Canada’s longest running traditional drag strip has entered into a renaissance period…..

St. Thomas Dragway – located just south of London Ontario — is getting some overdue refurbishing for the future. 

The race track which first opened for operations back in 1962 — and which has been run on a continual basis ever since has already received some significant upgrades for this season and there are plans for more going forward.

The race track which had been purchased by Spriet Investments about a decade ago, and then leased out, did see Grand Bend Motorplex Chief of Operations Paul Spriet first step back into a direct track operations fold last year.   In 2020 Paul has initiated some important facility improvements and has appointed his son Jarrett Spriet as the new Track Manager.

During the spring and in more recent times — the focus of the upgrades has been the track surface itself and also safety aspects.   

“When we first walked the race track it was wavy for sure,” Paul and Jarrett revealed.  “So using all of our experience at Grand Bend Motorplex — we have cut out a 15’ swath from the middle of each lane and repaved all that.  We already did have some concrete to the 100’ mark so from there on we put new asphalt all the way down past the 1/8 mile.  The top end area has been ground out and levelled to a corduroy effect.  We are going to have a company come back in soon to smooth that part out.”

Paul and Jarrett have also made history of the track’s previous “Jersey barrier” type guard wall.  Now concrete retaining runs the entire length of the drag strip to about 100’ past the finish line.

“We do have plans to extend that — but because we are strictly a 1/8th mile track — what we’ve done offers better protection for the speeds that the cars we run achieve,” they added.  “Right now all the major renovations planned for this year are completed.”

The reaction of racers so far has been immensely positive to the improvements — as drivers have been quick to embrace the track being so smooth.

A valid notion that might arise for area racing fans is that given many of the historical major events held at St. Thomas Dragway (aka London Motorsports Park) – ie:  John Force appearances Can-Am Nationals — could there again be some bigger events on the horizon?

“We do recognize all the tradition at this race track – the longest running drag strip in the country,” Paul added.  “In 2022 the track will celebrate is 60th year of existence so we’d like to be prepped to do something special then.”

There are however physical limitations that make really big events incompatible.  The entire property at St. Thomas is just 80 acres (compared to well over 200 acres at Grand Bend Motorplex).  So with that reality Paul and Jarrett do have have a different mindset and focus for each of the race tracks.

Jarrett Spriet – Canada’s newest and youngest drag strip Manager

“Grand Bend is 1/4 mile and that’s where all of our major shows and big ET races will continue to be hosted,” they affirmed.  “At St. Thomas the event’s and cars are set apart and different from what we do at Grand Bend — all 1/8th mile and more street car orientated stuff.   For example we have a nice partnership with Ian Hill’s group — and the plan is for four races for his series (Ontario Grudge Wars) this year.  We also regard St. Thomas as good proving ground and safe place for bringing new blood in to our sport.”

But the plan for St. Thomas Dragway is to continue on with some yearly investments and improvements while evolving the track for the future.  It is quite possible that will include some interesting feature events at some point.  Area Pro Mod drivers as well as Top Dragster and Top Sportsman class racers have already expressed interest.  It most certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for there to be some Wednesday night shootout / match race type things again — which were at one time a very popular attraction at this drag strip.

“To be honest we do need another 2 years or so to get the track surface rubber down and properly seasoned,” Paul admitted.  “We need to get to that place first before making any plans to handle higher HP cars.” 

During the mid to late 1990’s St Thomas Dragway (then London Motorsports Park) hosted a series of highly successful “Can-Am Nationals” events.

Paul and Jarrett were also quick to mention the fact that Ron Biekx – the former track manager at GBM – is also part of the equation now at St. Thomas. “Ron had some 20+ years of hands on at Grand Bend Motorplex and his strength for all aspects of track maintenance on site is a valuable addition for us.”

Post and photos by Bruce Biegler