Paved drag strip coming to Bonne Terre
Attention race fans … those who like to go straight and fast. Drag racers will soon have a place to call their own without driving to St. Louis or Sikeston or beyond.
Jarrod Keen has purchased the former Bonne Terre Sand Drags and is making several improvements to the property, not the least of which is an 1/8th mile asphalt track with a concrete launch area. It’s hoped the new dragstrip will be ready by the middle to end of July.
For years the land was a place to pump tailings and water from the mines. Eventually it was repurposed as a 300-foot sand drag strip. After a lengthy history of bringing sand racers to the region, and promoting a good stable of local races, the track changed hands more than once in recent years and, sadly, closed down.
“We are reconfiguring the whole place. We poured an eighth of a mile concrete drag race strip, and plan to have a new asphalt parking lot along with restrooms and a concession stand,” said Keen.
The new owner said he often frequented car shows and cruise-ins and heard people talk about how they wanted a place where they could take their cars out and have a good time without being in trouble.
“I have been racing for years and the closest other place to go is Sikeston. We wanted to bring something closer to home,” said Keen. “There are a lot of kids that are out every Saturday night riding around and racing on the street. The police are always getting called on stuff like that and of course it’s illegal to do. So I finally figured I’d step up and put a drag strip in … a place for everyone to enjoy.”
There is still a lot of work to be done at the new drag strip. Keen said he has already poured the two lanes of concrete and plans on starting to lay down the asphalt this week. After that’s done he will get the guard rail up and work on the intercom system and lighting.
“We are going to build a new tower and put up some big lighted boards as well,” said Keen. “We will be opening so late in the season it will be a learning experience. There are certain things you have to do to a track to prep it and to keep it to where people can actually hook up on it. This year we will be just be opening up and letting people come out and play on it.”
Keen said next year they will have more events scheduled and they will have bigger organizations come down. There are different car clubs and people that travel the country that stop at certain tracks that have nostalgia cars from the 30’s and 40’s. They are called the Nostalgia Drags and Keen hopes to have them come by one weekend.
“It’s my goal to start having more events like that,” said Keen. “Also, the entry fee will depend on what class you race in. It’s pretty much the standard in drag racing … the faster you are, the more it will cost for the race. Some nights I’ll have a Super Pro class where the first place winner will win $1,500.”
The EPA is involved with the land as well. Whatever sand Keen can’t cover with concrete or asphalt the EPA will come in and cover with topsoil. It’s basically the only sand in Bonne Terre that hasn’t been covered up yet because it was grandfathered in due to the sand drags and before that was a tailings pond. The EPA was happy to work with the new owner and will start hauling dirt in from Jefferson County as work progresses at the dragstrip.
Missouri Mines State Historic Site Natural Resource Manager Art Hebrank said there were several of these “tailings ponds” in St. Francois County at one time.
“The dam by the glass plant was 260 feet high at one time. It had been bulldozed down to about 150 feet tall with a flat top and covered with a foot of course rock to trap tailings,” said Hebrank. “They have all been lowered and flattened out to decrease the slopes, making them less steep so that when they lay the rock it won’t roll off the top.”
He also said the dam at the Missouri Mines State Historic Site once held a tailings pond and is a half mile long and 135-feet high.
“They would pump in the waste material as a mud behind the dam, it settles out and they would put the water back out over it,” said Hebrank. “They did that for 30 years and it’s filled in 100 feet deep. Now it’s dry on the surface and that is where the motorcycles are riding at St. Joe.”
Keen has received numerous calls about sponsorships, but until he is up and running he doesn’t feel right having someone pay a sponsorship.
“It wouldn’t be a full season so I won’t do sponsorships until next year. This year I just want to get it in and going and work out all the bugs. Next year will hopefully run a lot smoother,” said Keen.
Admission for the spectators will be $10 to get in and that will include being able to access the pits.