Dragways PR Director and
Drag News Contributor
Text and photos by Ron
Minnesota Dragways (MD) opened
in the spring of 1959 and started drawing pretty good attendance
right away. John Foster was the manager and he made an effort
to drum up spectator interest by bringing in Pro
cars. Karamesines and Maynard with the Chizler, Lou Cangelose
in the Missouri Missile, Glenn Leasher with Pandemonium and others
appeared at the track. As a part of track operation, stories
and photos were sent in to Drag News, the weekly California based
Bible of Drag Racing.
Late summer 1959 I was at John
Fosters house visiting and he mentioned that he was having
trouble finding someone to do the Drag News stories. I again
volunteered to take over this task and started another chapter.
Over the winter, John and I talked and he offered me a part-time
job as PR director. I would prepare and distribute press releases
to all the media outlets, do the weekly Drag News articles with
pictures and create and distribute posters promoting future events.
We had a slow week at MD in late
May so I accompanied the Big Wheel crew to Union Grove for the
Great Lakes Dragways spring extravaganza. I took a color picture
that day that has been a source of much satisfaction for me ever
since. From the tower I got a shot of Garlits/Malones Swamp
Rat racing Maynard/Karamesines Chizler about
400 feet out, side by side, smoke billowing off both sets of
tires. Both drivers bought enlargements the next weekend.
A poster size copy of this shot
was in the Garlits Drag Racing Museum, on the floor in front
of the Maynard/Karamesines Chizler, which was part of the permanent
collection of dragsters.
We had a number of big events
throughout the year at MD and a few of my photos even made Drag
News. I had something in there almost every week.
It was a wonderful summer for
Minnesota Drag Racing fans, as Foster brought in practically
every touring pro including a most of the non-California
hot cars and some of those too. I have put these cars, more of
less, in order of the chronological appearance.
In March 2006, I arranged with
Karamesines for removal of the Chizler from the Museum. I took
the car to California and with assistance from a host of racers,
got the Chizler running and took it to several venues for cacklefest
When you are finished on this
website use the link to go to my other website, cacklefest.com, click on The Cars tab, scroll
down to The Chizler picture and click on it. The whole story
The Big Wheel Auto Stores A/Gas
Dragster, 454 Chrysler powered Dragmaster Mark 1
Bruce Stormin Norman had been a circle track
driver at local short tracks. When Arvy started looking for a
new driver got 1960, he was given Bruces name. Arvy put
Bruce in the car and on May 8th, when Setto was here first, Bruce
became a dragster driver. Setto took him under his wing and coached
him through wheelstands etc, which had been causing Bruce to
lift. After that Bruce was fearless and he was cat quick, often
resulting in re-runs because he left so fast.
The car was transformed through
the year by the addition of a second roll hoop and a switch to
Enderles Barn Door injector, which Arvy became
a master of. The Big Wheel was undefeated in class all year until
Detroit, where a slippery track allowed Leonard Harris to get
past Bruce. Original engine guy Hank Hebert in the dark glasses
and shirt over the roll bar.
in Mark 1 (named for his son) with helper Walt holding. The guy
looking on is the saloonkeeper Arnie Ostlund, from the Big Wheels
neighbor, the Lake Street Mug, our hangout!
I met Setto in
Detroit, Christmas, 1959 and he showed me this car, brand new,
in a bay at the service station he ran with his brother on McNichol
Road in Detroit. He and I hit it off pretty good and the only
disagreement we had was whether the Big Wheel would be a stronger
contender for Gas Dragster honors, or his pal Conrad Kalitta
who had a new car also. I spent an afternoon with Conrad and
we had quite a wide-ranging discussion, as he drove his Dads
propane tanker from one residence to another, filling propane
tanks. He was loaded with confidence, rightly so.
was taken the first time Setto came to town, which was May 8th.
It was the first time the car had been down the track and Setto
blew a couple of rods through the pan. You can see the death
smoke coming out of the breathers, End of the day, many miles
from home. They came back for the May 28-29th event and Setto
blew up his clutch and was unable to continue then also. He must
have been sliding the clutch, it shouldn't have blown up if he
Setto and his
wife Chris and helper Walt, stayed at our house, at least once,
when they came to MD that year and like many of the other racers,
we got along great. Unfortunately Setto crashed heavily at Detroit
Dragways early in July in a match race against Archie Liederbrand.
The car was completely destroyed and Setto was badly injured
with numerous broken bones.
I saw him the
for the last time at Detroit when I accompanied the Big Wheel
there for the 1960 NHRA Nationals. I picked Setto up at his house
and took him and his wheelchair to the racetrack and we spent
the afternoon watching and visiting with various racers he knew.
He recovered fully but never drove again. Setto died about 10
years ago, survived by his wife Chris and son Mark.
Tommy Ivo made his second stop
on his first tour with the Twin Buick after his appearance at
Denver. He came in almost a week early for the May 28, 29th event
and I drove Tommy around town doing media interviews. He was
in the hit Television series My Little Margie near or at the
time and had been a Mousketeer. He had a helper along, a slim
young guy named Don, who also gained some notoriety driving dragsters
and funny cars and is still active today as a car owner. Call
him Snake, Viper or just Prudhomme! The picture above, Ivo on
one of the many runs he made at MD with the Twin-car!
Tommy is a gregarious, fun-loving
guy and he and Arvy and Bruce Norman hit it off and became friends.
The Big Wheel and Ivo match raced all around the Midwest that
summer, most of the races I had to stay home and work at the
track. More about this in the next section, which will be about
the Big Wheel.
Ivo and one of the members of
the Optimists Club, which built and oversaw the Drag strip.
At the first races at MD, Glen
Leasher or Rod Stuckey drove Sullivans car. But mid year,
1960, Bobby started driving himself. Sullivan became friends
with Joe and Sally Weikleenget and when he came to town he stayed
at their house. He traveled alone, towing with a new Olds Station
Wagon (thats probably why Joe liked him) and got a volunteer
to push him and help out, wherever he raced. Bobby was a quiet
guy and was very controlled, in that he didn't go for it,
but rather raced to save equipment and make rounds. Nice guy,
I liked him a lot too!
Bobby Langley in The
Bobby Langley came to MD once,
or maybe twice that year. The first time, at the May race, Bobby
towed with and Olds station wagon and was accompanied by his
wife and children. His kids were his crew and it was truly a
family operation. The Scorpion had a bite, too, it was the loudest
car on the track. If you notice the headers, they are not even
at the bottom. They got so hot they sagged and I saw him melt
at least one right off and drive over it.
Lou Cangelose and the Missouri
Missle getting ready with Pit Crew Pete Starrett's
Lou was a regular at MD and was
something of an enigma. He and his mechanic Carl Bedami, ran
the car together. Lou was suave, and he wore expensive clothes,
even while driving. He wore wool slacks and cashmere sweaters
and highly polished loafers and the ladies thought he was the
Cats Meow. The car was an offshoot of a sprint
car or midget car with a quick change, mag wheels all around
and nicely finished body work etc. Lou ran a toy company in St.
Louis during the week and was not short of racing budget.
Lou is slightly behind Langley,
leaving the line. This was probably the May race and I have no
results, so I can't tell you who won.
Chris Karamesines and
Don Maynard's Chizler, Ron Dingy Leek
lending a hand.
Chris had been to MD in 1959
and tore up a pair of slicks on the seal coating that Foster
had laid down. I saw him at Route 30, Hammond Indiana, in the
fall of 1959 and he said he wouldn't come back again, but the
lure of money was too much for him. The track surface was very
good in 1960 and the clocks were unerringly accurate. It was
a tight track and Chris was there at least 4 times. We all got
along great and they were fun to be around.
I had started taking a fair amount
of color, but needed B & W for Drag News and newspaper articles,
so most of my action shots were B & W. Here's Chris with
The Swamp Rat, Don Garlits
and Art Malone
They came back for a
second race on July 17th 1960,
Garlits and Malone came to town
twice in 1960 and I believe they won the first race, which was
May 28, 29th event. I took the picture above, at Union Grove
the week before, hoping to use it to accompany a news release
for papers and TeeVee. Needless to say, Arts expression
left a little to be desired, so it just went into the files and
I used another picture.
I have searched for results from
the May 28, 29th race event, but a story never appeared in Drag
News. As I remember it, Ivo was there and raced against the Big
Wheel. Top Fuel cars included Langley, Garlits/Malone, Karamesines/Maynard,
Sullivan/Stuckey, Lou Cangelose and Setto Postoian. I think there
was a full field of 8 cars, but I can't for the life of me remember
who the others may have been. From then until July 17th, there
was the occasional match race for the Big Wheel, but we didn't
have another Big event.
We had a BIG race with a lot
of top fuel cars. Garlits and Malone were having trouble running
their usual numbers. Then it rained and put everything on hold.
Late in the afternoon, the track had dried enough so the race
could resume. Rod Stuckey was there in Pandemonium, Lou Cangelose
in Missouri Missle, and Williams/\Liederbrand with Hypersonic
and Garlits/Malone with Swamp Rat was the field.
When racing resumed, it was puzzling
because top speeds were off and then both Pandemonium and Missouri
Missile were sidelined with breakage. This left Archie and Malone
to face off for top eliminator and $1,000.00. The Swamp Rat was
flat and Archie won. They were jubilant. Garlits was about to
slit his wrists. Garlits and Malone stayed and kept trying to
solve their problems. They concluded they had a bad mag and borrowed
Pandemoniums mag. Garlits was thinking that maybe a lighter
driver would help and he was about to get back into the car after
a years leave from driving. On the way through the staging lane,
I was helping them push the car, and it was noticed that the
throttle linkage was funny. It was not opening the throttle plates
They concluded that with the
bad mag, Malone was pushing on the throttle so hard, that the
linkage slipped. Anyway, Malone was strapped in and went out
and set a track record of 187.88 mph in 8:63 seconds. Garlits
felt that this was the fastest they had ever gone on clocks that
could be considered reliable. As I recall, this was also the
last pass that Malone made in Swamp Rat.
Garlits began driving shortly
after this, the next mention of him, he was pictured in Drag
News in an August 14th match race at Union Grove with the Chizler,
and the picture was of the original Swamp Rat, however, shortly
thereafter, pictures of him were of a long car, with
a different look to it.
On August 7th, Chris and Don
came to town. I quote my Drag News story They wanted a
2% back-up run for some 193 runs down south in case the existing
1320 Record (held by Chataginier) failed to hold up and they
wanted Garlits-Malones strip record of 187.88. This
was a highly prized PR tool for them and ISKY, who may well have
helped with their expenses. He would do this because Garlits
was running with sponsorship with Giovannani then, you see.
In the picture above, the driver
is Carol (never knew her last name) who was a bartender/waitress
at the pub next to the Big Wheel. The owner, Arnie Ostlund was
a race fan and came to the races frequently. Carol met the Chizler
crew at the pub and came with Arnie to watch the races that day.
The days race program did
not include any other fuel dragsters so they just were there
on their own. They made a few runs mid afternoon but the best
they could run was in the 185 range. Again, I have the Drag News
story to refer to for times and details. There was a sidewind
and Chris and Don decided to wait for it to die down. They had
used most of their 100% nitro and had enough left for one more
run. Arvy sent one of the crew back to the Big Wheel Auto Store
on Lake Street, about 30 miles through town, to get some more
nitro which they sold.
The days race program ended
but Foster kept track timing personnel and the Ambulance on hand
and a few hard-core fans hung around. Chris and Don broke out
lawn chairs and sat alongside the car, behind the starting line
and we all waited. At about 7:00, the wind died down and Chris
put on his driving stuff and got in the car. They pushed it down,
turned around and came back, firing up at the very last minute.
Chris made the swing behind the line. Heavy drama!
Chris pulled up to the starting
line, with a HUGE load of Nitro, Don held him from creeping through
the starting beams and the flagman gave him a ritual send-off.
There was, according to Drag News, a long silence. Finally the
announcer said, a new track record, 191.08 with an E.T. of 8:87.
There was jubilation and Don Maynard even managed a grin as he
took off to go get Chris and tell him they had done it.
They decided the weather conditions
were just right for potentially a better run, and they werent
in any hurry to leave. The extra Nitro sent for had arrived but
it was 70/30 blend, not 100%. The Chizler crew mixed up the stoutest
batch they could and prepared for one last run, to try to make
an even better run. The best they were able to muster was a 187.10
and that ended the day, but they left with the track record 191.08
and it was in Iskys ads as soon as he could get it there.
The picture in Drag News with this story was taken at Union Grove,
August 14th was the first time
that Haines and Cross came to MD. Heres Bob Haines in the
Cal Equipped car, mugging for me. As I remember it, they stuck
around and raced out of here at other tracks and were at our
next big race also, on Sept 11th.
In addition to Haines and Cross,
Rod Stuckey was in the old Cangelose car, the Missouri Missle
now owned by Carls Speed Shop. Bob Sullivan had taken over the
driving chores of his own Pandemonium car.
Sullivan on the left, Haines
and Cross on the right, Haines leaves but Sully runs him down.
Also, both Al Williams with Hypersonic
and Art Malone arrived a little late after a thrash building
the Golden Rod in just 11 days.
Archie Liederbrand in All Williams
Hypersonic on the left. I believe the car on the
right is Art Malone and the Golden Rod. My Drag News story says
Malone beat Williams/Liederbrand when their motor backfired through
the blower and Archie shut off.
"I recognize my
shadow in the picture, taking the picture!"
Here is the Golden Rod on the
first outing. Same shot I sent to Drag News for the article below.
Malone was supposed to race Sullivan
for Top Fuel and then race the Big Wheel for Top Eliminator,
but the event was called because of darkness.
Lou got this new car, probably
built by Rod Stuckey, and I think he got it in 1960. It is a
very modern looking car, with the tapered frame rails and torsion
front end like Ivos car, but a roll cage more like the
three point style that would evolve. This is by the way, the
car Lou was killed in three or four years later, as he was testing
it for the buyers.
On August 29th, there was a special
Tuesday night race held, as the big two-day event scheduled for
the pervious weekend was rained out. The entire Jim Nelson/Dode
Martin Dragmaster team came through on the way to Detroit for
the NHRA Labor Day Nationals. The Dragmaster single Pontiac engine
car, Dragmaster Two-Thing and Mickey Thompsons Assault
were there as was the Albertson Olds. All the cars ran well in
the evening weather the nearly new Dragmaster Two-thing liked
the Minnesota weather also, getting two runs above 180.
There was a huge rivalry going
on at that time between the Big Wheel and Albertson Olds. The
Big Wheel was Dragmaster, Isky, Chrysler, Enderle equipped, while
the Olds was Chassis Research, Hillborn, Engle cammed. Both cars
were featured regularly in the cam grinders ads. Neither car
had lost a round to an in-class car and both had about a dozen
victories. The Big Wheel was probably heavier, but Arvy definitely
made more horsepower than the Olds as the best speeds for the
Big Wheel were above that of Albertson Olds. I cant prove
it, but I bet you that Adams, Scrima et al were pretty sure that
on the same day and the same clocks, they could outrun the Big
Wheel, like they did every other single engine Gas Dragster.
The Big Wheel ran 176.12 and
174.45 with a 9:27, which with an earlier 176 at Union Grove
gave the Big Wheel the A/Gas Dragster Standard 1320 Top Speed
AND e.t. records. Albertson Olds had a best top speed of 173.41,
e.t. unknown. To get both ends of the Standard 1320 record, with
the whole Dragmaster team AND Albertson Olds running too, was
a real plus. Even though the West Coast contingent felt ANY times
turned in the Midwest were suspect, as far as I know, no one
ever voiced an opinion the times were bogus. When they came back
to MD the week after Detroit, the Chrysler had a 9:13. to the
Olds better 9:09 but they must never have been able to back up
the 9:09 because at the end of the year the Big Wheel still had
both ends of the record. As I remember, the Big Wheel team quieted
whatever skeptics remained at Fremont the next March when they
ran 176:12 with an 8:84 or come such, for a new e.t. Record
"Stump" Davis, Lean
Gene, Don't know, Ron Scrima and the quickest foot in racing,
Leonard Harris! In spite of me being a staunch Big Wheel fan,
we got to know each other and got along great! This car is in
the NHRA Museum of Drag Racing and attends most Hot Rod Reunions.
We race against Gene Adams at every Nostalgia Drag race as he
is with John Rasmussen in a Hemi car!
I went to Detroit for the NHRA
Nationals with Arvy and the Big Wheel crew. I took a lot of pictures,
both color and black and white, but since they were just for
myself, I won't include any of the here. I do intend to set up
a gallery of photos that I took at various tracks, such as Detroit
1960, Cordova in 1957 and 63, Union Grove in 1956 and 1960 and
again in 1963. I also have a selection from Twin City Speedway
from the early 60s and a few of Rocket Cars and Jets at
The weekend after Detroit, September
10th and 11th, Adams, Scrima, Harris Albertson Olds
came back for a Mr. Eliminator match-up with the Big Wheel. Dean
Moons Mooneyes was there also as were Ratican Jackson Stearns,
(below) probably Ronnie Ratican setting the barrel valve prior
to a run! This was in addition to a top fuel show that included
the Chizler crewed by Chris, Don and John Loukas. Also Pandemonium
driven by Sullivan, Rod Stuckey in the Missouri Missile and Cal-Equipped
Haines and Cross. Speedcraft/Pelligrini were there with the now
ex-Ivo Twin Buick to race Jack Chrisman in the Howard Twin bear.
Also, Gabby Bleeker returned to race Ratican, Jackson Stearns
and Als Speed Shop blown Chev TE 440 was there as well.
Guessing here, Jim Nelson on
left, don't know, in the car don't know, Dode Martin and dont
know, with the Dragmaster Two-thing! Dode, who lives about 15
miles from me, is recreating this car and I have been up to see
it. Dode also located a replacement for the 1953 Chrysler wagon
a few miles from his home, so hell have a complete rig.
Debut should be at CHRR this year.
Mickey Thompsons "Assault"
with a smiling Jim Nelson of Dragmaster fame unhooking the car.
I see Jim at Nostalgia events, he has made exhibition runs the
Mooneyes Dragmaster car at a few.
It was the last big event of
the year and it ended on a high note for, at least, some of the
cars there. The Big Wheel and Albertson Olds went at it for the
Mr. Eliminator spot. Harris strapped one on Bruce and for the
second time in 1960, (the first at Detroit, also to Albertson
Olds/Harris) the Big Wheel lost to a car in its class.
I think Harris was still unbeaten although Ill leave that
for historians of that car to determine. Whatever, the streak
ended the next run. Bruce made a better start and maybe feathered
the throttle a little, like Harris was so good at. The Big Wheel,
was the winner of A-Gas class with a 9:13 e.t.
Mechanical problems sidelined
most of the Top Fuel cars and Pandemonium raced Howard Twin bear
for Top Eliminator. The final was the Big Wheel vs. Chrisman
whose 8:79 was just too much for the single engine Chrysler.
These two pictures show a lengthened
Chizler, without a nose piece. They had stretched the car 14
inches to see if more wheelbase would make it e.t. better. I
remember when they came to town with the car in this configuration,
but do not remember the dates. It was for sure this way at the
I think these pictures were taken
the evening of August 7th, when the Chizler ran the 191. I know
that they had more than one car in this time frame, because one
Drag News story recounts Maynard driving at one race with Chris
somewhere else. The lengthened shadows and the absence of people
around the starting line are why I believe this is either the
191 run or the final run on August 7th. If that is the case,
this car existed with the lengthened wheelbase for some months
without a nosepiece, and may have been run occasionally while
the other car ran also. We may never know.
There were quite a few cars from
neighboring states that were fairly regular in the appearance.
Stuckey driving the Buick powered B/Gas Dragster of John Kingston
The irrepressible Gabby Bleeker
in Sallys Mink with Olds power on a two-bits
nitro blend. At this point the car was powered with a blown 461
Olds. It may well have been the 461 out of Chris 36 Ford
Phaeton that he ran before partnering with Don Maynard on the
Chassis Research TE 440 powered by a blown Chrysler on Nitro.
Later, Gabby ran a Chrysler and like John Loukas with first the
Leffler-Loukas and then Loukas-Preising Bantam Fuel Coupe, was
assisted by the Chizler team.
Meyer, Dean and Elliott from
Wichita with their unblown fuel dragster. Tom Hanna was involved
with this car, I dont know if he was ever with them here.
They were frequent visitors to MD and raced Pete Farnsworth on
The Nobles car Club from Souix
City, Iowa, with another unblown fuel Dragster that ran here
This is Joe Degendorf from Iowa.
Gas fueled Olds powered, he ran here quite often.
The Guzler from Chicago was the
Gas powered version of the Windy Citys Chizler. It was
driven by John Krannenberg and owned by Bud Roche and Don Mattison.
They were consistent competitors for the Big Wheel and their
race history began at Union Grove in May of 1960 and ended at
Cordova in May of 1964, when both cars were Top Fuel. The Guzler
finally after all those years and races beat the Big Wheel for
the first and only time. John Krannenberg unfortunately passed
away a few years ago, but I speak to Don Mattison on occasion
and he says he and Bud are both doing okay. Great competitors
and better friends.
with their Allison powered slingshot dragster.
Al's Speed Shop from Aurora,
Illinois. Switched from Gas to B/Fuel at the end of the year.
I believe the Greek is I the car in this picture. He made a few
test passes for Al the first time it was run on fuel.
Mid year, Foster suggested I
try to do something a little different for pictures for Drag
News. We had a match race that weekend between the Big Wheel
and The Guzler. Heres what I did.
I went out and stood behind the
starter, about 50 feet, and took a picture of at least the first
two rounds. I have another with lanes reversed but I am unable
to locate it right now. I have other pictures from here as well,
so its proof I had no good sense!
And I did it again, Joe Nautilus
Weikleenget vs. Tom Bohler in the Bohler & Slaughter machine.
Here are some local racers
that were at the track regularly, if not every week.
Tom Bohler in the local Bohler/Slaughter
B/Gas dragster. Thats Toms Dad, Ted, behind the car
with the fancy foot placement. Tom and I went to Central High
This car belonged to a good friend
of mine, Nautilus Joe Weikleenget. Joe had the Big
Wheel build him a 461 incher for his 1957 Olds 88 in 1957 and
he was tough in Stock class. When Minnesota Dragways was a reality
in 1959, Joe pulled the motor out of the Olds 88 and bought a
Chassis Research K-88. Two speed on gas with 6 carbs. I also
had a chance to drive a few times. I ran in the mid 10s
at about 145 mph. Pretty exciting wearing loafers and slacks
and a sport shirt.. Joe flat towed it everywhere.
Bob Stacy hand built this TE
440 with Buick Nailhead Power and it was painted
the same Red as Ivos twin car and finished off like a show
car, not a race car. This picture was taken the same weekend
Ivo came to town first. Ivo was Stacys idol and he wanted
to run like Ivo had with the single engine Buick Fuller car.
Paul Manke in the seat ran this
car with Jerry Finn. C Gas Dragster class, if I remember right.
They went on to run an unblown fuel Chevy in 1963 and 64 with
Richard Doc Halladay driving and ultimately ran a
top fuel Tuttle chassied car called the Padded Cell
in 1965. Halladay eventually had a Funny Car called Telstar.
Finn raced with Denny Darragh for a year or two in the late 60's.
Finn and I became very good friends and in fact we shared a dwelling
a couple of times in the late 60's. I hear from him every few
months. Paul Manke passed away last year.
Jim Cassidy in pith helmet and
Tom Anthony in the driver seat, ran this Nitro fueled Flattie,
it was called the Minnesota Missile. It was the only
Nitro powered local car at the time. Cassidy also evolved into
Top Fuel. First with a blown Buick motor in this car, then a
different chassis, driven by Jim The Bear Schiefer.
In 1966 Jim Cassidy and Jerry Boldenau got a new RCS chassis
and ran a blown Chrysler on Nitro and were one of the local Top
Don Sandstrom was from Duluth,
Minnesota and had this Lynwood Chassied top gas car with a very
nice 454 Chrysler. In spite of having all the good stuff, Sandstrom
never got the car to run to its potential, but he kept
trying, give him that!
Ted Johnson from Saint Paul ran
this K-88 A/GD Chrysler with Bill Schifsky driving.. Ted continued
to race for 5-6 years with a variety of partners. Bill Schifsky
had his own top fuel car in the mid 60s but didnt
like driving much so he usually had someone drive. In the late
60s he and Tom Hoover teamed up on the White Bear Dodge
fuel Funny car. After a few years they split and Bill ran his
own Funny Car called the Bear Town Shaker.
Peanuts, an Olds powered Altered
sponsored by Champion Auto Stores. At this time they were running
a smallish Olds, maybe a 324 or thereabouts. The had Arvy Mack
build them a 461 Olds and put a 6/71 blower on it. I am pretty
sure they narrowed the rear end too and got the slicks under
the body. They took the car to California a few times and it
ran very well.
We had exhibition cars too. Walt
Arfons came to MD early on his first Jet Car tour, with a school
teacher/former fighter pilot named Nook Bakewell driving. They
had been at Union Grove as their first stop but couldn't get
the afterburner to fire. They covered the stands and pit area
with kerosene mist and scared the hell out of everyone, lest
the mist ignite!
They were somewhat shorthanded,
so Walt asked if I would drive the push truck for the day. Since
I had no real race day duties except making notes and taking
photos, I agreed. No one really knew what to expect when the
afterburner lit, as it had never been done on a Drag strip before.
Here it is, the first run of a Jet Car, ever, with the afterburner
lit. Whoooossshhhh! Burned up the snow fence across the end of
They ran over 220 miles per hour.
Nook Bakewell, the driver, went off the track on the right side
right after he shut it off. When we got down there he was standing
by the car. In a voice, calm as giving his phone number, he said
something like, Walter, when I shut it off, it moved to
the right hard and went off the track. We should probably try
to figure out why it did that! Nook is in the white coveralls
and a local kid named Gene Blankenship picking up the pop-chute.
The youngster was either Walt or Nooks son, if I remember
Well, there began a fairly intense
discussion about what may have caused it. I had just driven Joe
Nautilus dragster a few weeks before and when I got off the throttle
at the finish line it darted hard left. The front end was lifted
up and when it relaxed, it bump steered to the left. I mentioned
this to Walter and Nook and that they were using the same front
end as Joe, but they were pushing the front end down with the
Jet engine angle and so when it relaxed it bump steered
to the right. They worked their way through this and the next
run, Nook was ready and corrected immediately and there was no
more problems. Cosmic!
End of year summary
As PR director I got to meet
and spend time with all of these people. Many would be in town
before and/or after the race because they were on the road, and
we spent time getting to know each other a little. Many of them
are still involved in racing or attend reunion events and I see
them. I have visited with Ivo, Prudhomme, Garlits, Malone, Karamesines,
Langley, Adams, Nelson and Martin and best of all, Broadway
Bob Metzler from Union Grove, all within the past two years.
Of course, many are gone, Maynard, Cangelose, Sullivan, Postoian,
Liederbrand, Harris, Stuckey, Leasher are no longer with us,
but it was fun to know them while they were here.
Like the Frank Sinatra
song says It was a very good year.