As soon as I got my license, I was at Skyview Drags in Upstate New York, attending their test-and-tune every Friday night. It was the place that showed me what cars could really do, how fast they could really go. I thought I was on top of the world going “fast” in my beat-up high school car, and with the views from the dragstrip at the top of the mountain, that’s exactly how it felt.
Skyview Drags instilled such a love of cars and drag racing in me that I’ve managed to turn that passion into a career, and for that, this track means the world to me. Unfortunately, Skyview closed its gates in 2018, but rather than being sold and paved over within a matter of weeks, it sat vacant until 2023, and was eventually put in the hands of some of the most passionate racers in the Northeast. The Skyview Drags comeback story is here.
Originally constructed in 2004, alongside the concrete circle track, Shangri-La II, Skyview’s eighth-mile drag housed IHRA events, being voted IHRA Sportsman Track of the Year in 2007, as well as Super Pro, Pro, Street Money, Street Trophy, Bike and Sled classes, and Jr. Dragsters within the Summit Super Series.
In its prime, it saw faces like NHRA Pro Stock driver Camrie Caruso in her Jr. Dragster days, as well as Street Outlaw “Daddy Dave” Comstock, both somewhat local to the area, and hosted multiple Night of Fire events. Who can forget the jet truck catching the tower on fire? “We always loved going to Skyview,” Caruso said. “They always made the Juniors a priority and made sure we had special races and events throughout the season to look forward to.”
As car counts lowered, money dried up, and the facility began deteriorating, racers stepped up, providing their own prep, just to have a place to race. But as time went on, the gates to Skyview Drags closed for the last time after a final test-and-tune night in 2018, conducted with an arm drop start because the timing system had broken, with no signs of reopening.
“When it first closed, we went to Empire once or twice, Beaver Springs for long weekends, and ESTA a few times,” said Mel Teed, who raced with her husband and their three daughters in the Summit Super Series. “Nothing like having a dragstrip in your backyard,” she went on to say, with Skyview being just 40 minutes away from their Pennsylvania home.
Pat Schrader, fondly referred to as “Uncle Pat” by an entire generation of gearheads because of his commitment to the sport and the next generation of racers, was one of the first people to drive down the track in 2004. He was also one of the last to make a pass on that Friday night in 2018, racing there every Friday night test & tune, as well as bike shootouts and a few bracket races. Now, he’ll be one of the first back on the track in 2024, this time as not only a racer, but also as track operations manager for the dragstrip.
Fast forward to 2023, and rumors began swirling about new owners and new plans for our beloved track. Schrader described his commitment to bringing this track back to life, chasing leads since the day it closed for potential buyers. Years later when it finally sold, he continued searching for the buyer, determined to have a hand in the Skyview Drags revival story. When the owner was speaking with a mutual friend to find a manager for the dragway, their friend said, “If there’s anyone in the triple cities that knows about drag racing, it’s Pat Schrader.”
While the new owners do not wish to be named, we do know they are looking to make some major upgrades, including a go-kart track and other activities to create a motorsports complex. Many weekends have been spent with local volunteers clearing brush, sweeping the track, and making repairs along with some more intensive projects, such as repaving the pits and renovating the tower, concession stand, and bathrooms to have the facility in peak operating condition.
The track was closed for six years, but it was neglected for years before that, creating a long list of basic repairs, about $500,000 worth before the reopening, before they can really focus on the major upgrades. Giving room for even more funds for these upgrades, most of the work so far has been done by volunteers, looking to help their home track back on its feet in any way they can.
“For a track to come back from being closed is pretty rare, and it’s big news for not only our area but in the race world in general,” Schrader says, “Now I’m getting 400 emails a day from people interested.”
So, where does the first race fit into this comeback story? After a six-year hiatus, Skyview Drags will be partnering with Sampson No Prep to host a no-prep race on the grounds on April 27. Additionally, Skyview is now sanctioned for WDRA and will bring back the bracket series the locals loved, this spring, as well as a few Night of Fire events through the year, as the jet-engine-powered cars always bring a crowd. “We want it to be open and stay open,” said Schrader.
The new owners, Schrader, and volunteers are willing to make the necessary upgrades and changes to make sure the dragstrip on the mountain is here to stay, bringing race families together for years to come. The Teed family and many others can’t wait to start racing again in Owego, New York, in 2024, running the same cars they had back in the day, with some upgrades, of course, in the Skyview Drags Saturday Bracket Racing Series.
With this group of people behind the scenes, I have no doubt that Upstate New York will soon house one of the best eighth-mile dragstrips in the Northeast.