(Bruce A. and Joan) Mehlenbacher Inducted into the York Reunion Legion of Honor

Courtesy: Tim Miller
The late Bruce A. and Joan Mehlenbacher will be honored for their dedication and commitment to the sport of drag racing July 9-10 as part of the Legends of Drag Racing reunion presentation in York, Pennsylvania.
The Mehlenbacher Family will be presented with a Legion of Honor award during the weekend event.
The Mehlenbachers took over the day-to-day running of the Cayuga Dragway, the oldest operating drag strip in Canada, and established a heritage and professionalism that continues to this day at the Kohler Road strip in Southern Ontario.
The Mehlenbachers, working under the NHRA flag and its “Land of NED” (Northeast Division) built the facility into a major player in drag racing, bringing in the best of the best from 1971 until 1984. The annual WCS (World Championship Series) points meet was a highlight at the track, bringing in hundreds of competitors and thousands of fans each year.
Working with Division 1 Director Darwin Doll and his wife Pat, the business relationship expanded into a close personal friendship that continues with the Mehlenbacher children.
Other recipients who will receive an individual award and their names will be placed upon a perpetual award on display at the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing, York Springs, PA in perpetuity.  This year’s  recipients along with the Mehlenbachers will include George Nye, Palmyra, PA; Dave Heisey, Myerstown, PA; James Kerr, Holland, PA; Carol “Bunny” Burkett, Spottsylvania, VA; Bill Lynch, Huntington Station, NY; Fred Borcherdt, Newark, DE; Larry Lombardo, Bernville, PA; Alan Carpenter, Stuart, FL; Dom Rinaldi, Skowhegan, ME; Reinford Bros., Boyertown, PA, Chick DeNinno, Lottsburg, VA and Bob Harrop, Laurel Spring, NJ.  The elite group will be recognized for their contributions to the sport and the industry for many years.
Canada’s oldest operating drag strip has had several owners and names over the years, but the facility on the banks of the Grand River in Southern Ontario reached its apex during the Mehlenbacher years when the track was known as Dragway Park.
The former World War II Royal Canadian Air Force facility, purchased by L.B. Mehlenbacher in 1948, saw its first organized drag racing contests held in 1954.
For the next 17 years the track prospered through a series of track promoters, and was known as Kohler Dragway, Cayuga Dragway, Super Boss Dragway, and Cayuga 1320 Dragway. The track was sanctioned by the NHRA in 1967, and remained so under the Mehlenbacher years. It continued to grow in terms of fan support, physical size, and car counts, always under the watchful eye of the Mehlenbacher family as property owners.
L.B.’s son Bruce A. and his wife Joan took over the day-to-day operations of Cayuga in 1971, and for the next 12 seasons, put Cayuga on the drag racing map. It was also during this time strong professional and personal relationships developed between the Mehlenbachers and the NHRA’s Division 1 Director Darwin Doll.
Bruce and Joan were very passionate about the sport of drag racing, and devoted their lives to the successful running of Cayuga. Working exclusively with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA), Bruce and Joan worked closely with Darwin and his wife Pat, and from this professional business relationship emerged a true personal friendship that continues between the Mehlenbacher family and the Doll family to this day.
Under the NHRA’s Division 1 “Land of NED” and with close working ties with the Dolls, Cayuga was a major player in the sport. While special shows were held throughout the season, it was the Division 1 Winston World Championship Series (WWCS) meet in May of each year that filled the facility to near-overflow capacity with race cars and fans.
During these heady days the track saw all the top names of the sport, and fans flocked through the gates to see their quarter-mile heroes, racers such as “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Gary Beck, Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins, “Jungle” Jim Liberman, and Joe Amato. A future superstar in the sport, Shirley Muldowney, received her Top Fuel license at Cayuga in 1973.
While Bruce A. Mehlenbacher was in charge of Cayuga at this time, the running of the track was a family affair, with wife Joan in charge of the entrance gates and admission, son Bruce Jr taking on a logistics role, and son Bill performing announcing and public relations duties. Other third-generation Mehlenbachers who helped with the successful running of Cayuga included Barbara, Andrew, Julie, and Kelly, the other children of Bruce A. and Joan, along with Bruce Jr’s wife Holly.
Cayuga received many accolades during the Mehlenbacher tenure. It was named the NHRA Northeast Division’s Dragstrip of the Year in 1982, won the NHRA Management Excellence Award in 1983, and Bruce Sr was named the NHRA Northeast Division 1973 Man of the Year. Dragway Park also fielded the NHRA Northeast Division Bracket Finals Team Champions in 1976 and 1983.
The track was sold in 1984, but continues to operate to this day.
As a tribute to the contribution to auto racing in Canada, the Mehlenbacher Family were also inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1998.
The oldest two sons, Bruce and Bill, and grandson Spencer of Bruce A. and Joan Mehlenbacher continue with the drag racing legacy.
For the past several years Bruce Jr has been Director of Operations for the Pro Modified Racing Association, and the Quick 32 Sportsman Series, with the assistance of Bill and Spencer, which have developed into popular international racing venues, and their knowledge of the sport, comes from not only their parents but others in the sport such as the Dolls.
“Mom and Dad were passionate and committed about the sport of drag racing, and operated exclusively with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA),” Bruce Jr said. “They worked very closely with NHRA’s Division 1 Director Darwin Doll and his wife Pat, the business relationship developed into a true friendship a bond that continues today.”