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The Woodburn Dragstrip opened in June of 1961 as an 1/8-mile dragstrip operated by the Multnomah Hot Rod Council and the Northwest Timing Association. In 1963, the track was lengthened to provide for 1/4-mile drag racing. Jim Livingston, who was operating Madras Dragstrip at the time, purchased the Woodburn Dragstrip in a sealed bid in 1972. Jim ran both facilities through the 1975 season, before focusing on Woodburn.
Since 1972, the track has been named NHRA Track of the Year in the Northwest numerous times, including five-in-a-row since 1999. In addition, the track was honored as Business of the Year by the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce in 1989, one of the first tracks in the country to receive such an honor.
But it’s the racers that make the Woodburn Dragstrip the first-class facility that it is today. Team Woodburn has claimed 15 Division 6 ET Finals Team Championships in the history of the event, more than any other track in Division 6. The team has claimed the last two titles, and three of the last five. In 2006, Team Woodburn made history at Pacific Raceway near Kent, Washington and became the first track in the nation to win four straight Summit Racing Equipment ET Team Championships.
The winningest racer in Woodburn Dragstrip history is Derrick Jackson who has claimed 20 Track Championships driving a multitude of cars. In addition, Jackson doubled up in 2008, 2009 and 2010 with Track Championship’s in both Sportsman and Sport Compact Sportsman. Robert Rhines ranks as one of the most talented drivers in Woodburn’s history, winning 10 track titles, including an unbelievable six straight titles from 1979 to 1984. And in Motorcycle, Van Smith and Roger Wolff have each won six titles in the class. Van Smith has won five-in-a-row between 1991 and 1995, nearly equaling Robert Rhines for most consecutive championships.
Other top performers include Jim Martin, who holds the record for most years between championships. He won championships in 1980 and 1982, then three more in 1995, 1997, and 1998. Jerry Durant Jr. is the only driver in Woodburn’s history to win two Sunoco Race Fuels ET Series Championships in one year, scoring in Pro and Sportsman in 2001. Larry Merritt is arguably the best Super Pro racer in Woodburn history, as he is the only driver in that class to win more than one title, scoring in 1988, 2000 and 2003. He also won the Super Quick championship in 1997.
The youngest champion at Woodburn (not including High School or Jr. Dragster) is Kyle Saucy, who was 19 when he won the 2003 Pro title. Julie Merritt was also 19 when she won the 2002 Super Pro championship, but Saucy didn’t turn 19 until May, while Merritt’s birthday is in March. Women drivers have claimed multiple championships at Woodburn. Not including High School or Jr. Dragster, Paula Beaulieu won the 1993 Street championship, the aforementioned Julie Merritt won the 2002 Super Pro title. Additionally, Kathi Fagini was the winner of the 2007 Sportsman championship, and Loretta McCool won it all in Super Pro in the 2013 season.
On the Jr Dragster racing homefront, Casey DePeel and Grace Presser have claimed four titles, and Benjamin Hilton has won three. Benjamin’s brother, Travis Hilton, has won three Junior Championships along with a High School Championship. Adam DePeel is the only Jr racer to have claimed titles in both Jr’s (3) and the Sunoco Race Fuels ET Series with two.
On the national level, Woodburn has been hosting NHRA Division Series events since 1977. Now known as the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, or LODRS, these events have played host to the best racers in the country. Top Alcohol Funny Car sensation Pat Austin currently has more wins than any other driver at Woodburn Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events, claiming eight wins, including three-in-a-row from 1988 to 1990 and from 1998 to 2000. Pat’s uncle, Bucky Austin, has won six LODRS events at Woodburn, including both races in 2003. Right behind Bucky is Jeff Lane, who has five titles, one in Comp and four in Super Stock.
Top Alcohol Funny Car legend Brad Anderson won four Woodburn Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events in his career, in 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1991. Speaking of legends, Bill Maropulos, a former national champ in Comp, also has four wins at Woodburn, scoring in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1990. Other drivers with four event wins include Cal Method (Stock), who beat his wife Mary Ann in the 1979 final, and Division 7 Super Stock ace Len Schneider, who won four out five events between 1987 and 1991.
Current Top Fuel racers who claimed wins at Woodburn include Cory McClenathan who won Top Alcohol Dragster in 1990; Cruz Pedregon, who beat Cory Mac in the 1989 TAD final; and Gary Scelzi, who won Top Alcohol Dragster in 1986. Other notables include Top Alcohol Dragster superstar Rick Santos, who has two wins and six runner-up finishes; Top Alcohol tuner extraordinaire Les Davenport, who won Top Alcohol Dragster in 1982; 2003 Division 6 Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Bonin, who scored in Top Fuel Funny Car in 1979; and current Infineon Raceway dragstrip manager Georgia Seipel, who won Run Tuff in 1981.