Twice a year, in May and October, Eagle Field is transformed from the remnants of a WWII pilot training facility into a makeshift drag strip. In the early days of drag racing, many races were held on airport runways and Eagle Field is certainly a throwback to the roots of drag racing.
Track prep is minimal and Rocky Phillips, the man who makes it happen at Eagle Field (along with an army of volunteers) always reminds the masses at the daily drivers meeting that they are racing on a runway, not a race track. With no sanction and no insurance covering on-track activity, the mantra is “The future of Eagle Field depends on you. If you drift, be smart and lift.”
The first couple of years, everything was flag start, but starting in 2011, a Christmas tree and clocks were set up for use only on Sunday when several doorslammer classes are contested.
Since the first race in 2009, the event has grown continually as word gets out that there is drag racing in the farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley. The May event this year drew more than 300 race cars and somewhere north of 2,500 enthusiastic spectators and the traditionally smaller October event attracted well over 200 race cars and several thousand spectators. Admission prices are reasonable and a family atmosphere is maintained.
In addition to an eclectic mix of old dragsters, hot rods, street rods, modern race cars, and farm trucks racing on the runway, there is a swap meet and small car show. Drag racing legends such as wheelstander General Jerry Lee and Ed Iskenderian are regulars at Eagle Field and warmly welcomed by the appreciative crowd. Jeff Atamian and his “Beast” jet dragster are also regulars and Jeff always makes several passes on Saturday.
Traditionally, the first pass of every weekend was made by Elmer “Unsprung” Sndyer driving the same flathead dragster that he raced for almost 60 years. Although Elmer passed last year at the age of 90, his son Dick is carrying on the tradition. History and tradition are what Eagle Field is all about.