NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Groovin' at the 'Grove

01 Oct 2010
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor

In Tuesday's injected Funny car follow-up, I featured the Glory Daze Camaro of Kevin Johnson and mentioned that his dad, John, had taken some pretty cool photos from Maple Grove Raceway while working there in the early 1970s. With the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals coming to the Grove next week, I thought it would be cool to share the photos here.

"Dad was just a guy with a Minolta 35mm manual camera that had good track access, angles, and a great eye,'" said his proud son. "He used good film like Kodachrome, Ectachrome, Fuji, and the likes. He had all the shots in slides, and a few years ago, I mentioned to him that he should scan them and get them on a website. He got a scanner, and I took care of the rest.
"He's been a big drag racing fan since being in the Navy and stationed in Long Beach [Calif.]. He came home and got into racing at Maple Grove first with a new plum-crazy '70 Challenger and then later with two front-engine diggers (Quarter Pounder). He worked at the track (one of three jobs at the time) part time in the early to mid-'70s doing everything from starting line, pit control, and announcing. He's now retired from AT&T and was an electronics technician for almost 40 years. Couldn't be a better role model or friend to me!"

And a pretty good photographer.

His work is chronicled on the Web and neatly organized into five categories — Funny Cars, dragsters, Pro Stock, altereds, and others – but I’ll just share the floppers today. There's way more than I have published here, and I'd guesstimate that there are more than 400 images all told. The dragster stuff is pretty awesome, too, including shots of Jim and Alison Lee, the Sparkling Burgundy car, and many other Maple Grove faves.

It wouldn't be a column about Maple Grove Funny Cars without a shot of Pennsylvania's most famous flopper pilot, "Jungle Jim" Liberman, who drew a crowd wherever he went.
Certainly no offense meant by my previous proclamation to the Keystone State's other Funny Car hero, Bruce Larson, shown with his USA-1 Camaro and smartly matching tow vehicle.
Alan Phillips' colorful Baltimore Bandit Barracuda
Jay Minor's The Trip Barracuda, the body of which I read was not fiberglass but one of the original tin Funny Car bodies.
Long before he became better known as Cristen Powell's dad, Casey Powell wheeled the New Yorker 'Cuda in the nitro wars.
"The Tin Man," Al Bergler, and his Motown Shaker Vega, near lane, ready to square off with Jim Fix and the Frantic Ford Mustang.
Another Maple Grove regular, Joe Jocano, of Rolling Stoned fame
"Fearless Fred" Goeske. Love the fire-bottle mounting spot so common in the early Funny Cars
The Nichols & Oxner Charger and driver/crewmember  Bill Wilkinson. Larry Nichols and Wayne Oxner were the principal owners and Oxner drove in most cases, but there were instances that he couldn’t drive and Wilkinson substituted.
Arne Swensen and the Swensen & Lani Mustang
Get a load of those rear-mounted canards on the machine of Ron "Snag" O'Donnell!
Paul Stefansky's Super Stang
"The All-American Boy," Charlie Allen (current owner of Firebird Int'l Raceway) traveled the country back in those days. Note the absence of a rear window of any kind.
Fitting right in with our recent discussion of injected Funny Cars, here's Ray Harte's Vitamin C Charger A/FC. You also get a nice look at what the track looked like way back then, when it was actually called Maple Grove Park Drag-O-Way.
Hats off to you if you know the driver of the Keystone Kuda. He became kinda famous later (answer below).
More A/FCs: Tom Smith's Virginia Twister Challenger, near lane, squared off against John Carlton's Swinger Nova.
Gene Altizer's Camaro (and ramp truck!)
And finally, and this one is a little later in the '70s ('74-'75-ish), is Kevin Siebert's notorious Karmic Debris Starfire BB/FC, widely regarded as sporting the most unreadable lettering job in the sport's history. But he did have the good sense to place a National DRAGSTER sticker on the fender, so we forgive. Love ya , Kevin.

OK, that's it for a flashback to Maple Grove, but there are plenty of great shots of diggers, doorslammers, and altereds at Johnson's site, http://drags.lookskool.com/index.html. Drags looks cool? You betcha.

Oh, and the Keystone Kuda was driven by that other famous Pennsylvanian Joe Amato before he became a multitime NHRA Top Fuel champ. But then again, you knew that, right? Can't get anything by you guys …