Two cars compete during the drag races at St. Marys Municipal Airport.

Drag racing enthusiasts will be cruising to St. Marys Municipal Airport Sunday for heads up style drag racing, with gates opening at 10 a.m. and races running from noon until 5 p.m.

St. Marys Airport Authority Chairman, Bill Laird, told The Era that typically around 150 people participate in each drag race, with an average of around 1,500 to 2,000 spectators.

While the drag racing is the main event, guests may also purchase some food and drinks at one of the several available vendors.

Races follow National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) rules and reaction and elapsed time are recorded and given to each participant. Participants can race as many times as the time allows. A full list of rules and regulations can be found on the “Saint Marys Airport Drag Races” Facebook page. The races are managed and performed by the Saint Marys Area Drag Race Committee.

Laird said that participants bring a wide range of vehicles for the races.

“You can run anything,” he said. “There are some made just for drag racing and then there are people who race their mom’s Ford Escape. It’s open to any car that someone wants to drag race; there are a few real drag racers, a few diesel tractor trailer trucks.”

For those not familiar with racing lingo, ‘heads up’ means both cars leave the starting line at the same time, without a dial-in or handicap. With a dial-in, the starter adjusts the starting lights on the tree so that the individual driving the slower car will get a head start. A dial-in is a car’s pre-estimated elapsed time for a pass, which is used for handicapping the start.

Main sponsor, Tom Catalone, said that drag racing is fairly popular in the area, and with the closest real drag race track being 2 to 2 ½ hours away, the races at the airport are a much appreciated event.

The drag races not only benefit the area by giving individuals a fun event. Any money left over after covering expenses goes back to the airport and other non-profit organizations, such as St. Marys Crystal Fire Department, Elkland Search and Rescue and St. Marys Ambulance.

Laird also discussed another drag race that will be held on Sept. 12, as well as an Airport Awareness Day event on Aug. 21.

“There will be a big car show, airplane rides, breakfast from 7:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., food vendors, static displays and a bouncehouse for the kids,” he said. “It’s an all day event with a car show, put on by Elk County Cruisers.”

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