Yesterday was a travel day home from
So, without further ado, here you go (literally).
Reaction to my interview with Bill Shrewsberry ("They didn't call him 'Wild Bill' for no reason," Sept. 15) was, predictably, strong. If you ever saw or were lucky enough to meet "Wild Bill," he definitely left an impression.
Pat "Ma" Green, who worked NHRA tracks up and down the West Coast, was well familiar with "Wild Bill" and his, well, wild antics.
"I had to pick him up at the
Bob Honeybrook of Sydney, Australia, who worked at a couple of tracks that Shrewsberry ran in
Kevin Hardy wrote, "My brothers and I were at Lions back when [Shrewsberry] drove the Hemi Under Glass 'Cuda. He came out to do some wheelies, and his first pass down the track was wheels up to the finish line. A crowd formed around the starting line to watch him come back up the strip, wheels up. Bill may have lost track of how close he was getting to the starting line, as he kept his foot in it a little too long. He set the car down and saw all the people standing there. They scattered in all directions, and Bill spun the 'Cuda out … right behind the line! It was great! (I was safely in the stands!)"
Brian Christiansen was at
"Too bad things like that don't happen today! Long live the king of the wheelie, 'Wild Bill' Shrewsberry!"
Speaking of Steve Reyes, I heard from the dean of drag racing photography this weekend, who tells me that he just supplied the cover art for a book of poetry by John Donlan, one of
Mike McClelland, son of the legendary Dave McClelland and himself an announcer at OCIR in its final years, wrote, "Loved the story on Shrewsberry. As you noted, he and 'Big Mac' are longtime pals, and the first time I ever met him was in 1969 or 1970. Anyway, the old man was running Southland Dragways in
Longtime DI reader Howard Hull, who also worked at OCIR in its glory years, added his own "Wild Bill" tale. "It was a warm summer night race at OCIR, and Bill was on top of the game," he wrote. "His son Steve handled the crewing for the race car, and I was standing in the announcing level of the tower with the late, great Steve Evans, who was announcing that evening. Bill did his normal burnout down the track to warm up the car to the delight of the crowd. However, when he backed it up and attempted to run the car down the track, he couldn’t get the car to rise up. Now this went on a couple of times. I remember the thumping of the engine as he backed it up. Steve Evans started chanting, which of course the crowd joined in, 'Get it, "Wild Bill," come "Wild Bill," get it up! You can do it, "Wild Bill!" ' Well, the whole place is chanting away when his son Steve reached down into the back of the car and removed the travel brace, which kept the car secure in the trailer (which he later admitted he forgot to remove). As he was doing this, Steve uttered the best line of the night that I will never forget. 'What’s wrong, "Wild Bill?" Can’t get it up? Don’t worry; it happens to every man once!' Well, at this point, the place went crazy, and 'Wild Bill' raced the car down the tracks on the back two wheels into the night! Shrewsberry at his best!"
Longtime Crane Cams rep and former Top Alcohol Dragster racer Chase Knight has vivid memories of Mark Oswald's top-end explosion at the Motorplex in 1990 ("Motorplex memories and mishaps," Sept. 19). "The Mark Oswald boomer was one of the all-time explosions I've ever witnessed," he reported. "Although it seemed like a 'normal' explosion, the way the oil was distributed on the track seemed rather unusual. Rather than a trail of the greasy stuff down his lane, there was just a 60-foot-diameter puddle at the finish line -- wall to wall, first mph clock to finish line -- as if the engine had sneezed all the lube out at once. It kept the Safety Safari from traveling too far for the cleanup. The visualization of that one is pretty well-etched in my mind."
Jack Hodson, who grew up going to Orange County, Irwindale, Lions, Fontana, and Riverside, was in Dallas for that wild 1992 race with Herbert's blowover and the Force-Pedregon final (replayed yesterday in the first round, with a different outcome), but said, "My whole reason for going to Dallas that year was in hopes of seeing the second 300-mph pass as no one had done it since Bernstein at Gainesville, and I figured that with the fall weather in conjunction with the Motorplex's all-concrete surface, that that is where it would happen. Of course, it was in my own backyard at
Well, I'll give you quarter-credit, Jack. Actually, Bernstein also ran the second and third 300-mph passes that year, following his monumental
My ode to Culver City ("Be true to your school," Sept. 17) inspired former ND Editor Bill Holland to acknowledge that while Quincy Automotive in nearby Santa Monica "was a 'must' for aspiring hot rodders, there was another place in Santa Monica called Shells that had lots of used stuff -- perfect for this low-buck high school kid who bought a manifold with three Stromberg 97s for his '52 Ford flattie. There was a similar place out in the Valley called Hot Rod Henry's." Holland went to Hollywood High, a rival of my Venice High alma mater in the Western League, which, according to Holland, had its fair share of drag racing notables, including chassis builder Kent Fuller, Bob and Don Spar (of B&M fame), Ratican-Jackson-Stearns, and Jimmy Albert (of Childs & Albert).
Dick Hedman said that their famous header shop was just two blocks east of Albertson Olds in Culver City on Washington Boulevard and right next door to Ted Halibrand, who was making wheels and quick change rear ends. The company originally was known as Belond Exhaust Systems when the Hedman family bought it; they changed the name to Hedman Muffler and Mfg. and later to Hedman Hedders. Culver City was where it was at back then," he assured me.
Mart Higginbotham, who ran the Drag-on Vega Funny Car in the early 1970s, enjoyed my interview with Leonard Woods ("Stone, Woods & Cook: From the inside," Sept. 8). "I remember back in the fall of 1970 at the Manufacturers Meet where Don Long was talking about building new Funny Cars. I made it a point to find his shop and drop by; his hours are crazy, so it had to be in the evening. When I did, I ran into two gentlemen who I did not know by sight and was informed by Don that it was Tim Woods and Fred Stone of A/GS fame. I introduced myself, and needless to say, they didn't know me from Adam. I got the chance to talk with them about the 'wars' and learn firsthand what special people both of them were. We visited for about an hour, and I got to learn about their time and place in history. It was really fun, and now the memories really come back."
Bob Warren got to see Stone-Woods-Cook race "Big John" Mazmanian at Detroit Dragway in (he thinks) 1963. "The promoter that ran
It's hard to talk about Stone, Woods, and Cook without talking about "Ohio George"
The results of the Favorite Race Car Ever poll ("And the winner is ...," Sept. 5) were roundly well-received, and even those who voted for others – or drove the others – bowed to the greatness of the SWC team.
"I was elated that Stone, Woods & Cook won the honor of best car ever," wrote reader Jeff Griffin. "I was very lucky to see them race at
Legendary wheelstand king Bill "Mave
Speaking of wagons, Don Schumacher's t
So I did.
"The Don" responded: "The 1973 Wonder Wagon Vega had the nose cut off of the body and a 1974 nose put on it, and I ran it in 1974 as the Revell Super Shoe car and then sold it to some people in
Preston Davis, who wheeled Raymond Godman's famous Tennessee Bo Weevil machines, of course, would have voted for it had it been nominated. "That said," he wrote, "there is no doubt in my mind which car on your list was the most dominant in its class during that period, period. It was John Peters' Freight Train. This car ran such incredible times and speeds for its class that the AA/GD boys tried to get a petition signed to outlaw twin-engine dragsters! And this was done with small-block Chevy motors! Simply amazing! Other than the Freight Train, if I had to pick a Top Fuel car from your list, it would have to be the green car of Beebe and Mulligan. We lost a very good person when we lost John [Mulligan] at Indy, and I had to be the next car down that lane in qualifying. Even though we were from different parts of the country, we were friends, and I still miss him and the great racers we have lost over the years."
And finally, Marty Gauss wanted to share his Jim Nicoll memory after reading my column on the former Top Fuel and Funny Car racer ("Superman lives!" Aug. 20). "Back in 1972 (I believe) at Indy, we used to pour water on the highway outside the main gate on [Highway] 136 so everyone could do their best imitation of the big boys. Saturday evening, I was pouring water, and a big dually pickup stopped and said to pour water on the tires, and he would show us how the real big boys do it. It was a rather impressive burnout, and, of course, it was Jim Nicoll. He pulled into the campground to talk to us, and he was the campground favorite ever since. I was at the infamous 1970 Indy and have been back every year since, and still at the same campgrounds."
That's it, gang; the mailbag is officially empty. Thanks, as always, for your contributions, memories, thoughts, and support. See you later this week.