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Fan Fotos: 1970 Summernationals

08 Feb 2011
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider

Last month, I spent a little time cleaning out some of the many Insider folders that I created in my e-mail program, but I purposely skipped the one labeled Fan Fotos, containing groups of submissions from the faithful readers here. I have run these from time to time in the past, but not for maybe a year or more.

Feeling a little ashamed of the oversight and knowing that opening even one of the e-mails would lead to a Lay's potato-chip moment ("You can't open just one!"), I skipped that folder. On Monday, I bravely peeked inside and, yep, found plenty of Insider goodness, just as I expected. I chose one, randomly, and decided that it would be the focus of today's column.

The idea was not without ulterior motives; this has been one of those crazy-busy weeks at National DRAGSTER as we have been working on a pair of special issues that has really limited free research time.

The first of these specials, Most Intriguing People II, is a reprise of probably one of the best-received issues ever, in which we grilled the likes of Don Garlits, Shirley Muldowney, Don Schumacher, and others about what makes them tick. We heard about Garlits' UFO fascination, behind-the-scenes tales from Muldowney's career, and more. It was really quite special.

We found another great group to interview this year, and it's going to be interesting reading. We have Bruton Smith, Alan Johnson, Jim Head, Kenny Bernstein, and Kenny Koretsky. It’s good stuff.

In two weeks, it's back to our other eagerly awaited annual issue, Readers Choice, in which we respond to readers' requests and deliver an issue packed with stories based solely on their suggestions. I won’t give away any of the goodies, but let me just say that the reason you’re all here will be well-represented.

Anyway, with that mea culpa, here's a collection of images sent, oh, about 15 months ago by Canadian reader Doug McDonald of beautiful Charlottetown, P.E.I. The subject is an interesting one: These photos are from the inaugural Summernationals, which was held not in Englishtown but at York U.S. 30 Dragway near York, Pa., in July 1970.

It was Doug's first NHRA event, and he had to travel about 1,000 miles to get there from Prince Edward Island (on the east coast of Canada). What I really like about this group of photos (other than the interesting composition of some) is the varied subject matter. It's not all fuel cars, that’s for sure. Enjoy. And thanks for your patience, Doug.

Dick Shroyer's Shroyer's Shaker D/Gas '48 Anglia panel truck may well have been one of the most photographed gassers of the early 1970s. The sanitary "pie wagon" was one of a number of Rod Shop-sponsored cars at the event, McDonald remembered.

Here's a great close-up look at "Sneaky Pete" Robinson’s Ford cammer engine. Robinson made a solo run in the Top Fuel final when Jim Nicoll’s rail failed to fire. Nicoll had set low e.t. of the meet at 6.71 in the semifinals but wounded his 392 Chrysler in the process. It was Robinson's first win since the 1966 World Finals; less than a year later, we'd lose the popular Georgia engineer in an accident in Pomona.

A nice look at the York starting-line area as local racer (Munroeville, Pa.) Harry Luzader blasted off the line in his E/Gas '32 Ford coupe with an injected small-block Chevy and four-speed transmission.

This is John Schumacher's Ego Trip BB/Altered, which would have been one of the first cars on which he partnered with Stan Rosen. They would go on to field Top Fuelers and Funny Cars under the same name. Schumacher drove both, but Chuck Kurzawa and Jess Garman also piloted the dragster.

The team of English-Frakes-Funk is well-known to many fans, probably for its hard-running Kentucky Moonshiner Top Fuelers of the 1970s, but the trio – Bill English, Robert Frakes, and driver Dale Funk – also fielded this twin-engine Top Gas dragster earlier in the decade. McDonald noted that the car is sporting a flat right-rear tire and speculated that the flat may have led to the oil pan(s) dragging, kicking off this blaze. My money's on a blown engine and a puncture caused by debris. Love the background; interesting top end, eh?

Here's Jeg Coughlin Sr.'s '69 Cuda, driven by Senior himself. McDonald said that his notes indicate that it was Chevy-powered. "I had the pleasure of giving an 8x10 print of this to Jeg at Pomona at the 2004 Finals. My wife had made the mistake of suggesting that we visit California that year, and I said I knew just the right time to go. In our two-and-one-half weeks there, we took in the Goodguys Nostalgia Fuel & Gas Finals at Bakersfield and the NHRA Finals at Pomona (remember the rain?), and in between, we took in the Petersen Automotive Museum, the cruise night at the NHRA Museum, and visited the Museum itself." (Silly wife.)

Ray Motes and R.C. Williams had the baddest Top Gas dragster on the planet in the early 1970s. Although they didn't win this race, they had already won the Springnationals that year and would go on to win the World Finals in Dallas to earn the world championship. They won the Summernationals the next year as well as the U.S. Nationals. Top Gas was discontinued the following year, so they'll always be the reigning Indy Top Gas champs.

Here's the Super Stock final, with McDonald's countryman, Barrie Poole ("born and raised here in Prince Edward Island"), driving the Sandy Elliot SS/H Ford Mustang out of Chatham, Ont., taking on – and losing to – Ron Mancini’s Gratiot Auto 426 Hemi-powered SS/AA '68 Dodge Dart GTS. I think that's my old pal Leslie Lovett in the DRAGSTER shirt on the ladder at far right and a very young Buster Couch in the middle.

And here's the Pro Stock final between "Dandy Dick" Landy and Herb McCandless in the '70 Duster Sox & Martin car. McCandless red-lighted, giving the win to Landy. It was Landy's third and final win and the only one not scored at the Winternationals, where he won Street in 1968 and Modified in 1969, making him three for three in finals in different classes in consecutive years. He reached only one more final, at the 1972 Summernationals in E-town, where he lost to Bill Jenkins.

OK, that was pretty cool. I'll continue to revisit your photos from time to time, so if you sent some way back when, I may well surprise. You also can submit new stuff to me, but please give me as much info as you can about the photos and the circumstances under which they were shot. Your story is almost as important as the tale the photos tell.