HOUSE SPRINGS, Missouri — The International Hot Rod Association welcomes historic Newport Raceway as its newest member track.
The Arkansas track, formerly known as Speedy’s Drag Strip, started as a 1/4-mile track in the 1950s, but runs as an 1/8-mile today. The facility had some tough times shutting down in 2019, but it’s coming back strong under the leadership of Scott and Belinda Cooper. They’ve worked closely with the city of Newport to drum up local support.
As for the Coopers, they’ve been busy as bees working on upgrades even going as far as throwing out the kitchen sink. Improvements include a new timing tower, new concessions, new bleachers, concrete barriers down the side, new fencing and plumbing for the restrooms.
They’re even in the process of moving the starting line to give more room for the burnouts. It’s certainly hands-on as Belinda provides home-cooked food in the concessions. The work is not in vain as there has been a lot of activity at the track.
“Between the Saturday night racing and the Sunday racing, we put on 32 events last year,” Scott Cooper said. “A lot of that was during the toughest times with the diesel prices and everything. But, we did everything including leveling the ground around the facility where we could get it in shape to mow.”
Newport Raceway is taking a big step forward with the IHRA sanction. It encourages the racers to take advantage of the IHRA’s membership benefits like $100,000 in excess medical insurance coverage. They also get to compete in the IHRA’s grassroots, Sportsman programs like the IHRA Summit SuperSeries, the most prestigious national championship in bracket racing.
The racers are excited at the prospect of being an IHRA member and winning a track championship to earn entry into the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals at Holly Springs, Mississippi. They can also compete both as individuals and a team at the IHRA Summit Team Finals.
“Everybody is excited. We want to work close with IHRA to give the racers a chance to enjoy their events,” Cooper said. “The insurance is something big, something you don’t have without IHRA membership.”
While Newport doesn’t have a large population, the area is a hotbed for motorsports. It’s close to Batesville, home of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin, and also one of the country’s top dirt tracks, which Scott competed at when he wasn’t drag racing.
Beyond the IHRA program at Newport, there is a huge race on May 19-20 with a 28-inch, 10.5 rule which has a $100,000 payout. There are also No Prep, grudge-style races similar to those seen on television shows which have proven popular with spectators.
Looking to the future, Cooper sees 2023 as just the beginning of good things to come.
“We definitely want to keep moving forward with IHRA,” Cooper said. “We want to do more with the ET brackets, with the Junior Dragsters to do more for the kids.”
Click here to check out the Newport Raceway Facebook page and keep up to date with the latest happenings at the track.