PDRA Comes To Johnston County

An aerial view of GALOT Motorsports Park near Benson.

Fans soak up sun and spend money at Galot

When the fastest pro modified dragsters in the country invade Galot Motorsports park near Benson, there’s no question it brings fans and drivers from not only across the State of North Carolina, but from across the nation. And that’s not including the drivers of race cars that travel from as far away as Sweden and the Dominican Republic.

With all of that in mind, it’s the fans that make or break the race. If there’s no one in the stands supporting the drivers, then there’s probably no drivers.

A good example of that loyalty comes from the fans who travel to watch racing. One such fan is Jacksonville, N.C., resident Crystal Turner. Ms. Turner and her daughters,  Shayla and Halea, along with family friend, Ray Williams, made the two-plus-hour drive to Benson this weekend to take in the Professional Drag Racers Association East Coast Nationals.

“We come here almost every time there’s big race,” she said. “This will be our third time. We were up here just a couple of weekends ago. Every time there’s a big race, we try to hit it.”

Ms. Turner said the pro modifieds that used to bring her and her family to her local dragstrip are no longer on the slate, so she brings her family to Johnston County, along with her money.

“Normally we don’t stay all night, but this weekend we’re going to stay here and drive home tomorrow,” she said. “I love this place, I do.”

She estimates she spends on average of $150 to $300 each visit. More so this weekend.

“I’m getting our money’s worth,” she said. “I love to hear the ground rumble, the smell of the fuel, we love it That’s what we come for.”

Ms. Turner is just one of many thousands who showed up and spent what turned out to be a long and warm day in the grandstands.

While you have to search for a while to find someone who actually visits the track from the local area — and there’s plenty out there, they just seem to be equaled by out-of-town fans.

One fan who spends considerable time at the track is Wayne Barbour from McGee’s Crossroads. Mr. Barbour said the new look to the old Benson-Dunn Drag Strip — Galot’s predecessor — was something he looked forward  to seeing and when he did, he wasn’t disappointed. He said the track itself is as much of an attraction as the racing action was this past weekend.

“I come out here to just enjoy my time at a first-class facility,” he said. “It’s state-of-the-art right here. It’s a bigger track and all around a good place to come and watch top-notch drag racing.”

He says both the closeness and the overall price are an added attraction.

“It’s 15 minutes from home and it’s a first-class facility,” he said. “I get every bit of my money’s worth.”

In addition to watching the cars scream down the one-eighth of a mile track that fills the countryside with a rumble, there’s also another attraction. It might be a little less ominous, but you’ve seen it — souvenirs.

This weekend saw Scott Bathurst travel to Galot from Downey, Calif. It was his second trip to Galot in as many years. He visited during last year’s Drag Wars XIII and says there was no question he wanted to return.

“We travel to nine different races and I have a friend here that travels to 25 or 30 races a year and that’s how we make a living,” he said. “We make a living by having people come by and buy a souvenir from the event.”

Mr. Bathurst is another example of how the track boosts the area economy. He and the folks who work with him stay at local hotels and spend dollars at local restaurants for the duration of the event. In the case this weekend, it was three days.

“We stay at the local hotels and they’re pretty booked, so it brings a lot of money to local communities,” he noted. “We spend at least $1,000 each weekend and we’re  just one group. There’s 200 racers out here. I don’t know how many of them are staying at hotels, but that’s multiple rooms.”

Additionally, his visit this time, like last, is leaving a very satisfied taste in his mouth.

“Everybody seems so nice,” he said. “This track is one of the better facilities for drawing spectators for one and for drawing racers. There are more at this event than there were at the last one.”

Galot is not only home to the track, but it’s also the home base for Galot Racing.

The multi-car race team features pro modifieds that travel both the PDRA and National Hot Rod Association modified circuits. Team general manager Kevin Rivenbark lives in Wallace, but works at Galot and says he sees the financial impact on a daily basis.

“I’ve raced here for years when it was the old dragstrip,” he said. “I’ve raced here for years and I never would’ve imagined it looked like this.”

He says bringing national-level racing to Galot has been a highlight for the area in several ways. One, for bringing plenty of people from beyond the city and county limits. The other, he says, reemphasizes the economic impact.

“It’s a boom having a national event in this area and bringing the people here,” he said.

“It’s actually better than we thought it would be so quick. It’s only going to get better. This is second national from the PDRA and it’s already bigger than the last one,” he said.

Mr. Rivenbark raises another point. The economic impact is significant and it’s silent. He says the people in Benson and Dunn might not realize when there’s a big event at the track. But the local businesses will.

“There probably shouldn’t be anybody in Dunn or Benson that can say they know when we  have a big event like this one,” he said. “There’s not a hotel you can get into for 30 miles from here. And places like the Brass Lantern, they stay packed. The racers they just love to go around the towns. I think it’s great for the communities. And I hope the people continue to support us.”

He adds the location is another factor that can help boost both the track and the surrounding towns.

“It’s better than a lot of places I know,” he said. “We have the two interstates coming together, there’s just no end. It’s unlimited to how it can help the community.” Courtesy The Daily Record