North Texas Daily

North Star Dragway provides racing outlet and entertainment opportunity to Denton

North Star Dragway provides racing outlet and entertainment opportunity to Denton

April 21
00:46 2016

Nealie Sanchez | Staff Writer

@NealieSanchez

Deep in the heart of North Texas, many people enjoy going to the speedway to watch a race just as much as they enjoy cold beer and good steak.

But Denton residents don’t have to travel 15 miles down Interstate 35 to Texas Motor Speedway to soak in the adrenaline of auto-racing. Instead, locals have a drag strip right in their own backyard: North Star Dragway.

“Most of the students at UNT are on a budget. What [other] kind of venue can you come spend $15-20 and hang out for eight hours?” North Star owner Gene Nicodemus said. “That’s what we really try to tell people. We’re a ‘bring your own beer and own barbeque and have a good time’ [kind of place].”

Nicodemus is on a mission to rebuild the reputation of drag races and bring college kids and families out to the strip. He purchased the dragway in 2006 and said he has tried to carry on the family tradition instilled by its previous owner.

“His biggest thing was to make it family oriented. And I try to keep that going,” Nicodemus said. “I go around and give the kids free ice creams on big events when I have time.”

Nicodemus first did business at the drag way when his construction company, Nicodemus Construction, upgraded the facility for the second owner of the strip in 2001. Nicodemus and his employees built a new entrance, tower and concession stand, and they also laid new asphalt for the budding dragway. He didn’t purchase the track until 2012 after the strip had turned into a place for family fun.

Members of the North Texas Car Club at UNT are no strangers to the smell of burning rubber against the asphalt of the strip. These students race in the open “RiceKiller” event with their own personal vehicles, in the name of fast and furious fun.

Anyone with an ID and a vehicle can race for $25, which includes a $10 entry fee and a $15 racing fee.

“I have a very broad group of friends who race,” aviation logistics senior Jordan Dietz said. “And even though we like to joke about each others’ cars, we are all friends through our cars and the camaraderie of working together to have fun.”

A Ford Mustang drives down the drag strip during a Friday evening test and tune session at North Star Dragway. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

A Ford Mustang drives down the drag strip during a Friday evening test and tune session at North Star Dragway. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Other UNT students say the convenience and diversity of the strip is what draws them out.

“It’s the closest drag strip there is, and if I got caught street racing I’d get in trouble. So I keep it legal,” arts and sciences freshman Jacob Robertson said. “There are students, parents with kids [and] senior citizens that have been racing since they were young – people that race for fun and people that race for a living.”

Though the track fosters a fun environment, many students race there in the name of safe driving practices when they hit the road. Music senior Keith Meline said the racing experience makes him a better driver and gets the urge to race at stoplights out of his system.

Dietz, however, has street raced before, and can testify to how much North Star can quench any racer’s thirst for adrenaline.

“Every time you [street race], you are taking a chance,” Dietz said. “You could lose control and wreck your car, hurt yourself or hurt someone else. The fines and tickets aren’t cheap either, which I know due to first-hand experience. The track allows you to go and drive your car to its limits with a very low risk of damage or injury to yourself and others on the road.”

North Star Dragway doesn’t just offer the opportunity to race, but also the opportunity to watch professional racing – an improvement from years past, according to Nicodemus. The events at the dragway are put together in October and November for the entire year.

In addition to watching professionals, every ticket is a pit pass and gives the ticket holder the ability to get in the pit and meet experienced drivers to pick up on the craft quickly.

“Drag racing is one of the few sports I know where you can walk the pits, look at all the cars, meet the drivers and just explore without anyone harassing you or paying a crazy fee for a pit pass,” Dietz said. “It’s a good time for everyone at a place where someone interested in cars can learn a lot in a small amount of time.”

According to Nicodemus, the most troubling part of owning a dragway in North Texas is the weather. No races are allowed if the track is wet, meaning events are sometimes cancelled due to unexpected Texas rainstorms.

“It’s pretty difficult [to operate] with the weather,” Nicodemus said, “We were closed for the biggest part of the year last year from all the rain.”

Although some students have found their way out to the track, Nicodemus’ work is not done. He said he still wants to get UNT students as involved as possible while convincing the general public that drag racing can be a family-friendly event.

“The nice thing about it is there’s diversity of the folks that come there,” Nicodemus said. “I think a lot of people sometimes have a negative outlook on drag racing, but what I want to try to do is change that.”

Featured Image: The North Star Dragway hosts races almost every weekend. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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