Michigan Track Undergoes Renovation, Joins IHRA Family
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Lapeer International Dragway underwent a complete ground-up renovation in 2018 and the improvements keep coming.
Among those, the track has entered into a sanctioning agreement with the International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) and will participate in the IHRA Summit SuperSeries program, the largest and most prestigious program in bracket racing.
Located in rural Northeastern Michigan, just 15 minutes outside the city of Lapeer, the 1/4-mile track is also relatively close to the major metropolitan areas of Flint and Detroit.
Track owner Bill Jennings, who bought the track prior to the 2018 season, spent over $2.5 million in renovations to the over half-century old track. It included tearing up the old racing surface and replacing it with concrete through the eighth-mile and asphalt for the other eighth-mile.
With a diamond-polished racing surface, it is called the “Fastest Pass in Michigan.” It’s for good reason as Lapeer International Dragway director of operations Matt Vakula explained many racers have achieved personal bests.
“We had everything measured and set up to spec under IHRA supervision,” said Matt Valuka, Lapeer International Dragway director of operations. “We constantly have people go down the track and when they pull in, they set a fastest pass, a best 60-foot. They find a lot of firsts out there.”
Other upgrades included a repaved return road, new pavement in the pits and concrete retaining walls all the way down the track.
New fencing, lighting, and electrical, including an upgraded Accutime timing system, have been installed with some construction projects still ongoing.
“The amount of work that’s been done to update the facility in the timeframe in which it’s been done is astonishing,” IHRA Division Director Jon O’Neal said. “Bill Jennings has a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude toward getting things done at the facility and it shows. The deep roots at Lapeer combined with the new look on safety should lead to great things to come.
Beyond the drag strip, work is scheduled for camping areas and future plans include a BMX bicycle track for the kids once it’s approved by the township. Jennings is a racer himself and set goals of making it the most racer-friendly track around.
“We want to turn it into a community area, especially where the campground is for the racers,” Vakula said. “There are intentions to put in a BMX track for the kids on the race weekends where they can bring their bikes out.
“You look at our community and it’s a family-type atmosphere. From the old track, we have our core group. We also have people who have said they’re going to make Lapeer their home track. It’s a very family-friendly environment where people come to have fun.”
Vakula has a special connection to the dragway and it’s a part of his family’s heritage. Mike Vakula and his brother Ed built the track, which opened in 1968, and operated it for 49 years before Jennings acquired the track in April 2018.
“Personally, I’ve spent 30 years at the track,” Matt Vakula said. “Historically, it was a grassroots track and it was originally sanctioned by AHRA. Then, it turned into an outlaw track in the late 70s. Over the course of time, it was known throughout the area as a top grassroots track, a place popular for people getting their feet wet in drag racing.”
To learn more about Lapeer International Dragway, click here to visit the track’s website and also check out the track’s Facebook page for up-to-date information.