Bob & Helen Harvey

Inducted 2004

A life-long citizen of Sparta, Robert (Bob) Harvey was a man who was always concerned about his community. A young employee of the nearby St. Thomas dry cleaning business made frequent stops in Sparta. As bundles of clothes were being picked up, the Harveys frequently invited the driver in for supper. The young fellow was an active hot rodder named Doug Kennington. During one of these mealtime discussions, Kennington took the opportunity to explain his concerns over the state of racing in the community. As the Harveys listened, Kennington told them that local hot rodders needed a drag strip set up in that area of the province to provide a safe and professional place to race their cars. After a visit to Detroit Dragway, Bob Harvey announced that he would build his own drag strip on an unused parcel of land in Sparta. St. Thomas Dragway opened in the spring of 1962 and quickly became a landmark drag racing facility in Canada. It became the first drag strip outside the United States to be sanctioned by the National Hot Rod Association. In 1963, the track was given a coveted regional meet to host. This again was another first for the NHRA, being the first major regional meet outside the U.S. St. Thomas went on to host drag meets that attracted some of the finest racers on the continent. After her husband died, Helen Harvey chose to keep the track open for racers of all classes. Helen was one of the most unique women in motorsports. In 1962, at a time when women didn’t get involved with automobile racing, she was as important a member of the building process of St. Thomas Dragway as anyone. In fact, from the opening day in the spring of 1962 until the day she sold the track to John Fletcher in 1989, she was at every single event ever held at the racing facility.Bob andHelen Harvey created a legacy when they built St. Thomas Dragway and their mark on drag racing in Canada will never diminish.

Comments

  1. Phil Hankins says:

    I was introduced to the drags at St. Thomas in 1964. Things have changed since then as I just attended my first event at Grand Bend. Now they are racing everything.

    In 64, A fellow from Galt, now Cambridge, my home town, his name is Pete Scott, raced his 63 split window corvette. His competition was Tiny Tim from Detroit. They battled it out both at St. T and Detroit. Pete passed away a month or so ago doing what he loved best, working on a car, his wife’s. He moved to St. T a few years ago. May he rest in peace.

    Phil Hankins.

  2. Jean Montague says:

    Sparta dragway certainly needs a overhaul for this sport to survive. Turnouts are less and less
    Love the track, have attended off and on since the early sixties. have seen a steady decline in the facilities. The track needs a resurfacing, chunks of track were flying into the stands at the last event. Please save the track. Need to bring back Top Fuel line up. Needs more advertising to keep the public interest very poor coverage. Not like it was in the sixties when radio announcers announced that if you were not at the track Sunday you better be in church. .

  3. Phil Hankins says:

    Have not been to Sparta since 1964. Just returned from the U.S. Nationals as a spectator. I just turned 70 and this was the first time that I attended the Big Show. What attracted me and will again, was the possibility of getting autographed T shirts and pictures taken with some of my idles, Big Daddy, The Snake and The Mongoose and the Force family.

    Some how you need to get those guys and the new big guns to come up here!!! However, there needs to be a push on getting sponsors to cover track repairs.

    It may be a long shot.

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