Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 10, Page

Did you ever seriously race the Fiat?
DM: We ran in the very first ever Pro Gas race (9.90 index), believe it or not, with a center steer car. There were no cars built out there then specifically for Pro Gas  so we just got a bunch guys together at Irwindale Raceway and it was Pro Gas time.  I made it to the semis once and then broke the spider that drove the front bump on a turbo clutch, so I was out.  The car sat in my garage from 1976 until 1991. I finally came to the realization that I needed to do something with it.  Throw it away, give it away, sell it, whatever, I had to do something.  Well, after I had my heart problem in '91, I became motivated to do things that I wanted to do, but never had done.  You gain a sense of your own mortality when you have a triple bypass. 

So, I decided I was going to restore the car or renovate the car, but try to keep it as original appearing as I could, yet make a legal and as safe as possible racecar (it could be) for the Super Comp class.  I ended up racing the car for eight years, primarily on the nostalgia

circuit, but I did run legal Super Comp, I was fortunate to win the March Meet at Bakersfield with it. I ran as quick as an 8.65 at 152 mph (with a) car that was built 40- 50 years earlier and had the time of my life. It is currently in the NHRA Sports Museum (due to) the onset of some arthritic knees, it has found a home.  The way that I had to drive the car because of the configuration of the brake pedal, it became unpleasant or uncomfortable and I often felt that if it became uncomfortable driving a car at 150 mph that is 40 years old, you better find a day job, so with that, it got retired. I went to Roy Hill's Drag Racing School many times. I got my Pro Stock license, I got my Super Comp center steer license, got my Super Comp dragster license, I actually had the opportunity to race Roy's school cars at the Pro Stock “Superbowl”  in Houston a couple times.  I also drove one of Roy's Pro Stock trucks in the inaugural series of the trucks when each manufacturer had trucks.  I ran it at the last race of the first season out at Pomona, at the World fFnals.  NHRA allowed me to take a break from the announcing and go do some driving.

What did you take away from your driving career?

DM: You always have elusions of grandeur when you are standing holding a microphone. You think, boy that was a dumb move, if I was out there. . .and then you fill in the blank.  It really helped me, not only to go to Roy's school, and I didn't want to overlook this, I also went to Frank Hawley's alcohol dragster school, went 200 mph plus in an alcohol dragster, and I feel in both cases, it gave me a great deal of additional respect for what these guys do, especially the Pro Stock racers.  Cause I'm telling you, it's a whole lot harder to do it right and I emphasize the word right, than you could ever imagine. 

If I could drive the car, would I have ever been competitive?  I think it would have taken a considerable amount of time and runs to be that way because, that's another thing like announcing, you have to do it a whole lot to be good at it, and I look upon those guys that race full time, that's their job.  That's what they do for a living.  I had a great time.

As a racer, what was the most memorable time?

DM: Winning the March Meet.  It is a highly prestigious event. In non-national event things, it probably ranks up there as one or two because of its longevity, because of the number of cars; it definitely is the pinnacle of nostalgia type racing those kind of cars.  With that, it just gave me the opportunity to get out there and just have fun.  I never expected a return upon investment and I never particularly got it, money-wise.  My philosophy was that I was doing this because it was something I wanted to do.  It was a challenge, it's something that gives you a sense of accomplishment even when you do it moderately well, and to win an event, I can tell you I know thousands upon thousands of racers over 50 years of doing this that haven't even come close to winning any event, not necessarily a big event, I'm talking about anything.  They spend their life out on the race track and those are the guys that I have the utmost admiration and sympathy for because I know what they are going through. 

But if you can't justify doing it as having fun, as a hobby, then you need to take up golf or fishing or something else.  That's where, at least in the lower categories of racing, it is.  I think one of the more astonishing things that I have seen happen over 50 years is the fact that racers today in lower categories of competition, which is described as sportsman racing, can actually make a living doing it, if they are good.


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