The Meltdown

So you’ve never attended the Meltdown Drags? I’ll attempt a description for you.
The Meltdown is a drag racing event unequalled. Think “Woodstock for gear heads“. This year, July 14th through the 16th marked the eighth annual go. It was my first. Wandering the pit area on this cloudy Friday morning, the sight of all the resting machinery alone was enough to make me glad I went. At that point I could have easily walked away satisfied.  But then, they started racing.

Side-by-side runs, single runs, back to back, non stop, cars lined up in the staging lanes a dozen deep and nearly as many rows across, continuing well into the night. Action was slowed only by the occasional track cleanup when someone broke.
Wait a minute. You say they broke? They run these cars THAT hard? They break stuff? Yessir, they do. They’re race cars.
The Meltdown Drags Association has carved out sharply-defined criteria for those race cars. They must be 1966 or older, period-correct in appearance and equipment. Nothing’s allowed that would derail you from your trip to the glory days. These guys spell “vintage” with a capital “V” and “racing” with a capital “R”. Not having attended a live drag race until I was out of school, any drag strip stories I knew from those days came from magazine pages. I could only imagine what it must have been like at drag strips across the plains of my native Midwest and beyond. Now, thanks to the Meltdown Drags, I don’t have to imagine. I know.
Oh, one other thing. It’s old news to many but here’s the story on the event’s name: Visible well beyond the end of the track, huge bell-mouthed concrete stacks off in the distance vent lazy columns of steam into the sky. The stacks belong to Byron’s nuclear-powered generation facility. Hence the name, “Meltdown Drags”.

I’ll wrap this up by tossing out a huge thanks to all the racers who came together to make this event what it was. Thanks to Paul Zielsdorf and Eric Koopmeiners of the Meltdown Drags Association who arranged trackside access for photos. I’ll add kudos to everybody on the Meltdown Drags and Byron Dragways event staff whose hospitality and friendliness were off the charts. It was great meeting and talking with photographer Dave Davis and Phil Morris of Gasser Wars Magazine ( And thanks to my travel mate Doug and his son Joe for the transportation and the great company. As a first-time attendee, I had just one word for anyone who asked me about the Meltdown: “GO!!!”

**EDIT – Feb. 2022:  Unfortunately, the Meltdown Drags event has now been discontinued. However, the good news is that several of the folks who were directly involved with that event have continued the tradition with the “Fall-Out” Drags held at Rock Falls Raceway near Eau Claire, WI.  To find out a bit more about that event, click here.

Here’s a link to the Meltdown Drags Facebook page.

And yes, my advice is the same as before: “GO!!!”


One Reply to “The Meltdown”

  1. Terry,

    Thanks for the write-up on the Meltdown Drags. I have never been there…yet. Based on your musings and your description of the event, it is definitely someplace that I will need to visit.



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