Sportsman Showcase: JEGS SPEEDweek at National Trail Raceway

The NHRA sportsman ranks feature the most competitive racing in the sport, and anytime you get a large group of them together the on-track action is sure to be exceptional.

National Trail Raceway (NTR) in Hebron, Ohio packed its pits with 600 sportsman racers during the JEGS SPEEDweek event, with participants from North Central Division 3 and beyond.

Ohio is a hotbed for NHRA sportsman racing activity and NTR has been ground-zero for the battle between these racers over the years. The facility has hosted both NHRA national events and Division 3 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events. NTR is also home to the JEGS SPORTSnationals that attracts the biggest names in NHRA sportsman racing each year.

Back in 2019 during the JEGS SPORTSnationals, Jason Murray and his team at NTR came up with the idea to combine the event with the LODRS event — with a rough idea of what the race would look like, Murray approached JEGS with the idea, leading to the creation of the JEGS SPEEDweek event.

“We thought it would be great to provide racers some real value and combine both events into one. The goal was to make the LODRS event two days and the JEGS SPORTSnationals two days, so racers would only need to make one trip out here and do it on a budget. This turns what would be eight days here at NTR to just six for the teams. It also allows us as a track to make the event even better,” Murray adds.

Pulling a race of this size and magnitude together during a normal year is a challenge, but doing it during the COVID-era cranks the difficulty meter up several notches. Murray has become an unwilling expert in how to run a racetrack during the pandemic, so he knew going into the event there would be a lot of work that needed to be done.

“This event was even more of a challenge because there was so much that needed to be done to get the facility up to the level we wanted. Things like painting, laying out parking, and other tasks all needed to be taken care of well in advance. We started parking cars on the Sunday before the event and still had cars coming in on Saturday. The facility had a full staff on hand trying to keep everything going, plus we had to battle the heat. It’s monumental, but the great staff we have here battled through the long days to put on a truly amazing event,” Murray explains.

If you were on the grounds at NTR during JEGS SPEEDweek you would agree the event was a smashing success, and Murray and the staff at NTR want the 2021 incarnation of the event to be even bigger when the COVID threat is gone.

“This is one of the largest LODRS events and SportsNationals we’ve ever had at NTR.  In a normal year, we’re looking to enhance this race in many different ways. We hope to have a car show as a part of the event next year to help bring in more spectators. The goal is to make this a must-attend event for drag racing fans in Ohio. There’s just so much racing and different classes it provides such a great value for fans and racers alike,” Murray says.

Pulling JEGS SPEEDweek event off was a total team effort between the NHRA and NTR. Not only did everyone have to deal with COVID safety measures, but Mother Nature also cranked up the heat during the race. The teamwork really paid off and racers were treated to a near-seamless event.

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“I really need to thank the NHRA team and our staff here at NTR. They put in so much work to make this event a success. They dealt with the weather and other challenges without hesitation. I also want to thank the racers, their families, and crews for coming to this event. They really are the stars of the show and have made this into an event that people will have on their calendars in 2021,” Murray states.

Race winners included Megan Meyer (Top Alcohol Dragster), DJ Cox ( Top Alcohol Funny Car), Anthony Bertozzi (Top Dragster), Chad Voges (Comp), Jeff Dona (Super Stock), Eric Campolito (Stock), Phillip Oakley (Super Comp), Dwight Nuest (Super Gas), Mark Smith (Super Street), John Benoit (Top Sportsman), and Bruce Sauer (Sportsman Motorcycle).

If you live in the Midwest, keep your eyes on the NTR website for the JEGS SPEEDweek dates next season.

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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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