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Remembering "the Mongoose"

Some of his best racing friends remember Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen in a touching and funny retrospect to one of the most popular drivers in the sport's history.
15 Jun 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
Stunned. Crushed. Heartbroken. Really, really sad. Teary-eyed. Despondent. Those are pretty much my first six stages of grieving over just the two hours after I got the call Monday morning that we’d lost “the Mongoose.”  I know I’m not…
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Chicago's Hometown Fuelers

With a nod to this weekend’s JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals, let’s take a look at drivers from drag racing’s past who called Chicago home.
31 May 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Chi-Town Hustler
With a nod to this weekend’s JEGS Route 66 NHRA Nationals, let’s take a look at drivers from drag racing’s past who called Chicago home. Even though the event itself isn’t in Chicago but nearby Joliet, because the number of quality drivers and…
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Late-night finishes

It almost happened in Topeka last weekend, but late-night eliminations finishes are a rarity in NHRA national events. The most famous came in a post-1 a.m. Tuesday morning finish in Englishtown in 1975, where "Jungle Jim" Liberman won his first Funny Car crown.
23 May 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Summernationals
So there we were, me and K-Mac, eyes glued to the starting line, eliminations ladders in hand, pens at the ready, keyboards awaiting an onslaught of fast fingerwork that would make Elton John envious. Brittany Force and Richie Crampton, in position…
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Remembering "The Tentmaker"

11 May 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Insider
I got word earlier this week of the passing of 1970s Funny Car racer Omer "the Tentmaker" Carrothers. I’ve seen lots of photos of his cars (all two of them) over the years and heard anecdotal stories about him, but never anything solid.  (…
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Carol Cox: NHRA's first class winner

As NHRA continues to celebrate its "Women of Power," take a trip back to 1962 when NHRA first allowed women to compete at its national events and Southern California homemaker Carol Cox made history when she became NHRA's first female class winner at the Winternationals.
04 May 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Carol Cox
The names are familiar to most hardcore drag racing fans. Shirley Shahan: first female national event winner. Shirley Muldowney: first female Pro winner and champion. Amy Faulk: first female Sportsman world champ. Angelle Sampey: winningest female…
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The Super Mustang

Not really a dragster and certainly not a Funny Car, the Tom McEwen-driven Super Mustang was a super oddity that certainly was not one of Ford's "better ideas," but remains a car well remembered by many drag racing fans.
27 Apr 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
McEwen
Several of you, tongues firmly planted in cheek, chastised me for not including the “other” Super Mustang in last week’s homage to Mustang Funny Car bodies. I did include Ron Pellegrini’s Super Mustang early Funny Car but – purposely -- not the…
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Mustang Funny Cars through the years

Ford’s announcement earlier this week of an all-new Mustang Funny Car body for the 2019 season was no doubt met with great enthusiasm by the Blue Oval fan contingent. The Ford Mustang may be the class’ hardest-working model, and certainly it’s longest running.
20 Apr 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Mustang
Ford’s announcement earlier this week of an all-new Mustang Funny Car body for the 2019 season was no doubt met with great enthusiasm by the Blue Oval…
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Long-standing 'Dragster' video game Guinness world record invalidated

Some light reading for a non-racing weekend about how modern technology led the Guinness Book of World Records to remove a legendary, 35-year-old record for performance in a 1980s drag racing video game. And what could we learn from this?
13 Apr 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Game
Imagine, all these years later, someone trying to disqualify Don Garlits’ mind-blowing 5.63-second run from the 1975 World Finals –- a record that stood for seven years -– because it just doesn’t seem technically feasible. That’s not about to happen…
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Remembering Steve Plueger

Any way you slice it, Steve Plueger was a walking history book for the Funny Car class, past and present, before we lost him suddenly on March 22.
06 Apr 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Steve Plueger
Steve Plueger’s name may be familiar to longtime race fans as one half of the Plueger & Gyger Funny Car team that raced in the 1970s or, if you’re a little newer fan maybe you remember him as a prolific chassis builder and crew chief, including…
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April Fools 1998: Nitro trucks, twin-engine Top Fuelers, and rear-engined Pro Stockers

In case you forgot, Sunday is April 1, or April Fool’s Day. From the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, NHRA.com annually presented a special April Fools section, the first of which was published 20 years ago this week and featured some radical (but not-so-real) rides.
30 Mar 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
April Fools
In case you forgot, Sunday is April 1, or April Fool’s Day, which around these parts used to be a pretty big deal. From the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, NHRA.com annually presented a special April Fools section with funny (yet often plausible)…
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Remembering Dale Emery

Friends and fellow racers remember former Fuel Altered and Funny Car driver and tuner Dale Emery, who passed away last week.
23 Mar 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Dale Emery
“Obits have next to nothing to do with death and absolutely everything to do with life.” -- Margalit Fox, staff writer on the Obituaries desk of The New York Times since 2004. Well said, Margalit and, with that sentiment as a motto…
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Memorable Gatornationals final rounds

From the inaugural event in 1970, which featured the first all-team Funny Car final, up until modern times, final rounds at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals have had a knack for being memorable, historic, or both.
16 Mar 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Don Garlits
The NHRA Gatornationals is one of NHRA’s “original seven” events, launched in the ground-breaking 1970 “Super Season” that also included the introduction of Pro Stock and the first Funny Car championship. The event will celebrate its 50th…
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Unwinding the sidewinder story

A behind-the-scenes look at the circumstances leading to the creation of Don Garlits' sidewinder Top Fueler, and other wild machines created by the brothers Sage, as well as a farewell to influential chassis builder Roy Fjastad.
09 Mar 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Don Garlits
Reaction to last week’s column on the Swamp Rat 27 sidewinder was, quite predictably, strong and loud. “Big Daddy” is such a seminal figure in our sport and in our lives…
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Don Garlits' sidewinder Top Fueler

In 1982, "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, always the innovator, experimented with a sideways-mounted nitro engine in his Swamp Rat 27. Although the engineering marvel didn't pan out, it was still vintage Garlits to even try it.
02 Mar 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Don Garlits
Last week’s column mentioned Don Garlits’ ambitious but short-lived sidewinder Top Fueler (Swamp Rat 27) and led to quite a few requests for more information about one of the wildest machines to come out of the fertile mind of “Big Daddy,” and…
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Phoenix: A Top Fuel wonderland

In its more than 30 years of existence, Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (née Firebird Int'l Raceway) has been the site of some amazing Top Fuel moments that spotlight some of the classes biggest names, including Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney.
23 Feb 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Phoenix
By the time that most of you read this, I’ll be sitting trackside in Phoenix, at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park for the start of the NHRA Arizona Nationals. It’s always fun heading to this track because a) it’s just an hour’s plane flight from my…
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Find the heroes

In 1975, iconic drag racing artist Pete Millar drew a rogue’s gallery of NHRA heroes positioned on the starting line of the Winternationals that ran on the cover of the “new” CARtoons magazine. How many legends can you identify?
16 Feb 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Winternationals
Drag racing has been blessed with a number of talented artists over the years, from the ever-creative themed pieces of Kenny Youngblood to the photo-realistic recreations on James Ibusuki and so many more, but Pete Millar was the king of caricatures…
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Remembering dragster pioneer Dode Martin

The drag racing world lost another legend with the passing last week of Dode Martin, who ran one of the sport's first dragsters. He is remembered in this week's Dragster Insider, where we also mourn the passing of Gary "Mr. C" Cochran and Steve Hodkinson.
09 Feb 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Dode Martin
The drag racing world lost another legend with the passing last week of Dode Martin, who with partner Jim Nelson were early pioneers in drag racing and were among the first to create a business to sell chassis to other racers. Martin died last…
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Virginia is for winners

Tuesday's announcement about NHRA’s exciting national event return to Virginia this June got us thinking about the region and all of the great racers that have come from “the Old Dominion” over the years.
02 Feb 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Virginia
Tuesday's announcement about NHRA’s exciting national event return to Virginia this June got me to thinking about the region and all of the great racers that have come from “the…
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A history of our sport, one story at a time

For more than 10 years, the Dragster Insider has been sharing "the stories behind the stories" that make up the history of our sport, offering an unparalleled and in-depth look at the heroes and machines who were and are the stars of our sport.
26 Jan 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
NHRA
You have arrived at your destination. Whew, thank goodness. With a sigh of relief and a final mouse-click earlier this week, I completed the long and arduous process of manually recreating all of the stories in…
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Another farewell to friends

Longtime NHRA fans lost two more greats from the past, with the passings of 1970s Top Fuel racer Paul Longenecker and 1960s gasser great Jack Merkel, both of whom are remembered in this week's Dragster Insider column.
18 Jan 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Friends
Another week, another serving of sad news for veteran fans of our sport with the passing of two more drivers from the earlier years of our sport (and don’t even get me started on Englishtown; maybe next week).  Longtime Top Fuel fans might…
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Remembering Raymond Godman

Raymond Godman didn't let being paralyzed by sniper's bullet in service of his country get in the way of an amazing career in drag racing. We lost the legendary owner of the Tennessee Bo-Weevil New Year's Day, but remember him here.
05 Jan 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Despite being paralyzed in the Korean War, Godman was as capable a tuner as there ever was 7
A few days after Bob Glidden passed away in December, I was on the phone with “Big Daddy” himself, Don Garlits, who was lamenting with me the loss of one of the legends of our sport, and echoing a thought I often have. Paraphrasing him loosely, he…
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Remembering Bob Glidden

Remembering an NHRA legend and Pro Stock icon, a racer's racer and a champion for all times.
22 Dec 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Bob Glidden
Although Bob Glidden’s declining health had been known to many of us for a few months, and that he was, as his son Billy eloquently told us not long ago, “on the road” to the end, the shock, even five days later, is no less palpable or painful. I…
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A bayou bash at Southland Dragway reunion

An all-star cast that included Antron Brown, Angelle Sampey, Mark Oswald, Leonard Hughes, and more turned out in Houma, La., to celebrate Southland Dragways, at a reunion event to remember one of Louisiana's great dragstrips of the 1970s.
15 Dec 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Reunion
The holidays are all about family and gathering everyone together to enjoy one another’s company, to share great memories, and laugh a lot, and that was spirit of the celebration that took place down in Louisiana Dec. 1-2 at the Southland Dragway…
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Rethinking the Top 50 Racers List

In 2000, a panel of experts picked the Top 50 racers of NHRA's first 50 years. Considering that many of today's stars had not yet even begun, or were just beginning, their careers at the time, who would be added to a Top 50 list today?
05 Dec 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Top 50
Perhaps one of the toughest yet most satisfying projects in my life here at Planet NHRA was the creation, in 2000, of the Top 50 Racers list as part of the following year’s NHRA 50th Anniversary celebration. I assembled…
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Drag racing history at your fingertips

Can't remember which car Don Prudhomme drove in 1978? Which years Bob Glidden actually (gasp!) drove a Chevy? Who was the crew chief on Tony Schumacher's dragster in 1999? One site makes it easy to answer all of your drag racing history questions.
01 Dec 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
draglist
Being an historian means having a near-encyclopedic recall and knowledge of your subject, and while I like to think of myself among the top 10 or so in that category when it comes to drag racing, everyone needs a good wingman. Sometimes it’s not…
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Eddie Hill's last ride

Eddie Hill was one of the most popular Top Fuel drivers of the 1980s and 1990s, but went out with a bang -- literally -- on an explosive final run in late 1999, a moment memorialized by a Kenny Youngblood painting and remembered in this week's Dragster Insider by Hill himself.
17 Nov 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Eddie Hill
It started innocently enough, with an email from longtime Insider reader/contributor Andy Perreault (“the railroad guy up near Pacific Raceways,” as he always unnecessarily reminds me), asking me if I could tell the story behind the photo at right,…
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Dramatic 2007 Auto Club NHRA Finals set the bar for tight points finishes

A decade ago, the 2007 Auto Club Finals was a true barnburner and crowned four champions on the final day of the season with the average winning points margin of less than a round's worth of racing.
10 Nov 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Finals
When it comes to the Auto Club NHRA Finals, it’s easy for people to remember the bigger moments in championship drama. A lot of people will invoke the 1990 Top Fuel final, a winner-take-all battle between Joe Amato and Gary Ormsby decided on G.O.’s…
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It's a Gas, Gas, Gas ... more memories of Gas Ronda

Ford drag racing icon Gas Ronda passed away recently, and is being warmly remembered by his family, friends, and fans.
01 Nov 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Gas Ronda
Writing about heroes of the sport that we have lost has always been a curse and a blessing of this column. Naturally, any time that I have to do a “Remembering …” column it’s because time or fate has caught up to one of our heroes and one more…
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Remembering Gas Ronda

Gas Ronda, one of Ford's early superstars in the Super Stock ranks in the 1960s and in the early days of Funny Cars, passed away Oct. 25 at 91, but left behind an enduring legacy in the sport.
26 Oct 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Gas Ronda
The sport lost another of its early heroes this week with the passing Wednesday of Ford legend Gas Ronda, who was one of the Blue Oval’s early superstars in Super Stock and, later, in Funny Car. He was 91 and had suffered a pair of strokes in 2014…
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Force vs. Pedregon 1992, Part 2

From forgotten interviews and smashed Happy Meal toys, more notes from one of the most intriguing points battles in NHRA history.
20 Oct 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Cruz Pedregon
I had a lot of fun last week reliving the story of the tumultuous 1992 season-long battle between John Force and Cruz Pedregon for Funny Car supremacy –- capped by their crazy Dallas final round -- and judging by the volume of email, so did a lot of…
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