Drag racers speed towards grand prize

Mattoon+resident+Tom+Harlin+%28foreground%29+races+his+%2777+Camaro+in+the+Pro+class+on+Saturday+at+the+Coles+County+Dragway.

Jason Howell

Mattoon resident Tom Harlin (foreground) races his ’77 Camaro in the Pro class on Saturday at the Coles County Dragway.

Mackenzie Freund, City Editor

After working on his 1977 Dodge Dart for 11 years, Ron Hill’s newly designed car made its return to racing.

Hill, a Villa Park Ill. resident, has been racing since 1990 in his Dart, and won the 1998 Pro class championship with it.

Hill, who loves to race because of the competition, was one of the pro-class racers at the “Big Dollars August” racing event at the Coles County Dragway, Saturday evening.

Ron Hill, a villa grove resident, spins the tires on his 1975 Dodge Dart before he lines up for his first time trial Saturday at the Coles County Dragway. Hill said he built his car by himself, but his cousin helped him out with the interior.
Mackenzie Freund
Ron Hill, a villa grove resident, spins the tires on his 1975 Dodge Dart before he lines up for his first time trial Saturday at the Coles County Dragway. Hill said he built his car by himself, but his cousin helped him out with the interior.

The race was open to all classes, but only the winner of the Pro class would win the grand prize of $2,000.

The different classes are categorized by experience and horsepower of the engine.

The Sportsman class is typically for people who are just starting out. The Pro class is the intermediate racers and the Super-Pro class is for the more advanced drivers with well-built cars.

John Seabrooke, an employee at the drag strip, said he has been working there for about three years, and he drives from Paxton Ill. every weekend to work.

“I drive 85 miles to get here every weekend,” Seabrooke said. “I think I have only missed two Fridays in my three years of working here”

Seabrooke said he is the tech inspector for the cars to make sure they are safe, along with being the track photographer.

Seabrooke explained that a typical race day starts with each class going through two time trials before they go into the elimination rounds.

The race on Saturday had an estimated 90 cars in all the classes, but 52 of them were all racing for the Pro class grand prize.

Tom Harlin, a Mattoon resident, entered his 1977 Camaro into the Pro class race and built his car from scratch.

Harlin said he has been racing at the dragway since 1988.

Races feel like a family gathering and his favorite was when BP hosted a race with a grand prize of $10,000.

Rob Fisher, a Humbolt Ill. resident, said he has been racing since the dragstrip opened back up in 1987.

Humbolt resident Rob Fisher races his '66 Chevelle wagon on Saturday at the Coles County Dragway.
Jason Howell
Humbolt resident Rob Fisher races his ’66 Chevelle wagon on Saturday at the Coles County Dragway.

Fisher said he loves the competition, making friends and sometimes the payout.

Fisher built a 1966 Cheville wagon he races in the Pro class, a 1983 Malibu wagon, for the sportsman class and a 1978 Malibu, which his girlfriend races.

Each weekend in August there are designated days for different classes to win a grand prize.

Race participants wait for their race class to start on Saturday at the Coles County Dragway.
Jason Howell
Race participants wait for their race class to start on Saturday at the Coles County Dragway.

The different monetary prizes depend on what class a driver is in and can range anywhere from $400 to $2000.

 

Mackenzie Freund can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]