HOUSE SPRINGS, Missouri — It’s easy to see why Ellis I-57 Dragstrip decided to team up with the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA).
While the Benton, Illinois venue built in 1970 has operated as an “outlaw track,” for much of its existence, its core values match those of the IHRA. With the first official year as Don Ellis as track owner, it was the perfect time for the track to join the IHRA family.
Like the IHRA understands its member racers are the key to success, so is the case with Ellis I-57 Dragstrip.
“I-57 has always been a family-oriented, grassroots race track based on its Saturday night bracket racing,” track operator Dan Estep said. “We offer a lot for the racers with how we keep it well maintained. The grass is always cut, the place is always clean. Our employees are always happy to see the racers when they come in. It’s something that everyone takes pride in.”
The entire facility was redone in 2015 and since Ellis took over near the end of last season, there have been more upgrades with a new timing system scheduled to be installed in March.
The 1/8-mile track features concrete walls with a well-maintained sandtrap at the end of the shutdown. There’s a concrete track surface to the finish line. Among the amenities, I-57 Dragstrip features a full inside concession stand with indoor seating, and also heated restrooms and showers.
There are 163 pit spots where the cars are parked on the asphalt and more parking throughout the property for the larger events. The racers and fans appreciate the work that Ellis, Estep and staff have done, and they pitch in to make sure the facility maintains its high standards.
“Our racers and spectators have been so good about making sure their trash goes in the trash cans,” Estep said. “If they have the extra trash in their motor homes, they put it in the bags and place it right beside the trash cans. They don’t leave things laying out in the pit areas. When we’ve had big oil-downs, we’ve had racers step up and help out. They take pride in making the place look good.”
They also take pride in helping each other out, although the competition can be fierce once they get to the water box.
When the I-57 racers were asked about joining IHRA at the track’s awards banquet, excitement filled the air. They’re looking forward to participating in the sanctioning body’s programs like the IHRA Summit SuperSeries and IHRA Summit Team Finals.
“We wanted to find out everyone’s thoughts about IHRA since this track had been an outlaw track for so many years,” Estep said. “We went over what IHRA had to offer with the team finals, the world finals. At the end of the season, we talked about the potential of what you can be racing for, and everybody’s hands went up to join IHRA. People are looking forward to racing for the championships.”
The IHRA-member track champions at Ellis I-57 have the chance to qualify for the IHRA Summit SuperSeries World Finals, while racers can also go after division titles at the IHRA Summit Team Finals. Others who aren’t chasing points still can get benefits of being IHRA members like the insurance offered.
Estep serves in another role as an IHRA Chassis Inspector to keep the race cars safe and up to date. In addition to the bracket races, I-57 Dragstrip hosts other big events highlighted by the 12th annual Summer Door Car Shootout.
To keep up to date with the latest Ellis I-57 Dragstrip news, click here to check out the track’s Facebook page.