Several times each week, almost without fail, I and about 50 other folks get an email from Tom Kasch with a dozen or so photos attached. They’re all images he has taken in the past 50 years, mostly from tracks local to his Midwest base -- Indy; Columbus; Milan, Mich.; Marion, Ind. – but also from a foray west to the 1975 Winternationals.
Some fans may know Kasch’s name from the years that he not only competed in Super Stock and Stock eliminator with a variety of cars but also set national records. His story is a courageous one. He lost his right leg (and nearly his left) in an automobile accident in 1969 – he used his left leg to work the gas and used a hand control for braking -- yet he and his wife, Ruth, remained a visible and popular part of the racing scene until they stopped racing in 2004, and he obviously also spent a lot of the time he wasn’t driving perched in the grandstands with his eye to the viewfinder.
“Ruth and I went to Indy every year from 1962 to 2004, when we had to quit racing,” he explained. “We always took pictures at each race we raced at. I went to the University of Toledo for photo classes in 1973, and we wrote for Milan Dragway in ‘73-74, sending in stories to Drag News, National Dragster, and an Ohio paper The Crank. I have 7,000 pictures scanned on my PC.”
With the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals just around the corner, I thought I’d devote this Fan Fotos column to a collection of Indy images spanning the 1960s and 1970s. I’ll present them in two parts, with Funny Cars (obviously his favorite) today and Top Fuelers and other images next Friday (when I’ll actually be in Indy; lucky me). I harvested the pictures from the last 20 or so mailings he did, which was well in excess of 200 photos. I winnowed them down, removing some that were of less quality than the others to come up with a final group of about 40 images. Enjoy!
A couple of then and later photos of the Hawaiian doing a burnout in Indy. (Above) The 1971 Dodge Charger, with Bobby Rowe at the wheel, surprisingly failed to qualify.He had good company as Tom McEwen, Bruce Larson, and Leonard Hughes also failed to make the field. (Below) Norm Wilcox and the 1975-edition Monza, which fell in round two to Bob Pickett.
And a couple of similar photos of “the Mongoose,” Tom McEwen. (Above) McEwen with the Hot Wheels Duster in 1971; he didn’t qualify. (Below) McEwen -- and, to be honest, no hard-core drag fan -- will forget what happened at the 1978 U.S. Nationals with his English Leather Corvette; having just lost his son, Jamie, days before to leukemia, he beat longtime rival Don Prudhomme in the final.
Raymond Beadle qualified the yellow and blue Blue Max Arrow at the top of the field at the 1978 event with a stout 5.98 (only Don Prudhomme was also in the fives) but lost in the second round to Tom McEwen, 6.18 to 6.24.
Kasch also spent a lot of time roaming the pits. Here are the early Camaro floppers of Bruce Larson (above) and “the Professor,” Kelly Chadwick (below).
Here's Don Prudhomme’s Carefree Sugarless Gum 'Cuda at the 1973 race, the first time he won Funny Car at the Big Go. “Snake” had already won the race in Top Fuel three times (1965, ’69, and ’70) and made history as the first to win it in both nitro classes in 1973 with the first of four Indy Funny Car wins (also '74, '77, and '89).
John Mazmanian’s 'Cuda in the Funny Car pits at the 1970 event. According to DragList, “Big John” had five drivers that year: Danny Ongais, Pat Foster, Wendell Shipman, Arnie Behling, and his nephew Rich Siroonian. Based on the sideburns, that looks like Siroonian wrenching on the car, but reader Bill McLauchlan tells me that Behling was at the wheel. "Behling drove this car for a short time in the summer of 1970 including Indy," he noted. "Qualified No. 3 at Indy with a 6.89 –- one of four Funny Cars qualified in the sixes (Leonard Hughes 6.80, Ramchargers 6.84, Arnie's 6.89 and Jay Howell in the Snake's Cuda at 6.99). Arnie banged the blower on a burnout in the first round. [Don] Schumacher's 7.0's outlasted them all." Note the upfront and rather center-mounted coil-over shocks.
Ed McCulloch, near lane, won Indy for the second straight year with his Revellution in 1982. This is from qualifying, running “Big John” Mazmanian's ‘Cuda with Danny Ongais at the wheel.
More pit stuff. Obviously, Connie Kalitta’s Mustang. Probably 1969. Not sure from the photo if the Boss 429 or the SOHC is between the framerails. but the valve covers sure look like the SOHC.
Here’s a bit of a rarity: Gerald Foster's King Cobra Mustang, which was based in Louisiana, at the 1972 event. Both Sidney Foster and Frank Huff drove the car that year, but the 433 permanent number tells me this was Huff at the wheel. They didn’t qualify.
Two from the 1973 race. (Above) Dale Emery in Jeg Coughlin Sr.’s Camaro Funny Car at the 1973 event. “The Snail” qualified in the No. 10 spot and lost to surprise No. 2 qualifier “Jungle Jim” Liberman in round one. (Below) Jim Paoli, “the Yankee Pack Rat,” just missed the Funny Car field, ranking 18th, one spot behind Raymond Beadle in Don Schumacher’s second machine.
“The Old Master,” Ed Pink, left, consulted with Gene Snow in the pits at the 1971 event. Snow qualified just No. 13 and lost in round one to defending event champ Don Schumacher.
Al Hanna’s Eastern Raider Pinto, 1972. Hanna defeated last week’s Insider feature subjects, Preston Davis and the Ray Godman-owned Tennessee Bo-Weevil, in round one before falling to eventual winner Ed McCulloch in round two.
Two shots from the 1977 event. (Above) I always liked this version of Tom Hoover’s always-pretty Showtime entries. The faux neon lettering is awesome. (Below) Larry Brown’s Okie Smoker Arrow. Neither machine could make the field.
Dale Pulde qualified Mickey Thompson’s one-off Grand Am in the No. 7 spot at the 1974 event before being upset in round one by Pat Foster. Later that year, Pulde set the national record with this car at 6.16 at the World Finals to beat Don Prudhomme and decide the world championship in favor of Shirl Greer.
Minneapolis’ Jerry Boldenow surprised a lot of folks at the 1976 event when he qualified Steve Gold’s Moby Dick Corvette Funny Car in the lofty No. 6 spot. No. 14 qualifier Tom McEwen harpooned his hopes in round one.
Phoenix-based John Luna called his Vega Funny Car the Luna Lander (after the early-1970s Apollo moon missions), but he couldn’t land in the Funny Car field at the 1974 event.
OK, that’s a whole slew of cool Funny Car pics. I’ll be back next week with some of Kasch’s Top Fuel and other interesting photos. Thanks to Tom for sharing!