The arm-drop drag races hit the track again this week, with muscle cars, tuners and grocery-getters firing off the mark. But the real grudge match is taking place off the track, between race organizers and Prestonsburg tourism officials.
Tension has been bubbling under the surface since organizers began putting on the races, and overflowed this week when event organizer Kent Rose called out Prestonsburg Tourism Director Freddy James.
“I expect to say, 200 times or more, during the race that Prestonsburg Tourism has absolutely nothing to do with this race. I will repeat that over and over and over,” Rose said in a story published in The Daily Independent.
The race will be held this weekend at the Paintsville-Prestonsburg Combs Airport.
Rose told Times staff that the organizers of the arm-drop drags are doing tourism’s job, by promoting the city and bringing people into the region, but have received no cooperation from Prestonsburg Tourism.
“He (James) has never supported Arm-Drop Drags, or any of the burnouts,” said Rose.
Rose said he doesn’t have any ill will toward the Tourism board, only its director. “He ignored us when we were racing on the streets, ignored what we did at the MAC, and he is ignoring us now.”
James said he is aware of Rose’s verbal attacks. According to James, during the May event, which he attended to hand out fliers and take pictures, he took such a verbal beating from Rose over the PA system that he finally left.
Rose says he brought some organizers to a tourism board meeting, “some of the best and most successful business people,” and that they were treated terribly by James, and were told tales full of James’ “smoke and mirrors.”
“The board is not being kept informed by its director,” Rose said. “This man has a job to do, a responsibility.”
According to James, the tourism board is willing to work with Arm-Drop Drags, but Rose’s negative remarks about him and board members have caused a rift. “We’re all for it, and want to support it,” James said. “He’s just forced us into an impossible position.”
According to Rose, James blames Mayor Jerry Fannin and the city council for why there isn’t more support from tourism. “We wanted to work hand-in-hand with tourism, but if he (James) can’t take credit for it, he don’t want to have anything to do with it,” Rose said.
When asked about the relationship between the city and tourism, Fannin said the tourism board determines how to spend its money. “It doesn’t have anything to do with us,” Fannin said.
According to James, a $42,000 donation made last year by Paintsville tourism has put him in a tough spot, because Rose expects Prestonsburg Tourism to be able to match it.
James said he and the board have reviewed their budgets, and that for the time being will have to content with what support they can offer. “Prestonsburg Tourism has looked at their request, and due to lack of funds, will have to support Arm-Drop with our advertising and marketing funds.”
All proceeds from the $5 admission fee and the $25 race fees are reinvested into the airport and future events.
The Arm-Drop Drag race takes place Friday and Saturday. Driver registration begins at 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Friday is “Test and Tune” day, with gates opening at 4 p.m. Bracket racing gets underway Saturday, with gates opening at 1 p.m. For more information, visit the Hillbilly Arm Drop Drags page on Facebook.