Photos: Alaska Raceway Park celebrates 50 years

Racers and support crew members watch from behind the start line as cars and motorcycles peel away from the launching area on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Cars make a pass on the Alaska Raceway Park track on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Pam VanDenBerg, of Eagle River, says she encourages wives to get involved in racing every chance she gets. "I don't think they realize the fun is in the car," she said. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
As racers stage for qualifying runs, Paul Loew and Marie Berry share a moment. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Braiden Owen waits in line to race his junior dragster as his father Sean Owen leans on the car. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Pam Cousins, of Kelowna, British Columbia, watches racing on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Cousins lived in the area as a child. Her father, she said, helped grade the land that became Alaska Raceway Park. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Frank Whiteman makes a pass in his 1967 Camaro SS, which he calls the Drag-N-Fly. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Monte Soper does a burnout in his 1968 Camaro before approaching the starting line. Burnouts help the car gain traction when they launch from the starting line. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Tabitha Archbald covers the ears of her son, Ethan, 3, as they watch drag racing on Saturday, July 26, 2014. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Karen and Earl Lackey own Alaska Raceway Park with their daughter Michelle Maynor and have operated it since 1998. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Race spectators plug their ears on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Karen Lackey checks racers into the pit on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Lackey says she has three generations of racers in her family. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Cars and RVs fill the pit at Alaska Raceway Park on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Gary Bodenstadt works on the Fairbanks-based high performance "fuel altered" drag race car, the Alaska Grizzly. Bodenstadt has been involved in drag racing since 1964, he says. Now, his son Jamie Bodenstadt drives the Grizzly, and holds the track speed record -- 279.5 miles per hour. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Ryan Ruiz plugs his ears as Tatum Ruiz works with his junior dragster before racing on Saturday, July 5, 2014. The Ruiz family has traveled to Alaska several times from Reno, Nevada, to race their high performance "fuel altered" dragster called Nevada Rattler. Alaska Raceway Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer. The venue has been hosting drag races in the Butte, near Palmer, since 1964.
Marc Lester
Polar Dragway owner Lee Nelson and Alaska Governor Bill Egan on the racing park's opening day, Labor Day 1964.
Courtesy Pam Cousins
Activity at Polar Dragway on the racing park's opening day, Labor Day 1964.
Courtesy Pam Cousins
Racer Jim Moore circa 1970. Alaska Racway Park co-owner Karen Lackey say Moore was the first to go over 200 mph in Alaska in a different car.
Courtesy Alaska Raceway Park
Marc Lester

BUTTE -- Karen Lackey thinks Alaska Raceway Park may have attracted one of its biggest crowds in 20 years this Fourth of July, but on the following day she was too busy to figure out exactly how many showed.

“I do know they ate all the ice cream and drank all the water, and we’re replenishing today,” she said.

Karen, who co-owns the drag strip with her husband, Earl Lackey, and daughter, Michelle Maynor, hasn’t had time to look at the books. At age 72, she also directs racers to their parking spots, sells tickets, oversees the gift shop, paints, empties trash and, well, you name it. Perhaps the only thing she doesn’t do there is work on cars and burn rubber.

“I do not turn wrenches for a very good reason. I would turn them the wrong direction,” she said.

Those who do know the Lackeys operate Alaska’s premier drag racing destination and carry on a tradition that began in the 1960s. This year, Alaska Raceway Park celebrates its 50th anniversary.

READ MORE: At 50, Alaska Raceway Park still has tires burning and hearts pumping