Victorian reflects on time spent at Six Flags Dragway
March 18, 2017 at 11:27 p.m.
Updated March 18, 2017 at 11:40 p.m.
Victoria native Gilbert "Kupp" Kupfernagel recalls the days when he and his friends worked countless hours at Victoria's Aloe Army Air Field so that racers could fulfill their need for speed in drag racing.
Kupfernagel, who served as a manager at the time, didn't care to earn so much as a penny.
"As a manager, you're trying to keep 22 people working, while organizing 150 race cars," Kupfernagel said. "It was exciting because all of the employees, including myself, worked for free because we wanted to be on the race track."
When race enthusiasts meet at the Victoria Regional Airport March 24-26 at the Texas Mile, it won't be the first time racers took center stage in the crossroads.
Before the Texas Mile existed, Six Flags Dragway owned the raceway.
"Six Flags Dragway started with a bunch of guys wanting to put on a drag race," said Victoria native Godfred "Junior" Berger, who helped form the Rod Benders Club in the 1950s.
The club consisted of members of the National Hot Rod Association.
Aloe Army Air Field, which at the time, was an Air Force establishment used for advanced flying school programs throughout World War II, is where the racers took part on the dragstrip.
"At that time, the Aloe Army Air Field was in limbo," Berger said. "The government wasn't doing anything with it; it was just land."
With Berger and his friends racing, people around town started to take notice.
"We found people that were interested in racing and wanted to be involved in drag racing," Berger said. "We went out there and started charging admission, and people paid us. We stretched out and borrowed some timing clocks from California. Then, we were sanctioned by the NHRA, and starting putting on drag races."
"The Texas Mile is bit different than drag racing, Kupfernagel added. "Drag racing is a quarter of a mile with two cars side by side with the process of elimination, while the Texas Mile is a running mile with one car running."
Victoria native John Clegg, who bought Six Flags Dragway from Kupfernagel in 1973, remembers his time on the track like it was yesterday.
"The first time I raced there was in 1962, over 60 years ago," Clegg said. "I was in high school, and the very first time I raced there, I didn't have a driver's license. My theory was that you didn't need a driver's license to get stopped. I didn't know a whole lot of what I was doing, and that was the start of my drag racing career."
"It was more of a business venture for me," Kupfernagel said. "At the time, I was interested in drag racing, and I didn't think it was a big deal at the time, but after looking back, I realized now that Six Flags Dragracing was a bigger deal than I thought."