If this is Friday, then I must be in Indy, enjoying my 32nd straight trip to the Big Go. Wish you were here. You may well be. Here’s Part 2 of Tom Kasch’s cache of Indy pics, these focusing on Top Fuel and other classes, from the 1960s and early 1970s.
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, as great as the photos are that came from the lenses of the pro photographers standing at the guardwalls or beyond and how those experts preserved the moments with which we’ve all become familiar, it’s a kick to see how the mere mortals among us viewed the same cars from their less-advantageous but familiar-to-us view from the grandstands and to share their photos, most of which have never been published, and to pretend that we were in their seat to see the magic.
This is an interesting view of Indianapolis Raceway Park, as it was known then, from outside the fence, looking downtrack past the famed Hurst bridge at the 1970 event.
Forget the composing of the image, that its subject is so far out of center as to almost be out of the frame, but it’s the car and the scene that counts here. The car is Jack Chrisman’s wild nitro-burning, supercharged Chrisman’s Comet at the 1965 Nationals, where the car — one of the earliest Funny cars — ran in the B/Fuel dragster class. Chrisman had run the car in exhibitions at the event the previous year where he ran mid-10s at 150 mph while smoking the tires. The crowd was mesmerized. When he came back the next year, he was running nines and everyone wanted to see it, but he red-lighted in round one to Don Gay. Check out the folks sitting in what was the photographer’s area as if they were at a picnic. Wild.
More wild doorslammers from the 1965 event: Hayden Proffitt, far lane, in his national speed record-setting (135.64 mph) B/A Comet vs. Don Gay.
“Ohio George” Montgomery, near lane, owned the Nationals in its first decade, winning three times. In this 1965 battle, Montgomery’s famed Willys is facing off with future Pro Stock great “Dyno Don” Nicholson’s B/A Comet.
Here’s another shot of Montgomery at Indy in 1970, when he was the defending event champ after winning his fourth Nationals crown in 1969. This is his Malco Gasser supercharged Mustang, running in BB/A with those famously monstrous rear wheelie wheels.
Don Garlits’ bid for a second Indy title (and second straight) didn’t go so well. He lost in round one of AA/FD class to Bobby Vodnik (who had famously beaten him in the 1963 Top Eliminator final) and after exacting revenge on Vodnik in the first round of Monday’s eight-car eliminations, he red-lighted to Tom Hoover in the semifinals. Hoover lost the final to Tommy Ivo, who then lost the runoff with class champ Don Prudhomme for overall honors.
Jimmy King and the King & Marshall team prepare their dragster for another run at the 1970 event, which ended for them with their car upside down after a huge wheelstand in round one.
Before he became a regular in the Funny Car circuit, Al Bergler fielded modified coupes and then this gas dragster, dubbed More Aggravation Too, at the 1970 event.
More from the 1970 event: Jack Ditmars’ spectacular Mini Brute Opel A/FC. This car tore up the competition at Midwest tracks that year.
Bill Jenkins won the first two events of 1970’s inaugural Pro Stock season — the Winternationals and Gatornationals — with his former Super Stock Camaro and qualified No. 2 at Indy that year but was shown the door in round one by his old buddy, Dave Strickler. Although “the Grump” won Super Stock at the 1967 Nationals, surprisingly he never won there in Pro Stock, as a driver or owner.
Mike Sullivan’s AA/Fuel Altered at the 1970 Nationals, back when the Awful-Awfuls ran in Comp eliminator.
“The Smilin’ Okie,” Jimmy Nix, didn’t have a lot to smile about at the 1970 event. He barely qualified in Top Fuel (No. 31) and was on the trailer after round one at the hands of Bob Murphy, Murphy lost in round two to Pete Robinson, who lost in the third frame to “the Snake.”
It’s doubtful that Top Fuel vet Gary Cochran will ever forget the 1971 Nationals. “Mr. C” wasn’t among the quick 32 to qualify but got into the show when Dennis Baca couldn’t make the first-round call. Cochran beat Stan Bowman in round one, then took a solo in the second round when future world champ Jim Walther couldn’t repair his mount after upsetting Don Prudhomme in the first stanza. He then beat an up-in-smoke Leland Kolb to reach the semifinals but red-lighted to Steve Carbone, setting the stage for the great Carbone vs. Don Garlits final-round burndown.
Carl Olson and partner Mike Kuhl had a pretty good weekend at Indy 1971 as well. Their new rear-engine Top Fueler was voted Best Appearing, they qualified No. 3, and reached the semifinals before falling to Garlits. Check out the spare engine in the open side trailer door, ready to be slid into place if needed.
The late, great Mickey Thompson was all smiles at Indy 1971 when Dale Pulde took his Pinto to the Funny Car final. Unfortunately for the team, they lost the money round in a ball of fire to Ed McCulloch.
Twin-engine Top Gas dragsters were all the rage in the early 1970s, but Rico Paris gets credit for having the first rear-engine twin-gas dragster at the 1971 Nationals. He didn’t qualify for the Indy field but did make the show at the sport’s last Top Gas event, the 1971 Supernationals at Ontario Motor Speedway, running a 7.46.
Bill Shrewsberry’s popular L.A. Dart wheelstander was part of the show at the 1971 event.
At the height of the Top Fuel wheel pants craze, there was no car (or driver) more colorful than the John “Tarzan” Austin-driven Hot Tuna of Greg Scheigert.
And, finally, here’s a great Indy scene setter, a sweet Top Fuel burnout with the backdrop of the old starting-line tower and the Hurst bridge. Those were the days!
That’s it for the selection of pics from Tom Kasch, but you can check out some of his other photos at the links below: