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Top Fuelers and Funny Cars of the 1960s

Drag racing photographer Ron Lewis, who’s been shooting at the drags since he was a teenager in the mid-1960s and continues to be a regular presence at Mello Yello Series events, is sharing with us some of the thousands of his vintage drag racing pics. This week: the 1960s.
19 Oct 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Insider
What do you give the drag racing fan/historian/journalist who already has access to tens of thousands of historic drag racing photos? Thousands of more photos, many of them not seen in decades if ever at all! Drag racing photographer Ron Lewis,…
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Another farewell to heroes

Drag racing lost a pair of its early heroes over the last two weeks with the passings of legendary East Coast Top Fuel and Funny Car racer Jimmy King and versatile driver “Jet Car Bob” Smith. 
05 Oct 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Jimmy King
Drag racing lost a pair of its early heroes over the last two weeks with the passings of legendary East Coast Top Fuel and Funny Car racer Jimmy King and versatile driver “Jet Car Bob” Smith.  For more than a decade, King and partner Don…
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Vintage jet cars

Jet cars have been part of the drag racing landscape since the early 1960s, and are still featured at NHRA national events. Here's a look back at some of the earliest and wildest of the breed.
28 Sep 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
jet
Feedback from the last couple of couple of columns focusing on jet-car legend Doug Rose and his protégé, Doug Brown, made it clear to me that there are a lot of residents of the Insider Nation who still dig the jet cars. Not surprising, I suppose,…
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Doug vs. Doug: A jet-powered friendship

The late great jet-dragster racer Doug Rose was not just another driver lined up next to West Coast jet jockey Doug Brown, he was a friend and mentor, as Brown explains in this illuminating and entertaining tribute.
14 Sep 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Doug Rose
Everyone in life should be so lucky to have a mentor, someone who’s been there and done that in your chosen field and is there to help not only show you the ropes, but to inspire you and keep you moving in the right direction. Doug Rose, the…
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Remembering Doug Rose

The drag racing world lost a master entertainer and jet-car legend a few weeks ago when Doug Rose, whose Green Mamba jet had entertained fans for more than 50 years, passed away. We salute him this week in words and photos.
07 Sep 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Doug Rose
The drag racing world lost a master entertainer and jet-car legend a few weeks ago when Doug Rose, whose Green Mamba jet had entertained fans for more than 50 years, lost his life during an exhibition at Norway Speedway, a third-mile dirt oval in…
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50 Years of Wally trophies

This weekend’s 64th running of the 2018 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will also mark perhaps an even more important milestone as it will be the 50th anniversary of the first presentation of the now-iconic Wally winner’s trophy.
31 Aug 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Wally
This weekend’s 64th running of the 2018 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals will also mark perhaps an even more important milestone as it will be the 50th anniversary of the first presentation of the now-iconic Wally winner’s trophy. NHRA…
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Brainerd: Celebrating 50 years of racing

Brainerd Int’l Raceway, built in 1968 and host last weekend to the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, is celebrating its 50th season this year. Here's a look back at the track and the racing action over the years.
24 Aug 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Brainerd
The NHRA Mello Yello tour pulled out of Brainerd this past weekend and headed for Indy and the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, but before we put the Land of 10,000 Lakes in the rearview, I wanted to take the opportunity to wish Brainerd Int’l…
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The Time Machine: 1973

Step into the Wayback Machine and set the dials to 1973, when nine of the 16 nitro winners were first-time winners, three new world champs were crowned, and policies and procedures from records to safety were overhauled.
17 Aug 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1973
Frequent Insider contributor John Bell cut the best light in reaction to my invitation on last Friday’s second installment of the Time Machine series, asking for a recap of 1973, the first year that he became an NHRA member and subscriber to …
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The Time Machine: 1982

Shirley Muldowney, Frank Hawley, and Lee Shepherd won world championships in a year packed with new rules, first-time winners, and outrageous performances. Just hop into our Wayback Machine for a trip back to 1982.
10 Aug 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1982
After a busy Western Swing (sorry for skipping a few columns), I’m back in the saddle for the run up to Indy and beyond, so let’s get this party started. Folks got a big kick out of the…
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Fans remember 'the Mongoose'

Over the past month, you’ve heard from Tom McEwen’s closest friends about what the fabled “Mongoose” meant to them. This week, we share some thoughts and memories from his fans, who were touched by him in myriad ways.
27 Jul 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
Over the past month, you’ve heard so much from me and from Tom McEwen’s closest friends about what the fabled “Mongoose” meant to us, but, as you can imagine, my Inbox was overflowing with thoughts and memories from his fans, so I thought I’d share…
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A fond farewell to 'the Mongoose'

The celebration of life for Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen in Pomona last weekend featured a Who's Who of drag racing as the community came together to remember one of the great icons of the sport.
20 Jul 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
The celebration of life of Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen last Saturday in Pomona provided a lot of closure for his friends in the racing community. It was chance to not only remember one of our great friends but, for many, the chance to do it together,…
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The Time Machine: 1988

Thirty years ago this season, direct-drive came back to the nitro classes, supercharger burst panels were mandated, the speed trap was cut in half, Sonoma and Houston entered the schedule, Bruce Larson finally won, and much more.
05 Jul 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
1988
The old hippie saying “Never trust anybody over 30” was attributed in 1964 to environmental activist Jack Weinberg (who today is 78) in an article about the Free Speech Movement that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle. I bring up this bit…
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Tom McEwen, in his own words

One final nod to the great "Mongoose," from a National Dragster interview a few years ago where he opines on everything from his "legend" status to his rivalry with Don Prudhomme, his favorite cars, and his legacy in the sport.
29 Jun 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
In mourning the passing of Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen, I mentioned I couple of weeks ago the last official interview I did with him for National Dragster, which took place several years ago, and that I should share it someday, and many of…
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More 'Mongoose' memories

Week two of “the Mongoose” watch goes on as fans and friends continue to try to reconcile that he’s really gone. This week: No race cars, just photos of “the Mongoose” smiling and doing his thing.
22 Jun 2018
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Tom McEwen
Week two of “the Mongoose” watch goes on as fans and friends continue to try to reconcile that he’s really gone. It’s been interesting to watch and listen to the reactions of his close racing buddies. They’ve been checking in on one another and…
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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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