Nitro, nitro, nitro! Warwick Dragway Grand Opening

Warwick Dragway christens its new quarter-mile surface in spectacular style


Warwick Dragway has long been one of the Street Machine team’s favourite tracks to race and spectate at. Only 100km down the road from Willowbank, Warwick has a relaxed country charm that has kept us coming back regularly for the past 20-odd years to attend events such as Dragfest, the Six Banger Nats, the VW Nationals and Drag Challenge Weekend.

In 2020, the State and Federal governments announced that the track was to receive $1.9 million in funding for upgrades, which would include an extension of the track from an eighth-mile to a full quarter-mile.

What followed from there was a stack of hard work, punctuated by COVID-related dramas and months of inclement weather. The track volunteers have poured their passion into into the project over the long haul, overcoming countless obstacles to have the venue back in action late last year in eighth-mile form for the third Junga Bunga No-Prep event.

And now, the full quarter-mile has been christened with the first day of the track’s Grand Opening event last night. The Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars and wheelstanders headlined the show, supported by a full field of sportsman racers qualifying for Sunday.

The formal proceedings saw Federal National Party leader David Littleproud, Southern Downs Mayor Vic Penissi, Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley and Councillors Steven Tancred and Andrew Gale along with Warwick Dragway stalwarts John and Chris Loy present to officially open the track. Littleproud gave a short speech, before the ribbon was cut and it was time for some nitro action:

“To Chris and John and your club, this is a day for you. It is your vision – a world class facility that you should be proud of, alongside Morgan Park Raceway next door. We have these facilities in the region because there are people who believe in their sport and believe in their community. This is your day, this isn’t my day or the council’s day, this is a day for the community and those who are prepared to put their hand up and have a go.”

The Aeroflow Outlaw Funny Car operation is spectacular to watch even before it gets out on track, with an army of black-clad technicians working flat out all day in the pits to ensure the floppers perform and present to the highest possible standard. Four cars were brought to Warwick, with Morice McMillin piloting the Nitro Express ’57 Chev, Joshua Leahy in the Bandit Trans-Am, Brandon Gosbell in the King Kong Trans-Am and Justin Walshe in the Terminator Camaro.

Out on the track, they are something else again. Running a 96 percent nitro mix, the Outlaw Funny Cars sound wild in the burnout, even more so than their full-fat brothers. I ventured down to the deep end of the track to watch their second round of racing and was treated to a pair of spectacular side-by-side passes that had the crowd on their feet. There is nothing like being on the startline when watching nitro cars, but if you’ve never seen them at top speed and side-by-side, you’re missing out.

The funnies got two rounds of racing in, with high four-second passes over the 1000ft distance the order of the day. Brandon Gosbell was the quickest of the quartet, running a 4.84-sec pass in the King Kong Trans-Am.

The third round was nixed by rain just as the cars were getting ready to hit the burnout box. Frustrating for everyone, but the crowd was universally stoked that Graeme Cowin and his team worked so hard to put on a great show.

After each round of Funny Cars came the wheelstanders, driven by Chelsea and Shelby Leahy. Both cars are fascinating to look at in the pits, but are mind-boggling to watch in action, with the pilots having to steer with the rear brakes and their vision restricted to peeking through the chassis.

A big crowd turned out to support the teams, packing out the carpark and the grandstand. All the racers we spoke to reported that the new surface is smooth as the proverbial, while the startline took the full fury of the 6000hp Funny Cars in its stride.

The end of the track dips down similar to Willowbank Raceway, but then rises up in the braking area to help pull the faster cars up without drama. The pits were as finely manicured and the hospitality extended to a marquee set up across from the staging lanes, complete with a stage ready for some rock and roll post-event.

There will be some great battles in racing today, with the 28 v 275 class one to watch, with more than a few Drag Challenge veterans taking on the big tyre boys shod with 28 x 10.5W rubber. There is also a cool heads-up, quarter-mile Pro Bike class that has attracted entries from all over.

By the time racing ended, the track staff were sunburned and tired, but still pumped for a big day today. Be there!