GUEST COLUMN w/Dave Densmore

VOLUME XIX,  NUMBER 3 - March  2017

Densmore Speaks Again: Working (briefly) for NHRA

by Dave Densmore


Dave Densmore, a former contributor to DRO, former long-time PR person for John Force Racing, and former NHRA employee, wrote this on his Facebook page. With his permission we are reprinting this essay from Dens regarding the uncertainty of working for the National Hot Rod Association.


Records are meant to be broken. However, there are those so ridiculously far removed from reality that it is difficult to acknowledge even the possibility that one day they might be eclipsed as easily as, say, Bob Beamon’s Olympic long jump standard.


Among those are Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in the NBA, Cy Young’s 749 complete games as a major league baseball pitcher, Chicago Black Hawk Bill Mosienko’s three hockey goals in 21 seconds, and John Force’s record 10 straight NHRA drag racing championships.


However, now that Terry Earwood’s name has been removed from the record books, everything else is back on the table.


Nothing is safe, not even Frank Bradley’s record for “shortest tenure as a Top Fuel crew chief” which, if memory serves, was a couple hours in 1991.


As I recall, Bradley made the tuning decision on Conrad Kalitta’s race car for one qualifying session at the season-opening Winternationals. Then, “creative differences” arose that convinced the two Hall-of-Famers that they were better off as friends. Bradley retired with record in hand, dubious as it might have been.


A month ago, Earwood’s record seemed as secure as the one set by "the Beard."


By way of background, Terry Earwood was the 1973 winner of the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Super Stock. That alone places him in some pretty distinguished company. The Plymouth ragtop in which he won that particular race recently was auctioned at Barrett Jackson for $1.7 million. However, neither of those items is the source of his fame.


In addition to his drag racing prowess, his status as one of the biggest Elvis fans on this or any other planet and the family bond he shares with my best friend, his brother Steve, he also was a talented road racer, lead driving instructor for the Skip Barber Schools, stunt driver in several TV commercials and, for 48 glorious days, an NHRA Division Director in the Southeast, a realm once the domain of the late, great Buster Couch.


For 35 years, Earwood’s month-and-a-half tour of duty was the shortest ever logged by an NHRA Division Director. That is until Jesse Kershaw blew it away in the new year with a performance that is the stuff of legend. The new record? Nineteen days. That’s as long as Kershaw could manage to function as Division 3 Director.


What happened? Hard to say. Maybe he realized that, as a DD, unlike predecessors like Darwin Doll, Darrell Zimmerman, Dale Ham, Bernie Partridge, Bob Daniels and Couch, he was not going to be part of the NHRA’s policy-making effort. Maybe he was daunted by the mounds of attendant paperwork. Or, maybe, he just refused to drink the Kool-aid.


Whatever the cause, we come here today not to vilify Kershaw, but to praise him, for he dodged a bullet and set a record.


Somewhere out there I hope my friend Jay Hullinger is smiling.


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