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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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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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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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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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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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Dirt biking with the stars

13 Nov 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Don Prudhomme, left, and National Dragster's Leslie Lovett, two-wheelin' it Fred Mooneyham’s brief mention last week about dirt-bike riding with his nitro peers in the 1970s and motocross…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: 'Fearless Fred' Mooneyham

06 Nov 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Teenage Fred Mooneyham with his father, Gene, and crewmember Larry Faust. (Above) Mooneyham cut his teeth in a front-engine Top Fueler in Louisiana. (Below) Mooneyham and brother Gene…
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The Perils of Billy Meyer

30 Oct 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
As I teased in last week’s column, Billy Meyer’s road to Funny Car fame was not without some painful bumps, a trio of which I will share with you this week. As you read in the previous column, the impressive start of Meyer’s Funny Car career came…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: Billy Meyer

23 Oct 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Of the Teen Terrors of the ‘70s that I’ve profiled the last few months, there’s no disputing that Billy Meyer enjoyed the longest and most successful career of all of them. He won national events in NHRA (12) and IHRA (eight…
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Happy birthday, Texas Motorplex

16 Oct 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
By the time you read this, I’ll be in Dallas for my annual trip to the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this season. I won’t say I’ve been to every NHRA…
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Remembering Dave Beebe

09 Oct 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Another hole was torn in the fabric of our racing family last weekend with the passing of Dave Beebe, whose surname was one of the more famous in our sport thanks to the accomplishments of he and brother Tim in the Top Fuel…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: The Allison Brothers

02 Oct 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Randy and Gary Allison, circa 1972. Imagine, if you can, two young brothers with zero nitro-racing experience deciding to try their hand at Top Fuel. It’s not a scenario you can even begin to…
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Bill "Maverick" Golden

25 Sep 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Before he became one of the godfathers of wheelstanding, Golden earned his "Maverick" nickname with a succession of highly successful Dodge doorslammers. The Little Red Wagon…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: John Stewart

04 Sep 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
John Stewart will forever be remembered by drag racing fans of the 1970s as the teenager who beat “Big Daddy” Don Garlits in his first ever side-by-side competition, but the kid from Sacramento, Calif., with the long hair…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: Bobby Hilton

28 Aug 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
A lot of kids are born into racing families and follow their fathers into the sport, but few can claim the quick start that launched Bobby Hilton into his career as a teenage Top Fuel driver in the early 1970s. His dad,…
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Teen Terrors of the '70s: Jeb Allen

21 Aug 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
This is the first in a series of articles on teenage nitro drivers of the early 1970s, beginning with Jeb Allen, the only teen driver to win in a nitro class at an NHRA national event. He was the sport's youngest…
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Drag racing's teen terrors

14 Aug 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Nitro teen terrors of the 1970s (clockwise from above left): Billy Meyer, Jeb Allen, John Stewart, Randy Allison, and Bobby Hilton When you think of today…
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'The Likeable Logger'

07 Aug 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
I don’t remember which of our zany cast of characters here at National Dragster in the 1980s first labeled Top Fuel racer Earl Whiting “the likeable logger,” but whoever it was nailed it spot-on. The Washington…
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Pro Stock wheelies

31 Jul 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Last week’s announcement by the NHRA concerning Pro Stock rules changes targeted the concerns of many about the class, covering everything from technological relevance – i.e., no “factory hot rod” today has a carburetor – to fan appeal, and to me,…
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Remembering Doug Nash

24 Jul 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
It’s one thing to create a legacy doing something and quite another to create two legacies while doing two completely different things, but that’s how Doug Nash will be remembered. Fans of this column certainly will remember…
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From the Quotebook

17 Jul 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Last week, I shared some of the interesting tidbits that I’ve gathered throughout the years, little random bits of flotsam and jetsam that otherwise would have just floated around on my hard drive. Those were from my notebook; today, we delve into…
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Note-worthy

10 Jul 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
If my computer’s hard drive were a house, I would have already starred in several of those reality TV shows about hoarders. They’d hire a crew of 10 to sort through all of the digital detritus on the computer, picking up…
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Remembering Roger Garten

03 Jul 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Roger Garten (photo: Gary Himes) When I started going to the drags in the early 1970s, the Mustang was the clear body of choice in the Funny Car ranks. Jerry Ruth. The Blue Max. The L.A.…
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Catching Up

19 Jun 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here at Insider Central as I actually snuck in a mini vacation — I went all the way to Spokane, Wash., to see an Eagles concert — between the Topeka and Englishtown events, and by the time…
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Remembering Bud Coons and 'Surfer Hank'

12 Jun 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
It’s no great secret that we’ve lost a lot of our drag racing heroes in the last decade, and if you’ve been following this column for any length of time, you know that I agonize over the losses and sometimes struggle to put…
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Bristol Dragway: 50 years of memories

05 Jun 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
We’ve spent some time already this year talking about the NHRA Springnationals and about its stops at Dallas Int’l Motor Speedway and National Trail Raceway, but it all began 50 years ago at fabulous new Bristol Int'l Dragway in Tennessee, a track…
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Gary Burgin, drag racing's 'Orange Baron'

29 May 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
We lost Funny Car great Gary Burgin last Sunday, another passing of a fine racer who forever etched his name and his cars into our memory banks. Burgin liked to brag that he had never driven anything down the dragstrip…
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Remembering Jim Kelly, 'drag racing's Ansel Adams'

22 May 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Steve Reyes photos I don’t know who illustrated the reading you did as a kid, whether it was Dr. Seuss or Charles Schulz or Sergio Aragones, but for me, my favorite reading was usually accompanied by…
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The 1975 Springnationals

15 May 2015
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
DRAGSTER Insider
Even though NHRA’s Springnationals was born in Bristol and moved to Englishtown and then, as noted last week, to Dallas before ultimately ending up at its current home in Houston, in my brain, and I’m sure in the brains of…
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