For the first time since 2019, drivers raced their cars down the taxiway of the Zettel Memorial Airport in Gladwin as part of the city’s annual Thunder on the Strip event. On Saturday, Sept. 11, drivers lined up their vehicles, side by side, and approached a drag race light where they were announced by name and vehicle. The countdown race lights then lit, one by one, before the green light illuminated and the vehicles shot off into an all out acceleration race down the 1/8 mile strip.
Vehicles new and old, large and small all found their place at this drag race event. The drivers return each year for this event, not only for the competition, but also for the fun.
“There are different staging lanes for the different racers,” said Tammy Hawblitzel, event coordinator. “The first couple of lanes are for racers who want to grudge race, and they are staged together. The third lane is for the racers who are just looking to make a run down the strip.”
Every level of vehicle and racer was welcomed to participate in the family friendly event. The races took place both on Saturday, Sept. 11 and Sunday, Sept. 12; though Saturday proved to be a bigger day for the event due to weather.
“We had a total of 101 drivers on Saturday and only 26 drivers on Sunday,” Tammy said.
The weather boasted high temperatures and sunshine on Saturday, while rain and cool temperatures loomed over Gladwin on Sunday. Overall, Tammy estimated the number of spectators to have been in the thousands. “All of the stands were full and some of the spectators had their own chairs set up next to the stands to watch.”
In the past, Thunder on the Strip has taken place twice per year, once in the spring and again in the fall. Starting with this year, the event will now only be held in the fall of each year until further notice.
“It takes a lot of work to put this event on, and to do it twice a year is that much more,” Tammy said. “I’ve had some people tell me to bring it back to twice a year, but I don’t know if that will happen.”
The event is put on through the Gladwin Business & Professional Association (GBPA), and Tammy has been in charge of organizing the event since it’s origination in 2009. Volunteers who helped with the event included members of the GBPA and their friends and family. Many local businesses do their part to help with various needs such as applying VHT TrackBite to the strip for better vehicle traction. Businesses that offered their support to the event included Maverick Ford, Myers for Tires and Midstate Rental & Storage, among others.
“As always, we had a lot of community support,” Tammy said. “An untold amount of people worked very hard to help us out.”
This year’s event served as a dedication to a friend of many of the drivers and long-time supporter of Thunder on the Strip, Eddie Magee. An announcement was made on Saturday to dedicate the event and a flag with Eddie’s photograph was positioned over the starting line. A small 9/11 commemoration ceremony was also held before the races took place on Saturday.