, Ohio asked what they could do to help. They had an interest in buying the property at one point, too. The Nelson family has repeatedly said they had no interest in selling the property. When LSI was willing to do a long term lease and put a substantial investment into the property, my contact informed us that the family no longer wished to do anything with the facility other than some farm leasing, and continue to use it as a family hunting location,” Zolman explains.

Zolman believes that unless the Nelson family changes its mind about not leasing the facility, or they decide to try and run it on their own, the track will likely never open again. People contact Zolman regularly about buying the track or leasing it, but he explains to them he doesn’t have any information and the family doesn’t want to be contacted about it.

“While I’m extremely disappointed, I can’t fault the Nelson family, as they were very accommodating during the time I leased the track, allowing me to put money into the facility in lieu of rent. I think the face of racing has changed so much in the last few years with bracket racers being drawn to the big-money events. The racers are spending less time at your typical weekly events at small tracks. Pacemakers’ size and curfew limits made it difficult to compete in a region that’s home to some of the best tracks in the country,” Zolman says.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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