Natives call it "The Great Land." It is Alaska, the largest state in the Union, bearing the motto "North to the Future." But since 2000, this vast frontier has been host to more than just great hunting and fishing. It sports the future in high-tech drag racing...a heated launch pad. The Alaska Raceway Park (ARP) is like no other drag strip in the lower forty-eight. This stellar IHRA facility in Palmer, Alaska, is a result of the tenacious efforts by owners Earl and Karen Lackey to provide a fun and exciting place to race.
Originally opened as Polar Raceway in 1963, ARP is located in the Mat-Su Valley about one hour north of Anchorage on 160 acres of dense forest. It is situated in mountainous terrain, 62 feet above sea level. The dense valley air has a high percentage of oxygen with temperatures that range from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is 20 to 30 percent. The corrected altitude can run from as high as 200 to 300 feet above sea level, down to as low as 500 to 600 below sea level. It is great air for racing, but the track has its drawbacks.
The main problem is the fact temperatures at night for air and soil can drop to the 50s or low 60s during the short racing season. This cooling trend can make traction very difficult in the morning and in the late afternoon. The Lackeys, who made drag racing a family affair, solved the problem by installing the Werzbo floor heating system in the launch pads. The system consists of 16,000 feet of tubing placed within the 150x350-foot concrete launch pads, two 350,000 BTU boilers, and three heat pumps with dual computer controls. With this system, track temperatures are maintained between 85 to 90 degrees from the beginning to the end of the day. Since both pads are maintained at identical temperatures and are similar in traction, it's fair to expect that speed and e.t.'s are almost identical lane to lane.
So, you ask, who other than Alaskans, go racing in Palmer, Alaska? Well, we do! Our (Tony and Bernadette Foti's) LAPD Racing Team was invited to compete in this country of King Salmon and dog mushing not once, but twice. Our first visit was in 1999, before the installation of the new track. The team experienced wonderful hospitality, days that never saw night, and drag racing with a real feeling of camaraderie and fun. After the racing, a rock band appeared, the barbecues were lit, and fresh salmon, halibut, and reindeer sausage were on the menu. Tony and I and the whole team had a great time fishing, racing, laughing, and making friends with some of the local racers.
In 2001, we returned to the Great Land to experience the new track and share in its growth and development. The decision to return wasn't a difficult one. Where else can you dip your fishing rod into the river to have a King Salmon nearly pull you into the water with him? So what were some of the perks of the new track? First, Tony recorded the best 60-foot mark the car has ever made. Second, the track was smooth and even, without a bump or dip in sight. Third, the car ran well, beating the competition in the Pro Mod Class; and last, but not least, that King Salmon that Tony wrestled into the boat was 35 pounds! Yes, racing in Alaska is an exhilarating experience-one we hope to share again in the future.
To learn more about Alaska Raceway Park, visit them online at www.akracewaypark.com. To contact the LAPD Racing Team, you can Email Tony at LAPDRacing@aol.com.