Before it was called "John Wayne Airport" it was called "Orange County Airport", and during the 1950's it was the place for drag racing.
A man named C.J. "Pappy" Hart was credited as having built the world's first commercial drag strip, named "Santa Ana Drag Strip" or "Santa Ana Drags", and held races there every Sunday. The drag strip operated from 1950 to 1959, until the County of Orange forced it closed due to increasing air traffic.
When Hart passed away in 2004, several newspapers rans articles that documented his fame in racing circles and told the story of how he started the first commercial drag strip. A site called, "We Did it for Love" has archived them all...
While going through the e-mails we received during the old days of OCThen, I found one that talked about the Santa Ana Drags...
Before it was called the John Wayne airport and before it was called Orange County Airport, it was just a sleepy little landing strip used by private planes, charters and the Martin Aviation Company. When I was a teenager in 1955 the airstrip would close down on Sundays and NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) sanctioned drag races were held on the runway. I remember seeing the "Green Monster", Art Arfons jet powered drag racer, screeming down the runway. It was probably the first jet to ever "land" at SNA. The drags moved to Lyons Speedway in Long Beach sometime in the late 1950's. They did return later on, for a few years, as the Orange County Raceway located at the I-5 and Sand Canyon.
By: Richard M. Cowan, 10 Aug 2002
If you can remember the drag races at Orange County Airport, click on "Post a Comment" at the bottom of this article, and share your memories with us.