When you mention Shuffletown Dragway in certain crowds, you will get an earful of stories about an uncle, father or grandfather who raced there. It was an exciting time in Charlotte’s history, and there are plenty of people around who remember those days.
Shuffletown Dragway was built with the help of local residents and their tractors in the 1950s when it became apparent that the dangerous and illegal drag racing from the service station to the bridge on Rozzelles Ferry Road was not going to stop.
In the beginning, the track was made of dirt from the banks of Long Creek. The drag strip was an eighth of a mile long and took 10-15 seconds to run it. Once it was finally paved in 1964, speeds reached upwards of 105 mph and included motorcycles, roadsters and the ever popular Ford vs. Chevrolet race.
Norman Thompson , 80, or “Puddin’ Thompson” as he is known around Shuffletown, remembers helping make the track. He raced his new ‘55 Ford Crown Victoria and then ‘57 Ford Fairlane against the new Chevrolets with the V8 engine. Thompson reminisces, “I was determined that I was going to outrun the Chevrolet.”
Rivalry races brought crowds of 2,000-3,000 people. Cotton Coltharp and Van Hatley were two such adversaries. Both raced ’55 Chevrolets, and Coltharp, not regretfully, says of those races, “I never beat Van Hatley, the Big Kahuna.”
Supposedly Van Hatley was the first to reach 100 mph on that track.
Coltharp explained why the ’55 Chevrolet was the go-to car for races: “They were used on the track because they were a popular car, easy to convert for a drag race and there were lots of them around.”
Sit long enough in the Shuffletown Grill on Rozzelles Ferry Road and you cannot help but run into someone willing to talk about the old dragway.
Operating since 1957, the diner pays tribute to the drag strip with trophies, photos and video.
The popularity of Shuffletown grew, and so did development and the city limits of Charlotte. Houses were built near the drag strip and eventually enough complaints led to it being closed in 1991 because of the city noise ordinance. It remained abandoned until 2010, when it was developed as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Park with baseball fields, playground and a dog park.
Artwork and signs recognize the history of the land, and a part of the strip is still visible.
If you listen closely, you can still hear the roar of the engines as you walk the old track.
Photos: http://wikimapia.org/10018536/Shuffletown-Dragstrip-site, Vanessa Infanzon, Shuffletown Grill.