NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Tricks and treats

Prepping for the World Finals; remembering L.A. Times sports writer Shav Glick;
31 Oct 2007
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

The pumpkin has been carved, the kids' and grandkids' costumes laid out, and a trip to the store is in order to replenish the candy we bought two weeks ago that somehow disappeared before the trick-or-treaters could get to it … welcome to Halloween 2007. I know for certain it's Halloween because the normally empty parking lot next door that's across the street from the local elementary school is jammed with SUVs and "mom vans" of every shape, size, and color going through the rite of passage that is every school's Halloween parade. Across the country, as a whole, there will be more photos snapped and video rolled today than at most presidential press conferences.

"T-Rev" is all duded up in his pumpkin costume, following the tradition of his mom, who also went as a pumpkin her first several Halloweens. (His mom's a ladybug this year, with a homemade costume lovingly stitched together by her mom.) The other grandkids, Jaden and Maddy, are going as a Ninja turtle and a penguin; very cute! Before long, I'll get the phone call to hustle to downtown G-town for the annual Halloween Walk, a cool Glendora tradition in which the merchants of our little downtown main street hand out candy to costume-clad kids 5 and under. My kids did it, and now their kids will do it. Pretty cool. Beginning tomorrow, the NHRA's best, from Top Fuel through E.T., will suit up in their own costumes for one last weekend, and in a few days we'll know who got the treats and who got tricked.

Right now it looks pretty much like Tony Pedregon, who would make a fine Zorro, will fill his pillowcase with king-sized Butterfingers while Gary Scelzi (Groucho Marx?) will get a handful of those bite-sized Snickers bars. Robert Hight (the Tin Man?) is going to get stuck with the apple (why do people do that?) and, unfortunately, it looks like Ron Capps (Top Gun's Maverick?) is going to get the Charlie Brown rock. Again. I don't like to (nor have the time to) play favorites, but I was hoping this might be Capps' turn, only because he's been so close so many times. After all, "T-Ped" and "G-Scelz" have already won titles, and my shooting buddy Hight is probably going to win three or four before he's done, but it doesn't look like it's in the cards for Capps again. It's going to be a reporter's dream/nightmare this weekend with so many stories to cover.

The staffs will be working their National DRAGSTER beats while also pitching stuff my way for the Countdown Notebooks. The media center will be abuzz with rumors about 2008 moves and sponsors, and a lot of teams choose this weekend to announce next year's plans. We'll do this, of course, from the Shav Glick Media Center, but of course, Shav won’t be there, having left us less than two weeks ago. I wrote an homage to Shav and to Wally Parks in this week's Staging Light column in ND because we're going to miss them both this year. This event is going to be the first time that I'd normally expect to encounter Wally, as it seemed he never missed a Pomona event. He'd always show up at least one day, accompanied by longtime friend and fellow board member Dick Wells, and try to make his way past the throngs of well-wishers. In his remembrance to Parks last month, Wells wrote, "I have always treasured our moments together, and perhaps most indelibly an episode at the Winternationals earlier this year.

We went out in a golf cart and toured the pits, both Pro and Sportsman. Several times we stopped along the way so Wally could get a good, close look at the cars. His comments were many and varied, from 'Just look at the craftsmanship and ingenuity in these cars!' to 'We have the greatest fans and participants in all of motorsports, don't we?' But the comment I will treasure the most was when we completed our tour. Before he exited the golf cart, he shook my hand and said, 'Thank you. That was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.' For it was then when Wally was at his best: He was able to spend time among the legions of fans who admired and idolized him, and whose faithfulness and unrelenting support he treasured."

There's going to be a magnificent tribute to Parks on Sunday at the track featuring a veritable Who's Who of the sport who have traveled from across the country to be part of it and to salute the man who gave us all of this. It hasn't really been widely publicized lest skeptics think we were trading on his memory to sell tickets, but let me just say that it's a tribute worth the price of admission.

The late Shav Glick, right, accepted the 1984 NHRA Media Award at Pomona from NHRA's Steve Earwood. He's the only two-time winner of the award.

I think we media types will all miss Shav every time we walk by the seat he always occupied. Even though he hadn’t been a regular there the last few years, few will ever forget the honor of having met him or having been considered a contemporary in that our lives briefly intersected his long and distinguished career. Glick was the only two-time winner of the NHRA Media Award (1977 and 1984), and according to the stories about him, Shav had been reporting for more than 60 years, 37 of them on a motorsports beat.

He wrote his first bylined story, for the Pasadena Post, when he was 14, so he and I have something in common. I, too, was delivering the news at age 14, except mine was from the handlebars of a small paper route for the now defunct Culver City (Calif.) Evening Star -- my first job in journalism! It wasn't until a few years later that I developed my passion for writing and more years after that before I tasted the first thrill of being an intermediary between the news and those who read it, a conduit that didn't emanate from the banana seat of my Schwinn Stingray.

The thrill of that first byline, the first big interview, the first scoop were a siren's call. Knowing that what I wrote, that what I saw, that what I reported, that that which I created with my own mind and my own hand was telling many people, for the first time, about an occurrence in the world that was of interest to them was intoxicating. I did some freelance writing for car magazines before I came to work for ND, but those were feature stories that printed months later and were disconnected from the immediate present not only by printing schedules but by subject.

Working at DRAGSTER, especially back in the 1980s -- pre-NHRA.com, pre-Castrol Hotline 900 number, pre-same-day TV -- meant that a lot of drag racing fans didn't know something until I told them, and that's the kind of thrill that still exists today thanks to the Internet. There's a certain tingle you get, an electricity that races from your mind to the fingertips, especially when you're working on breaking news. It's a buzz that nothing can match.

You're hammering away at the keyboard as quickly as you can, eager to break the story first in case someone else is also onto it, but tempering it with caution to get the facts right. There's first and then there's right; hopefully you can do both at the same time. When you hit that final Save stroke and let loose your words to a sometimes unsuspecting public, it's quite a powerful feeling. It's what sustains us, the thrill of the hunt; it's stalking that elusive exclusive, working your contacts and your super-secret "you-didn't-hear-it-from-me-but …" sources; it's calling in favors and working off the record for background and then knowing when to go on the record and earning the trust of those who will and won't. No wonder Shav did this for 60 years. Hot damn -- I've still got more than 30 to go!