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updated: 10/1/2012 8:01 AM

Former NW Ind. drag strip's fans talk of reopening

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Associated Press

HOBART, Ind. ) -- It's been 28 years since the "great ones" raced at the U.S. 30 Dragstrip in Hobart.

Interest in the former dragstrip remains full speed ahead, fueling an annual reunion in Schererville with hundreds of fans and the possibility of a new area track being opened, David Heacock said.

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"They love the track and they want it to come back," Heacock told The Times of Munster (http://bit.ly/QsIqOd).

Heacock, 63, raced at the Hobart track as a teenager in the 1960s. He continued to come back as a racing fan after going into the military, then coming back to St. John to marry and raise a family.

"I fell in love with the track and drag racing," Heacock said.

Heacock, known as the keeper of U.S. 30 Dragstrip memorabilia, has a small barn and an adjacent garage on his Porter Township property filled with trophies, photos, newspaper clippings and even a car called No Big Thing that was raced as a promotional car.

"I'm not sure why there is so much interest. Maybe it's the baby boomers getting old and capturing their youth and drivers like me," Heacock said.

The interest in the former dragstrip is so keen that Michael Deustsch, an Illlinois-based drag race promoter, has been looking to buy the former U.S. 30 Dragstrip which remains stagnate since it closed in the fall of 1984.

"People are wanting to bring it back. There's a huge interest in bringing it back," Deutsch said.

Deutsch said Hobart officials have discouraged him from pursuing the 138-acre former track because new subdivisions have been built near the property north of U.S. 30.

"Now we're looking at the possibility of a site in Gary," Deutsch said.

The Hobart track, which opened in 1957, was shut down in 1984, primarily after neighboring property owners complained about the noise, Heacock said.

At the that time, the strip hosted races involving cars powered by jet engines, including a rocket car that traveled 320 mph and a rocket-powered go-cart.

"They'd race anything," Heacock said.

There was an attempt to reopen the track in December of 1994, when Andy Tancos of Valparaiso, representing owner Benjamin Christ, of Bear Inc., went before the Hobart City Council Council.

His request to reopen it through a conditional use permit was turned down unanimously by the council after dozens of residents filled the meeting room to voice protest.

Christ, 80, who now lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, said he sold the property four years ago, but has a lifetime of memories.

He's not surprised interest in the dragstrip remains.

"There will always be an interest as long as there are automobiles and young people ... The difference now is that the young people that were interested are now old people who are interested plus you have the young people," Christ said.

Christ said the American people and people worldwide have a love affair with their cars.

"They always want to compete against each other people to show that what they've got is better than the other guy," Christ said

Jerry Trump, track photographer from 1981 to 1984, said he still gets calls from former race car drivers wanting photos of their race cars.

Trump, who lives in Crown Point, has stored 5,000 negatives of photos he took during those years.

"When they call me I tell them, 'Don't tell me your name, tell me your car's name,"' Trump said.

Milt Janosz, who just turned 50, said he attended the recent U.S. 30 Dragstrip reunion in Schererville because he wanted to relive good memories he had as a kid.

Janosz said he remembers traveling with his big brother, who raced cars, to the track from their home in the south Chicago suburbs.

"I just remember how amazing it was. It was my introduction to cars," Janosz said.

Janosz, a car collector who participates in area cruise nights, can still recall the good way the track made him feel.

"I remember walking around and seeing all the cars and the smells of it. It was like seeing Hot Wheel cars full size," Janosz said.

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