GALOT is short for “Get A Load Of This,” which is what Earl Wells had in mind when he bought the Dunn-Benson Dragstrip.
After a two-year renovation, the drag strip has a new name, GALOT Motorsports Park, and a host of improvements.
Those improvements include a new track paved with the help of lasers to ensure an even, fast track that’s temperature controlled so races can be held year-round. Also on the list of improvements: a fiber-optic timing system, LED scoreboards, a new control room and suites for race fans.
“Mr. Wells wanted everything to be first-class,” said Charles Myers, director of media relations for the drag strip, located at 55 Drag Strip Road. “He said he wasn’t going to do it at all if he couldn’t do it with excellence.”
GALOT Motorsports Park hosts a variety of events: drag races, of course, but also tractor pulls, monster truck competitions, demolitions derbies and dirt-track races. They all operate in “a safe, controlled, family-friendly environment,” Myers said.
Amenities for racing fans were important too in the renovation, Myers said. The 9,000 seats in the stands have backs, and the park has a full restaurant, a merchandise store and, Myers promises, neat, clean restrooms.
“We want everyone to be comfortable and to have a good time,” he said, adding that the park has 70 RV hookups for overnight stays.
Dunn-Benson Dragstrip operated for many years, but over time, the crowds developed a reputation for being “kinda rough,” Myers said. GALOT Motorsports Park aims to put all of that in the past, he said.
“We want this to be the place you can bring your girlfriend or your wife and your kids and everyone can be happy and enjoy it,” Myers said.
That mission to be “family driven and oriented” starts at the top with Wells, the owner, Myers said. “He wants everyone who comes here to feel like family,” he said.
For drag races, GALOT guarantees not only a fast track but safety, too, Myers said, noting that the drag strip requires all drivers to wear helmets, belts and fire-resistant suits. And all cars are subject to safety inspections before racing, he said.
“It’s an inconvenience for some who aren’t used to having to take all of those steps, but we have to make sure everyone is as safe as possible,” Myers said. “Safety is paramount.” Paramedics and firefighters are on hand at all events.
“People hear ‘drag racing,’ and they immediately think illegal street races,” Myers said. “But that’s not what we’re about here. Drag racing has a bad reputation, but we’re hoping to teach people to take it to the strip, not the street.
“You can go as fast as you want to here,” he added, “and you can go home safely.”
Kids as young as 6 can race in junior dragsters after completing courses in safety and racing. Eventually GALOT hopes to run its own drag-racing school.
“We’re teaching safety early,” Myers said. “Some families now even use racing as an academic incentive: ‘If you do well on your report card, you can come race.’ ”
Johnston County also hopes to use the park as a recruiting tool for economic development. In May, the county took more than 250 industry leaders and guests for a ride at GALOT as part of “Racing for Recruitment.”
“This unique event was an exciting opportunity for Johnston County to thank existing industries while also highlighting the assets and amenities we can offer businesses of all kinds,” said Chris Johnson, the county’s economic-development director.
Brenda Daniels, who attended “Racing for Recruitment,” is manager of economic development for ElectriCities, which provides services to North Carolina’s public power towns.
“This was a remarkable event that left industry representatives and economic-development professionals with a very positive impression of Johnston County,” Daniels said. “I’ve been to industry-appreciation events across the state, and this one was one of the most memorable events ever.”
GALOT plans to be a year-round track, with winter the possible exception, depending on the weather. For information, or for a full schedule of events, go to galotmotorsportspark.com. GALOT also has a Facebook page at facebook.com/GALOTMotorsportsPark.
Abbie Bennett: 919-553-7234, Ext. 101; @AbbieRBennett