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We arrived at the track bright and early on Friday morning and the first thing I noticed was that the track struck me as being just as nostalgic as the event it was hosting. Marion County is a little jewel of a track located smack in the middle of rural Ohio. It is surrounded by cornfields and pristine farms with red and white painted barns and buildings. It is so remote that on your first trip to it you better have a local racer guiding you or a GPS. The facility itself was built in 1971 to host an AHRA Grand American race in which Don Garlits beat Steve Carbone. (Garlits later lost to him at the ’71 U.S. Nationals in the famous “Burndown” finals.)
I don’t think the track has changed much since other than scoreboards and a concrete launch pad. I would almost guarantee that the rest of the track surface, aside from the concrete, is the original track. To say that from 200 feet to the end the track surface is a bit deteriorated is an understatement. The track ends at the edge of a cornfield where there is a big sign with an arrow pointing the direction you must turn the car. As for the guard rails they are definitely “nostalgic,” being made of telephone poles with double Armco rails about 18-24 inches high bolted to them. The track lighting wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen but it was dark in spots. But it was a safe enough track for the Funny Cars, most of which were hard pressed to make a sub eight-second pass.
The format for the race was unique. All of the eight injected cars would make two passes with the quickest and quickest Midwest car and East Coast car coming back to determine a winner. The same deal applied to the 24 supercharged cars.
I would have to say that the track surface was prepped just perfectly for these cars. Even though the track personnel sprayed the track with VHT and they ran a few bracket cars before the Funny Cars there was little traction to be had. I suspect the track had about the same amount of bite as it had when Garlits and Carbone raced on it in 1971. For example, in 1971 at the U.S. Nationals Ed McCulloch won Funny Car with an ET of 6.64. The quickest pass by a Nostalgia Funny Car at this race was a 6.78/206 by Mike Klontz in his ’79 Mustang.