Fan Fotos: West Coast pitsTuesday, December 22, 2009

If you've read drag racing magazines for any amount of time, the name Cliff Morgan should be familiar to you as a regular contributor to various "letters to the editor" columns, including in National DRAGSTER. A drag racing fan since the early 1960s, he has a very deep and wide knowledge of the sport that he's quick to share, and he has been a regular correspondent to me since I began this column, so it was only natural that he'd want to participate in our Fan Fotos features.

Born in 1946, Morgan attended his first drag race in his teens, in 1961 at San Fernando Raceway, and went to Lions and once to the old San Gabriel drags before it closed.

After serving in the Air Force from 1964 to 1968, he became a regular at Lions, Fernando, and Orange County Int’l Raceway, which then was fairly new.

"So many memories, and I saw so much history," he said. "Don Garlits, my hero and favorite driver. I saw the accident that cut off part of his foot. I thought he'd been killed. A year later, he came out with the "back motor" car, and it ran straight. I saw Garlits at Ontario when he ran that 5.63/250. I moved to Arizona in 1981 and got to see the last AHRA Winternationals at the old Tucson Dragway; also the last AA/FA Nationals there. I started going to Firebird when it opened. I remember being so happy to see Firebird when it was new; it reminded me a lot of OCIR. I like Firebird a lot and also Speedworld [Dragstrip], the other track in Phoenix. It was built in 1963 and reminds me a lot of 'the old daze.' I have so many memories of the drags. Next to the Lord, it's my greatest passion. I've really been blessed to see so much history in the making."

Morgan sent me an envelope packed with his original photos with nice captions on the back of each to get me pointed in the right direction. "I didn't know what to send, so I tried to send something maybe a bit out of the ordinary," he cautioned. "I'm gonna send way too many photos, so you are gonna have to decide what you wanna show."

His caveat definitely rang true when I sorted through the images and made up my final 10. I've mostly gone away from the tried and true photos of cars on the track to show some of the neat stuff that Morgan found in the pits as well. For me, shooting interesting things in the pits can be as challenging as shooting cars at speed, and Morgan had a nice knack to capture some cool images. What's even cooler to me (and I think to Morgan when he sees them here) is that by scanning the images and cleaning them up a little, I was able to reproduce them here at sometimes double their printed size to show more detail. Here they come …

This is "the Pond" — San Fernando Raceway — in December 1968, and it shows Larry Dixon Sr. (father of the two-time Top Fuel champ) pitting his famed Fireside Inn AA/Modified Fuel Roadster, near lane, against George "Stone Age Man" Hutcheson in the similarly motivated 392-powered Rat Trap AA/Fuel Altered in what Morgan says was a race contested in Top Fuel. Morgan also recalled that earier in the day Hutcheson had set a new AA/FA track record of 7.99. This is the only on-track photo in the batch I selected, but the track holds special meaning to Morgan, hence its inclusion.
"This little car has its place in drag racing history," notes Morgan. The pit area here should be instantly recognizable to Lions veteranos, but maybe not the car, a flathead-powered little rail captured on a clear July 1970 day at "the Beach." Morgan couldn’t remember the name of the guy who owned the car, which ran as a bracket car, but remembers who did drive it once: Don Garlits. "The night before Garlits' accident [in January 1970], Garlits drove this car in a match race against George Hutcheson, who also was driving a flathead-powered car. Garlits won, and the announcer made a big deal about Garlits being back in a flathead after so many years." Wow, who knew?
Here's another couple of pics from Lions in July 1970. The photo above left shows what Morgan IDs as Walt Stevens' Gas gas dragster waiting under the tower at Lions to make its run. The photo above right shows the staging lanes for the "hot" (i.e., push-start) cars with the regular staging lanes to the left of the photo.

This, of course, is "the Snake," Don Prudhomme, with two adoring young fans hanging nearby, perhaps waiting for an autograph. Been there, done that.

This is Irwindale, in January 1973, and the car is Prudhomme's famed Kent Fuller-built "Yellow Feather" Top Fueler, so named because of its extreme light weight, which, as I recall from a magazine feature I once read, was partially achieved by drilling holes in just about every flat surface on the car. It reportedly weighed less than 1,200 pounds, and although it ran like stink, I read that Prudhomme eventually shelved it later due to safety concerns.


Morgan points out how cool the pits were back then: "Everything done in the open ... no 18-wheelers, etc." You could pretty much walk around three sides of a car being worked on (the trailer representing the fourth side); unlike today, when you mostly get to see the cars from behind.

"I wonder how old those two boys are now," mused Morgan of the pic he took more than 35 years ago. "Late 40s?"

Our tour of Southern California raceplants continues with this neat shot of an unidentified fueler on the roller starters at Orange County Int’l Raceway Aug. 15, 1971. "This is how you warmed up your car at OCIR," wrote Morgan. "The car was positioned on the rollers, and the rollers were hooked up to a small-block Chevy motor. The rollers spun the tires, and the driver let out the clutch and the motor started. The front wheels were held in place by a plate or some device (vague memories), sometimes also by crewmen. Once the motor was lit, the rollers were stopped and the car idled off to its assigned pit space."
I've seen plenty of pics of Ed Lenarth's Holy Toledo Jeep (known affectionately as "The Brick" for its less than aerodynamic profile) on the track but never in the pits with the front clip removed so that we could see the 392 powerplant. This car was the follow-up to the original Lenarth Jeep, the rather primitive Roger Wolford-driven Secret Weapon, and was built by Lenarth with Brain Chuchua, who owned a huge Jeep dealership in Southern California, with all the best parts. Still, aero woes held it to a best of just 7.37 at 197 mph and reportedly later ended up as a sand drag car.
Here's another Lenarth car of somewhat lesser renown (and much lesser success), the chain-driven Lenarth & Garvin sidewinder Top Fueler, pictured at Irwindale in September 1973. The way I understand the story is that Lenarth's original plan was to build a rear-engine, chain-driven Funny Car (using, of all things, a Gremlin) and opted to put the interesting setup in this dragster first for testing purposes, but according to Morgan, the dragster crashed. Lenarth retired not long after, and the project was never realized.
Don Garlits didn't make many mistakes conceiving, designing, and building winning race cars, but this one wasn't one of his finer moments, the ill-fared Wynn's Liner, also known as Swamp Rat 17, captured by Morgan in the pits at OCIR during its Sept. 15, 1973, debut at the AHRA Grand American event. These are the first photos I can recall seeing with the car sans body, and you get a real idea for how short it was.

 
Garlits henchman Connie Swingle built the frame, over which was cloaked a super-sexy fiberglass body by regarded aero wizard Robert "Jocko" Johnson, and "Big Daddy" had hopes of 250 and (gasp!) perhaps even 275-mph speeds — not bad considering that the best speed to that date was (dismissing some scoffed-at 246- and 247-mph time slips Garlits was given in Gary, Ind., in July) 243.90 by "Big" himself in Gainesville in 1972.

According to Garlits, "Butch Maas drove the beast to 180 mph, far off the highly touted 275 mph! We brought the car home and tested the next time at Lakeland [Dragstrip] outside of Tampa, and Don 'Mad Dog' Cook was at the controls. Still no real good runs. I then decided to drive the car myself, and to my surprise, at about 180 mph, the motor revved up and I lifted. We returned to the pits to find nothing was wrong! What had happened was that at about 180 mph, the whole car became airborne, and as the rear wheels cleared the pavement, the engine would rev up. I pulled the plug on the project."

Garlits later sold the car to rocket-car racers Russell Mendez and Ramon Alvarez, and Garlits bought it back from Alvarez after Mendez was killed during an exhibition run at the Gatornationals in a different car, their wheel-pants-equipped Free Spirit rocket dragster.

Okay, that's it for the Tuesday before Christmas. I'll have a column Friday (my gift to you!), even though it is Christmas Day, which is going to be a humorous look at National DRAGSTER's Xmas list for our racers, which I originally wrote for the Staging Light column of our final 2009 issue. OK, so I'm a regifter, but I thought I’d share with you guys and ask for your suggestions.

Til then …

 

So long, 'Wooz'Friday, December 18, 2009

Longevity in any field of work is a dual-edged sword. On the positive, the longer you’re around, the more people you meet, and the friendships you make can last a lifetime. The downside is that the more people you meet, your odds of losing one of them skyrockets. The friendship may last a lifetime, but, unfortunately, lifetimes don't last.

When the e-mail appeared in my Inbox late Tuesday, the sender and the subject line shared a common last name, which is never a good sign. Trust me on this. The sender was Jamie Woosley, and the subject was Don Woosley.

I didn't want to open it, but eventually I did and learned that we'd lost "the Wooz" the day before, in his sleep, at age 63. Sad doesn't begin to explain my feeling.

Why should you care? Some of you may not even know or remember the name, but Don Woosley was damned good behind the wheel of the Ale-8-One Top Alcohol Dragster that he campaigned with partners Bill Sharp and Bill Reynolds. They won the 1983 Top Alcohol Dragster world championship, 10 national event Wallys, and seven Division 3 championships. Woosley's battles with the late Al DaPozzo (whom he always called "Albert," much in the same way that Shirley Muldowney calls Don Garlits "Donald") were legendary, including their to-the-wire title battle in 1982.

Woosley was one of the first people I met on the job here in 1982, and he quickly became one of my favorite people. He was easy to talk to, respectful of my job and needs, and, of course, he was a riot, a bearded lunatic with John Force-like material, though proffered with a Southern drawl and even delivery. In fact, one of my most favorite interviews of all time was with Woosley, back in 1986, just before the SPORTSnationals. I called it "Just a TAD crazy" (TAD, of course, being shorthand for Top Alcohol Dragster), and it included comments that still make me laugh.

Although he had won earlier in his career, this is the car that made Don Woosley famous, the Woosley, Sharp, & Reynolds Ale-8-One Special.
Typical of their good-natured rivalry, Al DaPozzo put an exclamation point on his victory over Woosley in the final round of the 1982 Finals.
Partners Bill Sharp, center, and Bill Reynolds readied "the Wooz" for another pass.
This is July 3, 1974, at Beech Bend, where Woosley drove the Woosley & Sharp A/Fuel Dragster to Pro Comp honors over Don Gerardot.
At the 1975 Springnationals in a car called Magic Show. (There's probably a really great story behind that name!)
The first car I could find with Bill Reynolds' name on it, from the 1977 Cajun Nationals.
From 1986, ND Ad Sales czar John Mazzarella causing "the Wooz" some grief.

Because he grew up in horse country in Kentucky, I asked Woosley, who was probably short enough to be a jockey, if he had ever considered a different kind of horsepower than methanol-brewed. In Force-like fashion, the answer quickly dissolved into a story.

"I don’t even like horses," he told me. "I got bit by one once, but he paid. He was a real nice horse. I always used to walk through the field where he was. One day, I just walked by him, and he bit me on the shoulder. The next day, I walked through the same field, I had a croquet mallet in my hand and whacked him and brought him to his knees. Hit him right between the eyes."

The typed word doesn't do justice to the way he told the story, but I always remembered it (over the years, somehow in my mind, I had bent the story so that he had actually clobbered famed thoroughbred Secretariat, who, it turns out, was boarded nearby but was out of mallet range, apparently). I also never forgot something that he said later in our interview, which has stuck with me through all these years, especially when I climb into a car to race someone.

He was assessing his competition; after singling out DaPozzo, Bill Walsh, and "that kid on the West Coast; what's his name? Sleezy?" (he was serious; he meant Gary Scelzi, who had just won the Winternationals) as drivers with "the killer instinct," he said, "You can tell the guys who don’t have the instinct – like when someone comes up [before a race] and wishes you good luck. … Isn't that the stupidest thing I've heard in my life? I've never wished anybody [I race] good luck. I wish 'em a safe trip and all that, but I'm sure as hell not gonna wish 'em luck if they're racing me.

"I can sit around and joke with Walsh and DaPozzo in the staging lanes before the race, but when that helmet goes on, it's war. I wanna kill 'em. They're the enemy, and it's my job to beat the guy next to me."

Long before the Woosley, Sharp & Reynolds dragster was sponsored by regional ginger-ale-type soft drink Ale-8-One ("People around here drink it for breakfast," mused 'Wooz.' "Can you believe that? I could see drinking a good cold beer for breakfast and pouring it on your corn flakes ... but Ale-8?") and became a terror on the track, the trio was tearing up the track in Division 3 with a fuel-injected front-engine dragster.

Woosley first partnered with Sharp, who had been building an Anglia with his brother, who got hurt in a racing accident. Sharp took his engine and put it into an old dragster chassis that Woosley had acquired in trade for a '64 GTO (not a great trade, IMO, especially because "it didn't do much," according to Woosley).

They later got an ex-Top Gas Don Tuttle chassis and later a front-engine Stebbins chassis that became the Magic Show injected fuel dragster with which Woosley won his first Wally at the 1975 SPORTSnationals. I'm not exactly sure when Reynolds joined the duo, but with Sharp building the engines, Reynolds tuning and working the clutch, and Woosley behind the wheel, they were tough to beat, as their seven Division 3 championships attest.

Division 3 Director Jay Hullinger told me that he had been planning to invite Woosley to this year's division banquet so that he could be honored with the other seven-time Division 3 champions, who include Danny Townsend, Jerry Arnold, and, now, Bill Reichert. Hullinger also noted, with a grin, that Woosley's online obituary noted that he was "an avid cat fisherman." And I thought he was just mean to horses.

I texted ND Senior Editor Kevin McKenna after I'd gotten the news from Woosley's nephew, and K-Mac's response was perfect: "I'm sure he's already played a practical joke on DaPozzo." I bet.

On a closing note, I remember that my tape recorder malfunctioned during that 1986 interview, so I had to call Woosley back at his Winchester, Ky., service station and finish the interview again, for which I apologized profusely.

"Yeah, I know how that is with technical stuff," he sympathized and added self-deprecatingly, "I'm in the same position myself when I try to drive home. Y'know, you've got Park and Drive and keys and all that stuff."

I wasn't sure if he was joking, and then he launched into a rambling, Force-like monologue.

"You wasn't bothering me anyway; I wasn't doing a thing. I was sitting here looking at this Chevelle sitting out front. It's a 454. Guy brought it down here to the garage and thought it had a rod knock, but it was just a rocker arm. I don’t want to give it back to him. I'll take it out and get picked up by the police. It's been a long time since I've sat in something you could walk into the four-barrel and the sumbitch would just jump sideways. You can’t get that now. This one here'll do it. I like it. I think I'll drive around and terrorize the neighbors.

"Y'all have a good day. See ya at the Sports[nationals]. Now make that article good, or I'll have to run you out of Kentucky."

A funny ending for a funny guy, and one of my all-time favorite racers. Godspeed, "Wooz."

 

In the Christmas spiritTuesday, December 15, 2009

Sorry for the late posting, but today was NHRA's annual holiday celebration, an always enjoyable get-together for the headquarters staff that allows us to mingle, hang out, have a little bite, and have a little fun and games. Given the economy, this year's affair – a 1960s theme -- was a little more low-key, with the venue moved from a ballroom at a local hotel to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by Automobile Club of Southern California.

All of the NHRA executives, from President Tom Compton on down, got into the groove with funky outfits, which for Compton included a bushy wig. It was quite the riot to watch him speaking to the assembled staff and trying to keep a straight face, especially during photos for the annual presentation of service awards marking five-, 10-, 15-, 20-, and 25-year anniversaries with the company. National DRAGSTER Photo Editor Teresa Long was one of the 25-year employees, along with Competition czar Graham Light; my senior editors, Kevin McKenna and Steve Waldron, were saluted for 20 years, and our own Jeff and Robyn Morton won the costume contest. There were Name That Tune contests, some funny skits (with Dana Mariotti, Kieth Burley, and Evan Jonat of the Marketing Department dressed as and lip-synching to The Beatles, The Jacksons, The Supremes (!), and The Isley Brothers (for a raucous version of "Shout!"). It was a great holiday send-off for what has been a tough season. Sorry, no photos. I like my job.

Speaking of Christmas (nice segue, eh?), I told you I'd let you know when our new book, Wild Rides II, was out, and it is and available for holiday purchasing on Amazon.com. Here's the link. The Amazon setup allows you to look at the first few pages for a sample of what's inside. I didn't plan it this way (I swear!), but two of the three crash 'n' burn pics it shows are mine: John Force's top-end fire in Montreal in 1991 and Nick Nikolis' crazy top-end Pro Stock crash in Gainesville in 1986. I had a lot of fun researching and writing the captions for the book, and Jeff Mellem of our Production Department did a great job laying it out. It's a pretty cool little book, and with its horizontal format, a great stocking stuffer. While you’re shopping there, you can also check out the other books we've produced in the last year, which include the first Wild Rides, our popular History of NHRA Pro Stock, and a Wally Parks biography, and soon we'll have our History of the NHRA Winternationals book online.

Speaking of history, I heard from your friend and mine, Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen, who called to exchange holiday pleasantries and to ask me to mention his new book, Mongoose, The Life and Times of Tom McEwen. He dropped me a copy in the mail (autographed!), and it's an interesting piece. Basically, it's a compilation of all of the "Mongoose Journals" columns he has run in Drag Racer magazine in the last few years.

I haven’t had a chance to go through it yet, but I have enjoyed the columns, which are written in first person for McEwen by longtime cohort Pete Ward. Although presented in chronological order, the book isn’t a McEwen bio per se, as it's told in chapters that are vignettes of his life, and each originally was published as a column in the magazine, but the sum still is greater than its parts. You can order it from Amazon, too, or, if you’re local to SoCal, you can pick it up at McEwen's favorite non-racing haunt, Prestige Hobbies, in Anaheim.

"Snake" and "Mongoose" fans also probably will be interested in Tom Madigan's new hardcover, Snake vs. Mongoose: How a Rivalry Changed Drag Racing Forever, another book that I just received in the mail and have not yet had the breathing room to sit down and peruse, but I'm looking forward to it.

Perhaps the biggest ink that either has received lately, though, is the video at right, which was presented on Jay Leno's Garage Web site. It's a great nine-plus-minute segment with Leno and "the Snake" that focuses on the Hot Wheels Barracuda. Prudhomme reminisces about the car and takes viewers on a guided tour of its features. It's a cool bench-racing session between the two icons and shows that Leno knows his way around a race car (we’ll excuse him for saying they were going to open the car's "hood").

You can check out the embedded version here at right (which includes an ad  ... sorry) or visit the real site for a larger video. Pretty cool stuff.

The wildlife duo also are featured in a 20-questions feature in issue 20 of Garage magazine, which is published quarterly by car and cycle customizer to the stars Jesse James. It's a nice eight-page feature with some really quality questions ("Who sold more Hot Wheels?") and some nice photos.

"The Snake" and wife Lynn also get the Christmas Card Holeshot Award this year as being the first to hit my mail slot this season with their jolly, jingly, and cheery greeting. Also, here's the first Christmas tree (non-racetrack division) sighting of the year, courtesy of Toni Yates.

Feeling all Christmasy yet?
 

Around the motoring world ...Friday, December 11, 2009

National DRAGSTER issue No. 48 for 2009 left the office last night, zipping through cyberspace to Conley Publishing in beautiful downtown Beaver Dam, Wis., where they'll print it up all pretty and get it in the mail to y'all. It's our annual year-end wrap-up, featuring Top 10 Stories, "Best of" awards, Quips & Quotes, The Year in Photos, and much, much more.

For those of you keeping score, it's issue No. 2,349 (an even 2,350 if you count the infamous and seldom-seen or-remembered "Issue 0" promo piece), and for yours truly, it's issue No. 1,324 with my name in the masthead. (Soooo bummed that I didn't get a chance to salute my 1,320th issue in some cool way. Opportunity squandered.) By my figurin', that makes me accountable for 56.36 percent of all NDs ever published. I hope that's a good thing.

The last issue is always a challenge because teams seem to have an impeccable knack of making announcements on the last day of production, forcing us to add, edit, or subtract items from Bits from the Pits to make room for all of the juicy last-minute stuff that otherwise would have to wait out the four-week publishing hiatus. Yeah, good times.

Anyway, we gave the final issue a rousing sendoff with a high-falutin' affair, noshing on caviar and slurping Dom Perignon from fine crystal. OK, so it was pie and apple cider in plastic cups, but it was still cool. The department heads gave their traditional speeches, thanking the team and pointing out how the publication couldn't possibly get out each week without the help of their specific department etc., etc., and we toasted those who sadly left us earlier this year.

It's eerily quiet in Silly Season this year, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing – a sign of stability – or a bad thing, so I've been entertaining myself with other news in the automotive world.

Have you caught a peek at the Bloodhound land-speed record car yet? Wow, that's a sexy piece.

The team behind the beast says it hopes to surpass 1,000 mph in the South African desert in June 2011 to set the land-speed record. The current land-speed record is held by the twin-engine ThrustSSC, which hit 763 mph in 1997 with RAF pilot Andy Green at the controls, becoming the first car to exceed the speed of sound. Richard Noble designed  both cars, and Green has again been tapped to be its pilot.

The $25 million project bypassed traditional wind-tunnel testing in favor of computer modeling that calculated everything down to the thickness of the paint. At 1,000 mph, an extra layer of paint on one side of the car would be enough to alter its direction and could send it into a tailspin.

Powered by three engines -- a Eurofighter Typhoon jet engine, a hybrid rocket engine, and a third engine whose sole responsibility is to pump fuel to the other two – the team expects it will produce more than 135,000 horsepower. Coming from a place where 8,000 horsepower from one engine requires some finesse, I'm kind of skeptical of lofty numbers such as that, but ThrustSSC was said to have made 110,000 horsepower. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining that anything that makes the power of 16 nitro-burning Hemis will stay on the ground.

However, according to experts, the "Jet over Rocket configuration [JoR, in geek speak] works extremely well with the thrust forces from the jet and the rocket balancing either side of the center of gravity [well, they said "centre"], creating less downward force on the front wheels when the rocket is fired."

Estimates are that the car will only accelerate at 1.5 Gs initially (that's all?), with peak acceleration and deceleration in excess of 3 Gs. At full speed, the car will cover a measured mile in less than 3.6 seconds.

There's a pretty cool simulation video of the Bloodhound "racing" a Eurofighter Typhoon that includes a pretty good simulated look at the car and simulated in-car footage. You can read more on the official site, http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/. There's even a cool "video game" that lets you design your own land-speed car. My first attempt didn't result in a record-breaking run even though I had enough thrust; there was some nonsense about my engine not being "safe enough." I think it was driver error. Try your hand. 

 

 
Here's the headline of the week: "101-Year-Old Man Buys a 426-Horsepower Camaro." This is a pretty cool story; I found it on the N.Y. Times' "Wheels" blog, and I only hope that a) I live that long and b) that I still am able to drive.

Virgil Coffman, who turns 102 in January, bought the new Camaro SS from the Miles Chevrolet dealership near his home in Decatur, Ill., in September and even chose the Transformers special-edition model with black stripes (made up to resemble the Bumblebee character from the movie).

According to the Times, after learning of the purchase, GM flew Coffman, who worked at GM from 1950 until 1973, to Detroit to tour the design studio and its Heritage Center museum.

No feather-footed geriatric, cautious Coffman said: “Once in a while I like to kick it up, but I’m afraid to drive too fast and get a ticket, and then they might take my license away.”

Speaking of someone who should have his license taken away, I'm sure by now that most of you aghast gearheads have at least heard of – if not seen the video of – the lead foot plunging a million-dollar Bugatti Veyron into a saltwater lagoon along Interstate 45 in Texas. It was reported to be one of only 200 made and one of only 15 in the United States.

The fact that someone just happened to be filming the car when it took the plunge is fishy enough – but not out of the realm of possibility; I'd probably whip out the ol' cell-phone camera if I saw one – but I guess it has been uncovered by the local media that the mindless motor man (who says he swerved to avoid a pelican) just happens to own a business that restores wrecked super cars for sale. Coincidence?

I would have embedded the video here, but the reactions of the videotapers includes some NSFW language that I'd hate to create problems for those of you reading at work. You can find it quickly enough on YouTube.
 

OK, this isn’t actually a news story, but if you’re like me and dig cars and love reading the sarcastic wit of The Onion, you'll get a kick out of the editorial "Any Idiot Could Have Come Up With The Car" in which the author pooh-poohs the complexity of car design and mocks those who take credit for its invention.

"When you get down to it, a car is really nothing more than a couple of chairs on wheels—wheels, mind you, being those round things that have been around forever! It was only a matter of time before someone thought to plop a seat down on four of them and roll around in it. Just toss in an internal-combustion motor utilizing a high-octane accelerant to produce kinetic energy to rotate the axle, and whammo! You've got yourself an automobile. It's so simple, it's almost impossible not to invent."

It's hilarious. Check it out here.
 


I'd also like to give a shout-out to the nice site launched by racing buddy Gary Gardella. The former NHRA Sport Compact racer, whose driver, Ryan Tuerck, finished a close second in the Formula Drift national championship this year, recently launched DeathMachines.net. Fortunately, the content is not as lurid as the title suggests, but it's chock-full of photos, video, interviews, and story links for all things motorsports, from drag racing to drifting to F-1, NASCAR, MotoX, rally, boats, and more.
 


 

It's becoming harder and harder not to keep getting sucked in to the time-eating vortex that is Facebook, the popular social-networking site. For me, it's rapidly replacing e-mail as the easiest way to track down racers and correspond with them, as most of today's top drivers have a page.

But it's not cyber stalking that has the potential to be a time waster second only to Mafia Wars; it's the many cool groups that keep popping up. I really try to limit myself to becoming a fan of a page or joining a group, just because I know I'll never have time to check them all out, but there's some pretty cool stuff out there.

For you nostalgia lovers, there are a ton of great groups, each filled with photos and comments from fans and others, to entertain you. For example, and just brushing the surface, there are Fans of Pat Foster, Memories of O.C.I.R., the Steve Evans Memorial, Roland Leong Friends and Fans, The Fans of Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, Gordie Bonin "240 Gordie" Fans & Friends, Shirley Muldowney Fans!, Jungle Jim Liberman/Jungle Pam Hardy Fans, Dick Harrell "Mr. Chevrolet," and so many more.

The Foster page has more than 50 pages of "Mr. Everything" submitted by the likes of Auto Imagery's Dave Kommel, Dawn "DragStrip Girl" Mazi-Hovsepian, Darr Hawthorne, and many others showing him and his various rides and more than 300 members sharing their thoughts about "Patty Faster." Cool stuff.

The Evans Memorial already has attracted 550 members to honor one of motorsports' most unique and well-loved personalities. While there are only about a dozen photos on the page, Steve was better heard and witnessed in motion than in freeze-frame, and there's plenty of great old Evans footage from Diamond P videos like fabulous floppers and old national event TV shows to give any Evans fan a daily fix. Be there!

I've mentioned the Memories of O.C.I.R. group here before, which has grown to an impressive 570 members, each seemingly with his or her own great remembrances, and hosts a mind-boggling collection of old photos from the County, more than 600 in all. If you were one of the Sand Canyon Road denizens, you'll get a kick out of it. A lot of the old racers who competed there are part of the group. Ah, what memories.

The Bonin friends and fans page has nearly 250 members and about 40 pics of "240" – many submitted by the man himself, with comments – from all over the world as well as some cool video from old Wide World of Sports shows.

Bonin, a former Hawaiian shoe, is actually listed as one of the admins on the Leong page, which has more than 450 fans paying homage to "the Hawaiian." Though there aren't a ton of photos here (I'd guess there were more ex-Hawaiian drivers than there are photos), there are a couple of pretty cool video compilations with footage spanning four decades from places like Fremont, Pomona, and Sanair, and even one with Hawaii Five-O theme music.

The "Jungle" 'n' Pam page has nearly 400 members and four dozen photos, about half of which are of "Jungle Pam," which probably draws as many lookers as those seeking out JJ's amazing array of machinery. There's a nice "Jungle Pam" video tribute (complete with the Hollies' "Long Cool Woman" as the soundtrack), and following the link to her own profile, what I think is a pretty rare video of "Jungle" himself, for those of you who have never heard him outside of his famous "Drag racing is faaaaar out" quote, with him discussing strategy with team driver Jake Crimmins before a track record pass at Maple Grove Raceway in 1974. Well worth the watch!

The McEwen page has about three dozen photos of his various Top Fuelers and Funny Cars and, unfortunately, not a lot of activity on its pages yet. The Dickie Harrell page, with just under 200 fans, is a fine tribute to "Mr. Chevrolet" with more than 70 photos and newspaper clippings and links to other stories about him.

Of course, none of these racer groups is as big as the Muldowney group, which boasts 700 fans, but just a few historic photos of drag racing's first lady. I know that Muldowney has a Facebook account (still waiting for you to accept that Friend Request, Shirley), and I'm sure that when (if?) she gets up to speed there, she'd find it a great way to interact with her loyal fans.

The American Nitro group – saluting the 1970s cult classic drag racing film of the same name -- is one of the largest, boasting more than 2,300 fans and almost 450 fan photos and more than 350 wall photos from the producers. The film, originally released in 1979, has been digitally remastered and rereleased, so there's a lot of buzz about it. The page links to the official site, which features trailers from the movie, too.

Of course, my own personal favorite fan page is Frank Mazi Racing, saluting one of my life mentors and all-around great guys (and, to date, the only guy who has let me drive his race car). Assembled by his daughter, the aforementioned Dawn, the page includes not only photos of the "blower snob's" well-known supercharged Opel and Firebird, but also his early T-bucket roadster. (It also includes his wonderful warning to me as I prepared to drive his car for the first time: "The BB/A has two positions: out of shape and about to be out of shape.")

Speaking of which, your old pal here has two positions: Out of time and about to be about of time, and we're at the former. It's been a busy couple of days at NHRA outside of my DRAGSTER work with planning meetings for the 50th annual Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals -- look for some cool announcements in the next two weeks and the launching of the special Web site next week (hopefully) -- and all kinds of other groovy stuff. I'll see ya next week.


 

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