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Thunder Road Raceway
Jeff Lopez a former Super Gas NHRA Lucas Oil National Champion
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Thunder Road Raceway
Gilbert Johnson, Jr., a Super Stock NHRA driver
Thunder Road Raceway Park in Gilliam will welcome the South Central Division of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) on Sept. 11-14. This will be one of 44 events throughout the country where drivers can accumulate points toward divisional, regional, and national championships and the opportunity to win a share of the year-end purse of more than $500,000.
Gates open for spectators each day at 10 a.m. On Thursday, Sept. 11, drivers will have a “test and tune” day, with official NHRA events beginning on Friday, Sept. 12, through Sunday, Sept.14.
Daily admission is $20 at the gate. Special $10 discount tickets will be available at most automotive stores and other outlets in the area prior to the event. There will also be a $55 pass that will include all events from Friday through Sunday.
According to Trey Capps, director of the NHRA’s South Central Region, racing fans will be treated to everything from stock vehicles to dragsters that can cover a quarter mile in six seconds at speeds of 200 miles per hour and above, all part of the 2014 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
Capps said some area residents are likely to participate in various races at the event. Among them are the Collier family – Mike, and sons Steve and Jack – who maintain a number of cars, and Greg Stanfield. All are from northwest Louisiana and have participated in NHRA events in the past.
Capps also said he was very impressed by the facilities at Thunder Road. He said that Nelson and Marla Hoyos, who have recently acquired a long-term lease on the Raceway, “are doing a great job getting Thunder Road open again.”
Nelson Hoyos said the plan is for Thunder Road to become a more vital part of the local community.
“We’re excited to be a part of the [NHRA] program,” he said. “There are great folks in northwest Louisiana and we’re trying to help build the local economy.”
Hoyos said Thunder Road is currently in the process of lobbying for a number of “big-name racing events” to come to the facility, events that draw large crowds who will in turn look for places to eat and sleep during their stay, taking advantage of attractions in the region.
Other aspects in the development of Thunder Road include the relocation of the Hoyos’ Driven 2 Win racing school from Florida to Gilliam. The school serves as a sort of “Drag Racing 101,” according to Hoyos, allowing the student to move from classroom instruction to actual driving. The next step would then be to secure an NHRA license to begin competing.
Hoyos and Capps both spoke of a desire to lead young drivers, the type prone to illegal street racing, to become involved in organized racing instead.
“Our tag line is ‘keep it off the streets and take it to the track,’” said Hoyos, noting that Thunder Road has EMTs on staff for all events. “We want to be a catalyst for safety.”
The Hoyos’ also own a two-seat dragster that they use to give an individual “the ride of a lifetime” as they cover one-eighth of a mile in five seconds at 130 miles per hour. Hoyos considers this a powerful marketing tool for potential customers.
The Raceway is located at 5700 Thunder Rd. just east of the junction of Highway 71 and Interstate 49 at exit 234 and just north of Gilliam. The phone number is 318.299.RACE.
By Jim Freeman