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I am often asked what I miss the most about drag racing. There is no question it is the people. We have heard the worn out cliche of 'drag racing family" so many times I cringe. The problem is that there is no better substitute for that phrase. Last week I heard a great description of what that phrase really means. The racer said, "For nine seconds I hate the guy. For everything else my love and respect for the guy is unconditional." So that brings me to the Hangover Nationals.
Drag racing lost some incredible individuals in December. On a national scale there was the passing of Ray Price, Roger Gustin and Tim Hyatt. On a local level we lost Brian Chillik and Dave Perrotti. To honor these local heroes we got involved in an indoor practice tree event. I donated the location (Caddy Shack) and Joe Gambino and his staff did the heavy lifting and organization. Then the amazing happened.
There were over 600 entries. Racers came from New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan along with Ohio. Over $4000 was raised to help the families. The stories of Brian, Dave and Tim were heartwarming and all had the same theme: The love of family, the love of racing, and the love of each other. As Tom Hyatt said to me as he left for his two-hour journey back home, "This was a great day." Then it occurred to me. This is what families do. Drag racing families.
I am an addict. There I said it. I am addicted to looking at old drag racing photos. I have said it a thousand times that I can't find my cars keys in the morning yet I can remember in great detail a race that took place in 1970. Which brings me to the story of the Pegasus Mustang which I saw a photo of several weeks ago. The car was powered by a Turbonique direct-drive turbine that to my knowledge never made a run over 100 feet because it blew drive trains up like confetti.
Unless you count a practice run made on the road I lived on. The guys that ran the car, believe it or not, housed the car in a revamped chicken coup on a farm about a half mile from where I lived. One afternoon I heard this terrible shriek which I instantly knew was the Turbonique shredding another rear end. The big difference was it actually went about 400 feet on this country road. The bad news was the country road was narrow and full of pot holes. By the time I got to the scene the Pegasus was being extricated from a ditch. Every picture has a story and the best run ever from this wild car was witnessed by a few dogs, one cat and a groundhog. You can't make this stuff up.
AND THE WINNER IS
With all the award shows on TV I thought it was time to hand out the coveted Porburski's. These awards are the pinnacle of drag racing excellence. Well sort of.
Scariest Run Ever Award: Real life Ninja, Ken Jorden, running toward a jet car and jumping over it as it passed beneath him at 200 MPH. Eventually he missed. Career over.
I Thought the Mike Was Off Award: After watching a top fuel bike make a pass at night with 8-foot header flames spewing from right behind the seat a certain announcer chimed in with, "That kind of gives a whole new meaning to the term flaming asshole."
I'll Take a Check Award: Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins insisted on being paid cash for a match race at Quaker City. He was told he would have to talk with track owner Dick Mossey. An angry Jenkins stormed into Dick's office to find one of Dick's beloved German shepherds vigorously humping Mossey's leg. Grumpy's response, "Make the check out to Jenkins."
Where Am I Award: This goes to the pilot of a small plane who landed on the track during a Top Fuel race. The Special Edition TF dragster with Jim Walther aboard and the Ferroni Brothers were about 15 seconds from being staged when the plane appeared at the finish line. With about 4,000 spectators and a pit full of race cars, the pilot's first words were, “This isn't the Cuyahoga Airport is it?"