WMMS and Thompson Drag Raceway in the 70s

This WMMS print ad by David Helton is from 1978 when Thompson Drag Raceway turned twenty years old.


The careers of a number of drag racing legends were launched from Thompson, including T.V. Tommy Ivo and Big Daddy Don Garlits.

The Thompson Drag Raceway spots were part of the weekend WMMS summer soundtrack.  You couldn’t miss hearing them.

The relationship between WMMS and Thompson occurred during a rough time for the track.  The seventies gas crisis led to a decline of performance cars and the track struggled to stay in business.

But survive it did and this year Thompson Drag Raceway is celebrating it’s fiftieth.

6 Responses to “WMMS and Thompson Drag Raceway in the 70s”


  2. SUNDAYYY SUNDAYYYYY SUNDAYYYYYYYY… AT THE DRAG RACING CAPITAL OF MID-AMERICA!!!!!!!!! (But wait, I have more rambling to do on the subject. I accidentally submitted the “Sunday Sunday” thing before I meant to. Sorry ’bout that.)

    It’s like I just heard that spot on the air this morning, that’s how ingrained it was in my youth. Drag racing and rock ‘n roll naturally go together so Thompson ads on WMMS in the summer just about had to be.

    I believe it was in 1978, the year the ad in John’s above piece ran, that myself and a bunch of friends took many a ride out to Thompson for “grudge racing” (Tuesday nights, I think) — where anybody could run whatever they drove in to the track for five bucks, or something like that. It was a nice service because it helped keep drag racing off of the streets for not much dough as well as providing very accurate elapsed times for those who just wanted to gage how well their car would run “in the quarter”. (For anyone who may be curious, the races were staged in the “bracket racing” format. One can Google that term for more info.)

    Just about every time we took our cars to grudge night a guy was there running a rally bad a** ’57 Chevy called Godzilla. (The car, that is, I’ve forgotten the guys name. It was common back in those days for guys with serious drag cars to name them and incorporate the car’s name in to its paint scheme.)

    Thus, BOC’s tune “Godzilla”, which was still getting lots of airplay at the time, became the official rock song of our Thompson grudge racing nights. Of course, as we convoyed out to Thompson WMMS was playing on our car radios and there was a good chance we’d hear Godzilla on the way to the track.

    Additionally, being motorheads, Hart’s tune “Barracuda”, which was also getting good airplay at the time, became “Hemi ‘Cuda” to us. (Back then that would’ve been the old school 426 cubic inch “elephant motor” hemi.)

    Those are just a couple of examples of how rock music could become integral with the activities of one’s life back in the heyday — with ‘MMS serving as a significant conduit for it to do so for us in the Cleveland area.

    P.S. In reference to John’s piece, Among his numerous other on screen gigs TV Tommy Ivo was an old Disney Mickey Mouse Club “Mouseketeer”, along with fellow drag racing star Don “The Snake” Prudhomme. There was nothing Mickey Mouse about those guys on the track. Plus, the layout of the modern rear-engined top fuel dragster can be traced back to Don Garlits. Garlits sketched out the basic design for the racers in his hospital bed while recovering from severe injuries due to a mechanical failure in his front-engined rail dragster. Garlits rightfully figured having stuff exploding off of a nitro burning engine is safer behind the driver rather than in front.

  3. to Mr. Dan H
    just to let you know the grudge nites were on wednesday and the car godzilla was a 1955 chevy and the mans name was Nick i will not put the last name on line

  4. Dan Hirschfeld Says:

    Thanks much for setting the record straight, Ronald.

    Yeah, Wednesday night does ring a bell now that you mention it, as well as the owner of the Godzilla `55 Chevy being named Nick. My short stint as a Wednesday night warrior didn’t seem that long ago until I tried to dust off the details, which for me were obviously a bit foggy.

    Godzilla was a serious drag car, for sure. When it would pull up anywhere near me in that assembly area before the staging lanes I couldn’t tell if my car was running or not — that’s how much air and sound Godzilla’s exhaust was moving, even at idle.

  5. David Ray Says:

    I cam across this web address by accident. Thought I would see what buzardbook and Thompson drag strip had in common? Anyway I went there at least half dozen times in the period 1970 to 74. I drove on the Coke-a-Cola Cavalcade of Stars funny car deal. Drove the cars, Steakly Camaro (also matched raced with Tom Ivo, doing fire burn-outs) Stone-Woods-Cook, Jess Tyree “Mr Pontiac, and the Mike Burkharts Vega. Always had a good time, and I hope folks enjoyed it.

  6. Hi
    Is it possible to get a recording of one of those supercharged radio commercials? The ones that began “SSuunnnndaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.
    My kids grew up to those gems.

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