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Power to the people

06 Jul 2010
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

It's not as if I didn't know this would happen, but I was besieged with e-mails following Friday's Patriotic Power column, in which I foolishly made what I knew was only a partial list of cars with a patriotic theme. My original list was twice as long and a bit repetitive, so I trimmed it to a manageable size.

My "all America" list was hardly that, especially when it came to cars named All American. Though disappointed but understanding that I had not included his short-lived Art Linkletter's All-American Top Fueler pictured here, Bill Holland said that I needed Carl Casper's Gary Cochran-driven Young American dragster on the list. Note the mini Old Glory attached to the roll cage next to driver John Guedel's helmet.

Gene Adams volunteered the Rod Shop All-American drag teams as worthy of the list, Dennis Sacks pointed out that I had left Val LaPorte's All American Top Fueler from the mid-1960s -- which was the former Norm Weekly-driven Orange County Metal Processors entry -- off my list, and Jerry Farniok and Mike Burg said that I had forgotten Walt Arfons' Truly American Mustang jet Funny Car, driven by Jim Taylor. Burg pointed me to the photo at right, which he found on the American Jet Cars website.

I also heard from Marc Denner, co-crew chief on Bob Tasca III's romp-stomping Quick Lane Funny Car, who was – for a short and ill-fated time -- part of J.R. Wade's American Dream team mentioned in my article. Denner's dad, of course, is longtime racer Don Denner, and Marc noted that they hooked up with Wade and Ray Motes (Motes drove the senior Denner's dragsters in the late 1970s early 1980s). "They came to us in '90 I think and asked us if we would put the car together," he wrote. "We had been out of racing for a little bit, but I was old enough to get the spark going again. The first American Dream car was purchased from Larry Camenzind (Bionic Bitch); we took it home to Wichita, took it all apart, and cleaned it up. I learned a lot from that time. We got the car all painted and took it to Kansas City for a big unveil, then we headed for Noble, Okla., for the maiden outing. On the first burnout, a blower restraint strap got sucked in the injector blade, hung the throttle open, and Ray crashed into the wall, and the American Dream was over. We rebuilt everything and went to Topeka, missed the show, and that was it for the Denner family and the American Dream."

RIch Venza, another frequent Insider contributor, wanted to make sure that I knew that though he's sure that Mike Kosky is a proud American, his American Flyer entries probably had more to with his huge interest in model trains than patriotism. I did know about Kosky's penchant for trains – we had this photo at right in our files that shows just a portion of Kosky's collection – but couldn’t resist adding him especially in light of Kosky's recent successes. The guy continues to win races and reach finals in what has to be his fourth decade of racing.

Clayton Taylor, the former Connecticut Dragway track photographer who shot the photo of "Mad Man Marko" Hildonen's Young American wheelstander that I used in the column, noted that I had also forgotten about Nick Boninfante's Pat Walsh-driven U.S. Male Alcohol Funny Car. "We always thought the name was amusing, ‘cause Nicky was a short, round Italian, and Pat was about 5-foot-7 and 125 pounds on a good day – certainly not recruiting-poster images for the armed services," he wrote. "That was OK, though, as they were both really great guys. Heck, that group might make a good column sometime – the way you could race your alky flopper three to four times a week and actually not LOSE money!"

Taylor also added Bob Beaulieu’s Little America Vega-bodied Alcohol Funny Car (which ran on Boninfante’s BB/FC circuit), the red, white, and blue O.J. McKinney-driven Freedom Machine Top Fueler from the late 1960s, A.J. “Smiley” Smullen’s Little Patriot Ford cammer-motored A/Comp car, and Bill Flynn’s Yankee Peddler A/FXers, Funny Cars, and Pro Stockers.

Greg Gorian reminded me that his old neighbor and my ol' pal, former Alcohol Funny Car racer Jim DePasse, used to have a nitro-burning Jeep named Fuelish American in the 1970s when he was still sand racing, and Russ Ganz, who owns the Grand Illusion Super Comp dragster that competes in Division 1, reported that the first rocket-powered Funny Car of his former neighbor Slam'n Sammy Miller was the Spirit of '76 Mustang II. Tom Lachance suggested the Segrini brothers' (Al and Lou) American Express injected Funny Car, which he said got its name because the car was financed by their personal credit cards.

OK, enough forgotten fireworks for the day. I’ll see ya later this week.