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Drag Racers Hall of Fame opens in Winfield, honors local glory days, drivers

By Carlee Lammers, Staff Writer
CHRIS DORST | Putnam Review
Gary Jarvis, left, and Jim Winter at the West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame inside Winfield City Hall.
CHRIS DORST | Putnam Review The West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame includes trophies, model cars and photographs of old races.
CHRIS DORST | Putnam Review Old photos of drag races are part of the display at the West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame inside Winfield City Hall.
CHRIS DORST | Putnam Review Part of the display at the West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame inside Winfield City Hall.

Jim Winters and Gary Jarvis couldn’t stand to see their childhood heroes go unrecognized.

“Sitting in my garage one day, we were talking about how it’s a shame that a lot of the older guys — our heroes from when we were young — they’re dying. Part of history is dying when they do. So we thought somebody ought to do something to recognize these people,” Winters said. “Well, nobody was doing anything, so somebody became the two of us.”

And so the West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame was born. The hall of fame now has a permanent home inside the Winfield Municipal Building.

The two grew up idolizing drag racers in West Virginia, making frequent trips to the former Kanawha Valley Drag Strip in Winfield.

The strip was built in 1958 and became a regular spot for drag racers in the state to compete every Sunday. Drag racing took off in Winfield, the men said, partly because of the town’s proximity to Ohio, a drag racing “hot spot.”

“That inspired the hobby,” Jarvis said. “A lot of people don’t know this, but Ohio was second in the nation to California for drag racing.”

Dozens of names hang on plaques in the hall of fame — a salute to the West Virginia racers who took part in the tradition back then. New members have been inducted into the hall of fame since 2013, but the hall has had a permanent home

since May.

Artifacts from Winfield’s racing days are proudly on display in the hall. Visitors have the chance to see photos of the old drag strip, photos of past racers and their cars, toolboxes, decals and even trophies from past racers.

Jarvis and Winters can point out each car displayed in photos in the hall and know its story, its history and how it got its nickname. The two grew up idolizing Winfield racers, and have made a permanent tribute to their childhood hobby with the hall of fame.

One of the two’s proudest possessions is a small pink pencil with “Kanawha Valley Drag Strip” engraved on it.

“I looked for four years for one of these pencils,” Jarvis said. “They gave you a card and a pencil when you drove to enter your car. I was just asking and trying to find somebody that may have that. There were probably thousands of them back then, but it took years to find one.”

The drag strip closed some time in 1976, but the two said they have had a difficult time nailing down an exact date of the last race.

Jarvis and Winters said they are constantly looking for new items to showcase in the hall. In particular they are looking for paper items like ticket stubs and time slips; signage, posters and ads from the Winfield track; photos taken at the track that show the tower, tree or other interesting views; and an open-face helmet or other equipment.

But there is one “holy grail” item they are especially interested in: A copy of a 1958 Parade magazine insert from The Charleston Gazette from the strip’s first-ever race.

“There was a picture of two cars taking off at the line. I had it, but it burnt in a house fire,” Jarvis said. “I went to the archives at the newspaper and they said they didn’t save the Parade, but that is a prized piece.”

In order to be inducted, racers only have to be from West Virginia and must have a photo of their car, a time slip or any documentation to prove the inductee raced. They do not have to have raced at the track in Winfield.

The hall of fame in Winfield is a testament to the car culture in West Virginia — something that has its roots deep in the Winfield area.

A ceremony to celebrate the 2017 inductees will take place in October at the Charleston Rod Run and Doo Wop. Thirty-two new members will be inducted, including Charleston’s mayor, Danny Jones.

The West Virginia Drag Racers Hall of Fame is located inside the Winfield Municipal Building at 12448 Winfield Road and is open to the public. For more information, or to donate an item to the hall, call Winters at 304-586-0807 or Jarvis at 304-610-3984.

Reach Carlee Lammers at Carlee.Lammers@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1230 or follow @CarleeLammers on Twitter.


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