By Dan Bethune
In the late summer of 1961, the St. Thomas Gear Jammers had clearly established the strength of the market for local drag racing. The attendance at their 1960 and 1961 events at the St. Thomas Airport had proven that.
Now; they were exiled from the airport, and needed a place to host racing in time for the 1962 season.
Enter the Harvey family.
A few of the Gear Jammers were friendly with the Harvey family: a farming family with no interest in racing. What the Harveys had was land. Lots of farmland.
In an effort to convince Bob Harvey of the value and spectacle of drag racing, they took him on a trip to Detroit Dragway in the fall of 1961. While the gearheads watched the action on the track, Bob Harvey counted the heads in the stands. He was sold on the business opportunity.
The arrangement he made with the club was that he would provide a thin strip of land for a dragstrip just outside the village of Sparta, Ontario. He would finance the construction of the strip. The Gear Jammers would provide all of the labour.
This arrangement was agreed to by all, and construction began in earnest in the spring of 1962. The Watters Brothers were active local drag racers, and they also had excavation equipment. They did the grading and site preparation for the strip.
The Gear Jammers built the stands, facilities, and a new tower. They made the arrangements to have the NHRA visit and sanction the track. They also provided promotion for the big Opening Day. This photo is of the Gear Jammers taken on Opening Day; in their new official uniforms, in front of their newly built tower.
The rest of the story is history. The track would go on to host both the local talent, as well as the biggest drag racing stars from the US. The Gear Jammers continued to be involved in the operation of the track for only a couple of years. Some moved on to other business pursuits. Most began families. A few remained active in the hot rod hobby, and some are still active to this day.
Thanks for reading.