Beeline Dragway: A Decaying Blast From Phoenix's Racing Past
The timing tower at the old Beeline Dragway outside of Mesa.
The barren land surrounding the Beeline Dragway outside of Mesa can be a quiet place.
Pay a visit to the decaying racing facility, which closed more than 35 years ago, and you might hear the sound of the wind blowing through its abandoned timing tower or the whisper of traffic from the nearby Beeline Highway, which inspired the bygone track's name.
Had you visited back in the day (specifically a 15-year stretch during the '60s and '70s), the place was alive with the roar of souped-up engines, squealing tires, and the clamor of thousands gathered in its grandstands, as the Beeline Dragway was one of the premier racing destinations in the Valley.
A remnant from the dragway's racing past.
Built in 1963 by local entrepreneur Jim Rogers on land leased from the Salt River Pima Indian tribe, the facility featured a pair of quarter-mile asphalt lanes where fired-up four wheel speed machines burnt rubber and shot forward at breakneck speeds of well over 200 miles-per-hour.
The Beeline Dragway back in the day.
Tricked-out muscle cars that were wildly popular amongst motorheads in that era - including Dodge Chargers, Ford Mustangs, and Pontiac GTO - regularly raced at the track, earning screams of delight from crowds as drivers put their pedals to the metal. The long and skinny custom-built dragster vehicles that are widely associated with the sport were also a common sight at the Beeline.
An old school photo of the Beeline's two drag strips.
Racing fans from throughout the Valley would journey to the far-flung facility on Saturday and Sunday afternoons long before there was much of a local freeway system to witness the speedy exploits of such world-renowned drag racers as Don "Big Daddy" Gartlits, "Dandy" Dick Landy, and Tom McEwen. The ladies even got to satisfy their need for speed at the Beeline, as its was visited by Shirley "Cha-Cha" Muldowney (a.k.a. The "First Lady of Drag Racing") and other female racing superstars.
Thousands would also turn out when American Hot Rod Association held is popular yearly Winternational drag racing competition at the facility for more than a decade to watch on as contenders from throughout the United States attempted to haul ass down the dual drag strips as quickly as possible.
The dragway eventually lost luster in the mid 1970s thanks to decreased interest in the sport and increased competition from television and other entertainment options. It closed in 1975. Eventually, its niche was filled by the brand new Firebird International Raceway in Chandler.
The graffiti-covered interior of the timing tower.
The only remnant of the Beeline's racing past is its three-story concrete and steel timing tower, where race organizers tracked the speed of competitors. Like many other abandoned structures on the edges of the Valley, the building has become a canvas for graf artists, who have found their way through the fencing surrounding the property and left dozens of spent spraypaint cans after creating their works.
Thankfully, graf artists haven't tagged the portion of the tower that features a fading and flaking advertisement for bygone Mesa business Saguaro Automotive, allowing a small reminder of the property's history as a local Mecca of drag racing.
The Beeline Dragway is located approximately one mile north of Mesa along State Highway 87.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.