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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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Force vs. Pedregon, Dallas '92: 25 years later

John Force and Cruz Pedregon have raced one another a remarkable 103 times, but 25 years ago this week the duo engaged in one of the weirdest and wildest Funny Car final rounds in the annals of the sport and certainly the craziest of all of their meetings.
13 Oct 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
John Force
John Force and Cruz Pedregon have raced a remarkable 103 times in their concurrent Funny Cars careers, but 25 years ago this week, the duo engaged in one of the weirdest and wildest Funny Car final rounds in the annals of the sport and certainly the…
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Like a Rollin' Stoned

East Coast Funny Car racer Joe Jacono was the subject of a memorable drag racing magazine cover in the 1970s, but there was far more to him than that. Also in this week's Dragster Insider ... found: the Durachrome Bug!
06 Oct 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Joe Jacono
It’s funny how an image can stick with you forever. More than four decades after I picked up the January 1974 copy of Hi Performance Cars magazine at my local SoCal Thrifti-Mart, I still remember vividly the insane image of a caveman and…
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Wally Parks, an appreciation

28 Sep 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Wally Parks
The NHRA family marks today the 10th anniversary of the passing of Wally Parks, the dynamic and purposeful man who not only founded the NHRA in 1951 but led hot rodding from the dark shadows of scorn into the bright sunlight of national acceptance…
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Found: NHRA Member No. 1

Every new club needs a first member, and Ken Howell was just a teenager in Southern California in 1951 when he became NHRA's first official member. More than 60 years later, we found him at the recent Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Or, more precisely, he found us.
21 Sep 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
NHRA
Every new club needs a first member, and when the Wally Parks-led Hot Rod magazine issued the clarion call in its March 1951 issue for new members to create a national association of hot rodders, it was a pair of Southern California twin…
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‘The Snake’s’ Take

Legendary drag racer Don "the Snake" Prudhomme looks back on his career and shares his thoughts on topics ranging from his best cars, best seasons, and best pals like Tom McEwen and Roland Leong.
15 Sep 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Don Prudhomme
Last week’s wide-ranging remembrances from Ed McCulloch inspired some extremely positive responses from the Insider Nation, so, as promised, here’s a similar type of article that I wrote a few years ago (2010) for National Dragster…
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Ed McCulloch: Roaring down Memory Lane

Ed "the Ace" McCulloch has just about done it all. He's been a winner in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and has become a legend and inspiration to fans and fellow drivers old and new. In this column, McCulloch reflects on some key periods of his hall of fame career.
08 Sep 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Ed McCulloch
As usually happens when I get all Fanboy talking to my heroes, my chat last week with Ed McCulloch about his Indy successes took some far-from-topic turns. I’d ask a question, he’d give me some backstory and before you knew it we're off on some…
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'Ace' still the king of Indy Funny Cars

As hard as it may be to believe – and the fact might change this weekend at Indy – but Ed “the Ace” McCulloch is still the king when it comes to Funny Car victories at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, even 27 years after his fifth and final win there.
29 Aug 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Ed McCulloch
As hard as it may be to believe – and the fact might change this weekend at Indy – but Ed “the Ace” McCulloch is still the king when it comes to Funny Car victories at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. Yes, that’s right. Even though he…
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Racer's Scrapbook: Jim Dunn

Jim Dunn has been racing for more than 60 years, accumulating a series of honor and wins, first as a driver then, for the last 20-plus years, as the owner of a string of perpetually strong Funny Cars. He sat down to talk about some of the cars that have made up his career.
25 Aug 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Jim Dunn
Jim Dunn has been racing for more than 60 years, accumulating a series of honor and wins – and drivers – first as a driver then, for the last 20-plus years, as the owner of a string of perpetually strong Funny Cars. Dunn, a former fire captain,…
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A deep dive into the archive

The Dragster Insider column celebrates 10 years of telling "the stories behind the stories" in NHRA history with a deep dive into the archives to look at some of the interesting columns of the past decade.
18 Aug 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Insider
I can’t believe I let it slip past me – heck, I can’t believe you guys let it slip past me – but a few weeks ago (July 23 to be exact), we reached the 10-year anniversary of this humble internet bench-racing bar & grill. I knew it was…
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Racer's Scrapbook: Jerry Ruth

The vaunted "King of the Northwest," Top Fuel great Jerry Ruth, shares memories of some of his favorite race cars and memories from his storied 20-year career in the sport.
11 Aug 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Jerry Ruth
The chance to sit and talk with legends of drag racing is one of the real perks of my job, and for a kid who grew up following the sport from the other side of the printed page, it’s a dream come true to enjoy some one-on-one time with them. Due to…
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On The Road Again, 1970s-style

Today's Western Swing can be a grind on teams, but long tows, little sleep, and lots of racing were the order of the day on the 1970s match race trail.
04 Aug 2017
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
These days, the Western Swing is a pretty big deal, three weeks on the road with no chance to return to home base to restock and regroup. Two weeks ago I was tasked with creating …
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