---This story was sent to me by Justin Gold. Thank you, Justin! ---
I had been hearing word of Eagle Field for some time, but it was usually followed by harsh criticism about how it’s dirty, the wind is miserable, the tracks no good and it’s basically not worth the effort. Mind you, this was all hearsay from people who had not actually been there. Regardless I succumbed and never gave it much thought.
I’ve had my 55 Chevy for years, but it rarely ventured out, except a few times a year and it was on one of these occasions at local cars & coffee that my relationship with Eagle Field really began. I always felt the car had a 70’s hot rod vibe but is often labeled as a gasser or like the “two-lane car”, at the time it was primed black, with a mild 454, and a one-piece fiberglass tilt frontend. Being the car was relatively unknown it attracted a few onlookers in the sea of recurring cars. A gentleman with gray hair, a long beard and weathered face looked the car over, looked at me and proclaimed, “You need to take this car to Eagle Field” I replied with a laundry list of excuses as to why the car was not ready, he looked at me again, pointed at the car and sternly said “this car needs to be at Eagle Field!” I would later come to know him as “Crabber Joe” a good friend and staple at Eagle with his 80’s era prostreet 55 Chevy.
Joe telling me how my car “Needed” to be there was haunting me and I started feeling shame for how long I’ve owned the car and never really done anything with it aside from work on it. So, I called up my good buddy Forest and said, “We’re going to Eagle Field, I need you to weld my spider gears."
Eagle Field is in the California Central Valley just outside of Fresno in the town of Firebaugh, which coincidentally was legendary for street racing in the mid 90’s and about 3.5 hours from where I live in Santa Cruz. I’ve been to fair amount of races but the first thing that struck me different was the warm welcome from the girls at the gate. Most everyone who works the event is a friend or volunteer who wants to be there, not a random hire from a staffing company. Second thing I noticed was a big sign that read “No Alcohol, No Bikes” and just beyond that a dude with no shirt doing a wheelie on a minibike with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his hand.
Upon entering I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of bad ass cars, there are some late model and imports but 90% of the vehicles are vintage hotrods, nostalgic dragsters and many cars that got mothballed in the early 70’s after the closing of the Fresno Dragway and other surrounding tracks that just now resurfacing and returning to action. You also notice you’re surrounded by all sorts of military vehicles in various stages of dismantlement and decay as when not a drag strip Eagle Field is a military museum celebrating the runways military past, including a massive hanger where planes and vehicles are actively being restored and displayed. Early on I was made aware of Rocky Philips (check out his dual engine dragster “Evil Twin”) who along with his crew put the events together, it’s a true grass roots event with Rocky and his team handling every aspect. When I first met Rocky, I introduced myself and he sincerely thanked me for making the trip making me feel completely welcome.
During that first trip we got beat every race, but it didn’t matter, the amount of cars were less than now, so we were able to hot lap right back to the starting line and keep running over and over. We’d switch off driving and were laughs and smiles all day. We made a bunch of friends (including members of the Estranged Car Club), drank a beer on the starting line at midnight (which has become a tradition), and slept in the dirt.
Returning home we spread the word and with every next race our crew seemed to get a bit larger, friends that came out just to watch would find the motivation they lacked and return to the next race with their long stalled project ready to go. My 55 was now no longer neglected either, the welded spider-gear stock rear-end became a spooled 9 inch, a vintage 6-71 Mooneyham blower found its way onto the motor and once I broke 100mph (1/8thmile) Rocky told me that I should probably install a cage.
Once the racing is done and the sun is going down the action continues. Most everyone stays and camps so fire pits are everywhere, BBQin’, bench racing and beverages ensue. Meandering around its easy to meet people and right around twilight we’ve gotten in the habit of taking the cars for “an idle” cruisin’ the cars around the pits, it’s a great opportunity to hop in someone else’s car or take the wives and kids for a putt.
Then there’s the hanger party… The large bay doors are opened revealing a dance floor, lights, live bands (although it’s been a DJ recently) and a full bar under the wing of a Corsair. There’s a restored Huey helicopter is on display that you can climb right in and try to start and lined up outside an array of vintage Nitro Cars, randomly crackling off throughout the night.
Eagle Field has also allowed me to indulge in another passion of mine, photography. Having worked in publishing I was familiar with shooting events and action and for the first couple races I would make my way to the starting line, but not having photo credentials I’d do my best to stay out of view to anyone who would care. Then during one race Rocky called for everyone to leave the starting line, except for officials and photographers, I must have given him a questioning look because he gave me the “get back in there” head gestor and ever since he’s had a photo pass ready for me.  
Like everything times have changed and with the increase in popularity and attendance security has had to be increased, gone are the days of backing your truck right up to the starting line and the shirtless dude on the minibike is gone, but the event is still as great if not better. I have just as much fun every time as the first time, it’s great to get away from life, get to hang out with old and new friends and surrounding yourself with so many amazing cars that aren’t just static, you get to touch them, talk with their owners and watch them get hammered on the track. I’m excited and hopeful to see that more and more of these smaller nostalgia events seem to be popping up every year.
Having not missed an Eagle Field race since that first one 8 years ago, I can attest that a lot of those rumor are true; the Eagle Field dirt is inescapable and will stay around long after the race is run. They weren’t lying about the wind either, tents are chair often grow wings. Yeah, the tracks not the best but it’s also not meant to be a dragstrip. It’s just a stretch of asphalt that we’re lucky enough to be able to use to go as fast as we can on. Also, the heat and bugs can get ridiculous, but the people, cars and community make all that fade away and the Eagle Field sunsets are some of the best you’ll ever see.

1 comment

Peter Klockner

I have been to a meeting there and thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely visit again when next in the USA

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