NHRA Story
Classic cars, quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing at Holley National Hot Rod Reunion
Thursday, June 05, 2014


The NHRA Motorsports Museum Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance returns to scenic Beech Bend Raceway Park June 12-14 for the 12th annual event and will again feature the finest nostalgia racing and custom cars from across the country.

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association (KTIA) recently selected the National Hot Rod Reunion as one of its 2014 Summer Top 10 Festivals & Events. Criteria for selection include the popularity of the event, its impact on the local tourism economy, and the event’s cultural and historical significance.

The National Hot Rod Reunion is produced by the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum and benefits the facility in Pomona. The Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit institution and collects, preserves, exhibits, and interprets the vehicles, stories, and artifacts that represent the influence of automotive speed and style in all its forms.

The event comes to life June 12 as thousands of vintage show cars will pour into the facility for the start of the Axalta Coatings Show 'n' Shine featuring hot rods, classics, and customs that have been restored to their former glory by their dedicated owners. Chrome that looks like a mirror, tires shined to a deep black, and supple leather seats give these cars a stunning look that will turn heads. All show cars entered are eligible for trophies in many judging categories.

The National Hot Rod Reunion is also a great event for racing enthusiasts of all ages, with quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing heavily featured at the multifaceted show. Hot Heads Eliminator and exhibition runs start at 10 a.m., and the Top Fuel qualifying session will kick off at 3 p.m. Thursday’s opening activities conclude at the Holiday Inn University Plaza and Sloan Convention Center with the Heacock Classic Insurance Cruise In and Sponsor Welcome party.

Gary Dyer
Don Grotheer
Ray Motes
Jack Ostrander
Jim Wangers

Legends of racing will be honored Friday, including grand marshal George Poteet, who will be among those at the Dynamat Legends tent for meet and greets. Poteet drives the Poteet & Main Speed Demon streamliner that has been officially timed at more than 460 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Poteet has exceeded 400 mph more than 30 times, far more than any other human. The self-described car nut has raced everything from a bracket bomber Falcon to the streamliner. He owns more than 120 cars and stores them at his home outside of Holly Springs, Miss., on his sprawling 1,000-acre property.

Friday will again feature thrilling quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing action when time trials begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be followed by Hot Heads Eliminator Funny Car and Top Fuel qualifying sessions at noon and 3 p.m.

A trip to the National Hot Rod Reunion isn’t complete without visiting the vendor midway inside the oval track. This is a perfect way to look at new products, see demonstrations, and pick up samples from numerous vendors. To pick up a rare part or for an interesting look into the world of the car culture, be sure to visit the giant swap meet behind the oval.

The day’s events are not over until the 7 p.m. Hot Rod Reunion Reception honoring the event’s grand marshal and other racing legends at the Holiday Inn University Plaza. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free. In addition to Poteet, this year's honorees are Gary Dyer, Don Grotheer, Ray Motes, Jack Ostrander, and Jim Wangers.

Dyer, the longtime driver for Norm Krause’s Chicago-based Mr. Norm’s Dodge high-performance dealership, raced a variety of stockers and gassers as well as a ’64 Dodge A/FX entry for Krause. In 1965, Dyer ran an 8.63-second pass with an altered wheelbase, the quickest Funny Car pass of the year.

Grotheer has long been known as one of the hardest-working and most consistent campaigners of Plymouth Sportsman and Pro Stock entries from the mid-1960s to early 1970s. In 1963, he switched to a Plymouth 426-cid Max Wedge and obtained factory backing by 1966. After winning the 1969 Winternationals with his Hemi Barracuda, he began conducting Plymouth Super Stock clinics. Grotheer switched to Pro Stock when it was introduced in 1970 and continued to drive Sportsman entries and won the Modified title at the 1971 Springnationals.

Motes was one of the most dominant drivers in the final days of Top Gas in 1970 and 1971 with multiple victories. Motes, who retired in 1995, also raced Top Fuel and Funny Car during his storied career. Motes’ first race car was an F/S flathead ’49 Ford that he began driving in 1959. After running in the Gas and Altered classes, he began racing a Hemi-powered Top Gas dragster in 1967. He later became the driver for R.C. Williams’ team, and after being defeated by the twin-engine Freight Train in Bakersfield in early 1970, they constructed a new car with two Hemis. After Top Gas was dropped in 1972, Motes and Williams ran in Top Fuel through 1974.

Distinguished by both its length and diversity, Ostrander’s career in hot rodding began in the 1950s. Ostrander has competed in supercharged, nitro-burning entries in both Top Fuel and marine applications, and in recent years, he has been a major presence on the street rodding scene. Since retiring from active competition several years ago, Ostrander has focused on his street rod machines, which have been honored at the National Hot Rod Reunion for the last four years and given him the privilege of displaying the vehicles at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

Though Wangers enjoyed great success on the dragstrip, including with his Stock eliminator win at the 1960 Nationals in Detroit, his greatest contributions to hot rodding were his innovative marketing programs. As one of the original cruisers of Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue, Wangers had a keen knack of knowing the impact that the emerging baby boomer generation would have in motorsports. He moved to Pontiac in 1958 and strongly urged the company to work with Mickey Thompson and Smokey Yunick in high-performance development programs. His point was proven when he drove a ’60 Pontiac to the victory at the Detroit Nationals and helped market the trendsetting GTO in 1964 with such promotions as having Car & Driver compare it to the Ferrari GTO in a cover feature and creating the hit pop song “Little GTO” by Ronnie and the Daytonas.

The weekend concludes Saturday with another full day of activities, including eliminations for the quarter-mile nostalgia drag racing beginning at 11 a.m. Wrapping up the day are the final eliminations, awards, honoree presentation, and the Axalta Coatings Show 'n' Shine parade of champions. The grand finale will feature the crowning of the reunion champions and the exclusive Cacklefest®, featuring dozens of nitro-fueled vintage dragsters.

• SCHEDULE: The event begins at 8 a.m. each day, with racing beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 12, 8:30 a.m. Friday, June 13, and 9 a.m. Saturday, June 14.

• TICKETS: Single-day tickets are only $25, and a three-day ticket is $75 at the gate; children 15 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paid adult. 

 • ON THE WEB: For more information about the NHRA Motorsports Museum Holley National Hot Rod Reunion presented by AAA Insurance, log on to www.nhramuseum.com.