Southeast Gassers roar through Baileyton Dragstrip

Hayden Hyatt/The Cullman Tribune

Gassers race during the Southeast Gassers Association Return to 1967 Championship Drag Race at the Baileyton “Good Time” Dragstrip Saturday.

BAILEYTON – Hundreds of racers and race fans alike filled Baileyton “Good Time” Dragstrip for the Southeast Gassers Association (SEGA) Return to 1967 Championship Drag Race on Saturday.

Despite rain delays, the race drew a huge crowd with racers and fans from all over the U.S. and even a different country. This was the first race by the SEGA to be hosted at the strip and featured authentic 1967-style drag race cars.

Although Baileyton Dragstrip has regular races, gassers are not your average race car, said Todd Oden, a driver at the event.

“A gasser is just a race car from the ‘60s and it's all based on stance. In other words, it was a straight axle car, it was raised up in the front and the engine was a little bit higher in it,” said Oden. “It was something they did in that period to get better traction and to create kind of a different class of race car.”

Russ Easterwood, owner of Baileyton Dragstrip, emphasized the attention to detail the SEGA requires.

“They're (the cars) straight from 1967 according to the (National Hot Rod Association) rule book and (Quain Stott, owner and founder of SEGA) is strict,” said Easterwood. “To give an example, we got the 'tater hauler' (one of Easterwood's cars), he looked at the tires and he told me I had to take the white walls off because in ‘67 they didn't have white walls, it was black. Everything you see on these cars is 1967 or before. This is what racing was back in the day.”

Despite the rain, race fans managed to fill the parking area, said Easterwood.

“(The turnout was), I'd say, very good with the rain,” Easterwood said. “We estimated about probably 1,500 to 2,500 people but with this weather, really couldn't have asked for worse weather. This is big. like I said, with no bad weather, we'd probably run out of parking.”

Racers and race fans from all over the Southeast and even abroad were present at the event, according to Oden.

“Most people are going to be from South Carolina and North Carolina, I know there's (some from) Missouri, a few people from Alabama and lot of people from Georgia, and a few (from) Tennessee,” Oden said. “There's two people here who flew in from England today. Last race we had someone from Australia. It's a good turnout; it's a big contingency.”

Oden believes Baileyton Dragstrip, which was built in 1966, is the perfect place for a gasser event.

“It really is (an important event), it's good to get gasser racing back to Alabama, especially to Baileyton,” said Oden. “This is a historic track. I'm 51, but I raced here in 1981. I know the track’s been here since ‘66, but if there's ever going to be a crowd turn out for a race, this is the right place to have this race.”

SEGA races, which are hosted throughout the Southeast by the group, can be great events for the family, said Oden.

“The best thing about it is it's a real family-friendly type of deal,” Oden said. “You can bring your wife and your kids. Look out here, I mean we're standing in the rain and people are just smiling and happy, there's no bunch of rigamarole going on.”

Jerry Birch, a driver at the event with Birch Brothers Racing, said the event was specifically appealing to older race fans.

“To give you an example, I talked to Quain (Stott) today, on the way coming in, and he said that he had received a call from a guy, I think he was 69 years old and said that he hadn't been to a race track since 1965,” said Birch. “He heard that we were coming to race today and he was going to come out and watch it.”

Joey Birch, mechanic, among other things, at Birch Brothers, chimed in.

“It’s raining out here and look at all the people,” he said. “That tells the story right there; people want to see it.”

David Miller, who has been involved in racing all his life, came all the way from Winter Haven, Florida for the race.

“I drove up here just for this event,” said Miller. “I've been involved with drag racing all my life; my mother drove stock cars in the ‘50s, when women didn't do that. These guys are a great group of people, even with the adversity, with the weather, they’ve dealt with it, gotten through it and helped each other out. They had an accident here earlier during qualifying. It was a brand-new car he built to come here, and everyone feels his pain and they're passing the hat, which is great. That just doesn't happen today, people helping people out.”

Miller is in the process of building a car for SEGA events and really appreciates the SEGA concept.

“I'm in the process of building a car to compete in these events,” Miller said. “This is old-school stuff, the way they did back in the day and I love it. Because there's no electronics, I mean it's a car and a driver, a mechanic that helps makes it work, it's all on driver skill and abilities, abilities of a human being and human error, it's what makes this happen. It's not running on a string. This is down home grassroots, the way it used to be.”

Due to weather, the race continued on Sunday.

Copyright 2018 Humble Roots, LLC. All Rights Reserved.