“Return With Us Now To Those Thrilling Days of Yester-year..”

The dragstrip opened as Jackson’s Dragway in April, 1958. Builder/promoter Paul Jackson leased the land from Raymond Warrick (this is ironic because it would mean that Jackson would  never own the land that his empire was built on).  Jackson, a Savannah, N.Y. businessman, was also the Eastern Seaboard Manager for NASCAR.  At that time, NASCAR sanctioned both stock car and drag racing events.  The track was built at a cost of approximately $100,000.00, although this figure does not reflect an abundance of work done by Jackson himself.  The facility consisted of two quarter-mile blacktop lanes, separated by a grass median, approximately an eighth-mile blacktop shut down (then turning to dirt), a dirt return road, short blacktop staging lanes, and concrete “launch pads”.  Despite extensive preparation, a quicksand pit could not be effectively bridged, accounting for the slight dip in pavement about halfway down the east racing lane.  The original timing tower was a former chicken coop (which was moved to become the pit shack/office when the new tower was built), two concession stands (one on the pit side, one on the spectator side), and a tech/weigh-in shed.  The scales were former heavy truck scales purchased from the Vinegar Works plant in North Rose, N.Y.

Jackson, along with Ed Otto and John Marron, founded the Timing Association of North America (originally called the Timing Association of New York).  Their organization, at one point, represented more tracks (total of 34) than the sanctioning body that was to become today’s drag racing world leader, the National Hot Rod Association (total of 27).  TANA’s flagship track was the South Butler facility, Jackson’s Dragway.  Weekly racing results from Jackson’s Dragway were reported in a number of the major drag racing publications of the day.

TANA was the first sanctioning body to feature a paid points system, something NHRA was steadfastly against but is now commonplace in all racing organizations (including the NHRA).  After leasing a timing system for the first racing season, Jackson hired Xerox Corporation engineer Steve Robertson to build what was to become an elaborate timing system based loosely on the existing systems of the day.  Robertson included a few innovative ideas of his own, such as pre-stage and stage lights, an automatic disqualification red light operated by the starting line beams, traffic light style line lights (grandfather of the “Christmas Tree” system in use today) and automatic “win” lights activated by the finish line lights and clock.  Robertson’s 1959 timing system was the forerunner of the state-of-the-art systems in use today.  NHRA, who was still using a flagman at the time, severely criticized Jackson for his use of Robertson’s futuristic timing system, saying that it would create more problems than it would solve.  Once again, NHRA was wrong.

At one highly publicized meet in the early 1960’s, approximately 300 racers signed in for the “GO” and over 3000 spectators paid to watch the action.  This is amazing when you consider that the entire population of South Butler at any given time was about 400 people and an undetermined amount of livestock.  Racing continued at that event until well past 11:00 p.m.  To assist in lighting at the track, many spectators turned their headlights toward the track.

At the height of TANA’s existence, major personal problems forced Jackson to sell Jackson’s Dragway and begin to dissolve TANA.  Jake King and family purchased the South Butler track and opened as King’s Dragway during the 1966 racing season.  Because both Jackson and King were from Savannah, the business address for the dragstrip was listed as Savannah, N.Y., when in fact the actual track location was a few miles north in the hamlet of South Butler.  To this day, many out-of-the-area former competitors still refer to the track as being located in Savannah.

The 1977 racing season was to be the last for the South Butler track.  While there was every intention to re-open for the 1978 season, circumstances arose over the winter prompting the King family to cancel the 1978 racing season.  Efforts to re-open as late as 1980 proved futile, thus closing the book on an important piece of drag racing history.

This web site is dedicated solely to early South Butler racing, 1958 – 1977.  It will continue to be update to feature photos and information from that era as they become available.  Keep checking back…hope you enjoy it!


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Copyright © 2006 KJ Web Designs and Kings Dragway. All Rights Reserved.