DAY 2 COVERAGE from the Muscle Car Reunion and Nostalgia Drags at Gateway
May 30, 10 | 1:25 pm
Words and Photos by Bret Kepner
“Doc” Halladay, (right), took a wild win in Saturday evening‘s opening round of AA/FC eliminations against past UDRA World Champion Kevin Lennon’s “Shake ‘n Bake” ‘79 Arrow from Indiana. The “Telstar” Arrow darted everywhere but “the Doctor” held on for a 6.30/228.50 victory over Lennon’s 6.70/188.91.
Dave Zientara’s ‘23 T is a classic example of the original Competition Coupe and Roadsters classification which disappeared from rulebooks after the 1971 season. Originally created for modified machines production bodies, a loophole which failed to limit the wheelbase eventually created a division of dragsters with bodies hung off the back almost as an afterthought. Using an original steel Ford body, chassis builder Zientara’s rig accurately represents the heyday of the class, (in this case, B/Comp), in the mid-1960s.
The addition of the Geezer Gassers circuit was once again a hit with the attendees of the Muscle Car Reunion. An amazing array of almost two dozen classic Gas Coupes and Sedans offered a visible and audible trip into the past of sportsman drag racing.
Brent Ward’s “Fun Run” all-steel Ford coupe is built on original chassis rails and can fry the tires beyond belief.
More than outrageous, the Hillbilly Hot Rodz “Speedy Spreader” really had the fans talking.
Dale Nowack, whose “Mr. Bojangles” ‘56 Crown Victoria has over forty years of drag racing history in the St. Louis area, appears to have an airflow problem at 150 mph. Lexan can’t take that kind of abuse forever, Dale!
It wouldn’t be a nostalgia race without wall-to-wall early-model Camaros; Larry Conn (near lane) and Don Wilkins reach for the sky during Saturday timed trials.
Since teaming with Pro Modified crew chief extraordinaire Chuck Ford in 2010, Coloradan Mike Knowles has done plenty of testing and the Muscle Car Reunion seemed a perfect place to make more runs in preparation for the next event on the NHRA GSA PM tour. The “Blown Money” ‘63 Stingray also gets help from TF campaigner Mike Strasberg of B&J Transmissions and has dipped into the 5.80s.
Another racer who spends a good deal of time on the NHRA tour is Dan Huellewig, whose magnificent 572-inch Chevy-powered ‘32 Ford Victoria is a past NHRA Best Engineered Award recipient. With his father, Dave, tuning what was once planned to be a street rod, “Dyno Dan” is also competing in the family’s Dyno Motorsports Graphics ’68 Firebird.
A surprise entry in Nostalgia Super Stock competition is Al Corda, one of the most feared drivers in NHRA sportsman history, at the wheel of this immaculate Dodge Dart. The operator of Rock Falls Raceway in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a heavy favorite to do some damage in the massive NSS field.
“Firesuit Phil” Pofahl bought this 1946 Ford coupe for $75 in 1958 and still competes with a fuel injected 387 cubic-inch Oldsmobile powerplant. The Wisconsin veteran is one of the sport’s great characters.
The original “Red Alert” factory 454/450 LS6-powered ‘70 Chevelle, which was the subject of the best-selling AMT model car ever, is still performing its awesome twisting wheelstands with Bill Stephenson at the helm.
Young Megan Jones is having a blast wheeling her Chevy-powered digger in the event as parents Jeff and Theresa crewing for their daughter.
With its classic high center of gravity, early American spokes up front and an all-steel ‘41 Willys pickup body, Jeff and Holly Hobgood’s Indiana “Whittler” is just about as real as it gets.
Local Oldsmo-legend Pat Taff is a definite contender in Street Eliminator but he’ll have to defeat eighty other hopefuls in Sunday’s eliminations to take home the cash. The St. Louis veteran has already won multiple bracket titles at Gateway in 2010.
“Psycho” Dennis Merkt nearly took out the Christmas Tree on his burnout during Saturday’s first qualifying session in Nostalgia Comp Eliminator but the St. Louisan’s B/FD has already cranked out a 7.54/187 and enters the first round from the fourth qualifying spot.
Michigan‘s Shawn Bowen has already experienced a roller coaster of emotions in the event’s first thirty hours. Bowen’s ‘77 Trans Am AA/FC failed tech inspection due to an expired SFI chassis tag but the team contacted the nearest NHRA certification official and drove two hundred miles east to meet the Tech Man at a truckstop in Terre Haute, Indiana, at midnight Friday. The team returned with the certified car in time for the final qualifying session and unloaded a 5.98 at a track speed record 239.31 mph on this run to take the $1000 bonus for the best pass of the session. As the second qualifier, Bowen met Richard Edwards in Justin Grant’s “Stardust” ‘73 ‘Cuda in round one and had his opponent covered when the Pontiac darted across the centerline at 900 feet for an automatic loss!
Despite its miniscule injected small block, the “Deucebag” A/FX clone is close to the real thing!
Poetry in motion; Bob Mitchell’s flawless blown 460 Ford-powered ‘40 AmeriCar makes another nine-second blast with the crowd reflected on its perfect steel body.
Steve Shehorn, who owned the central Midwestern bracket racing scene in the 1970s with his original “Desperado” Nova, heats the tires on the third incarnation of the series, his 1927 Chevy street roadster.
Nostalgia Super Stock timed trials featured a rare husband-versus-wife match as Rosie Kossuth, (near lane), pitted her “Lady Max” Dodge against mate Clay’s “Max Attack” MoPar. We won’t mention anything about the redlight.
REAL Junior Fuelers RULE!
Danny Mann fogs in the original “Mister Crude” Anglia which was piloted by Canadian Ralph Hope to the Modified Eliminator victory at the 1970 NHRA Summernationals.
Anthony Bronge’s Illinois-based “Punisher” ‘69 Camaro shocked the troops, (and opponent “Rapid Randy” Baker in Danny Miller’s “Plastic Fantastic” ’70 Maverick), with a career-best 6.08 at 237.71 mph in Saturday‘s opening round of AA/FC eliminations.
The “Spirit of ‘56” may look like a traditional gasser but, flawlessly mixing the old and the new, the incredibly loud Chevy uses a ProCharger centrifugal supercharger for nine-second blasts.
Darrell Wathen’s incredible ‘41 Willys coupe started life as Kenny Tripp’s “Bad Medicine” Top Sportsman entry when it was created by the late Gary Hajek’s Hi-Tek Race Cars in 1989. More than two decades later, the car is still stunning and still clocks seven-second passes.
Hoosier Troy Wilson will drive anything at any track for anybody; his newest ride, this smallblock Chevy-powered Junior Fueler, will be ready to race on Sunday.
Ron Nance normally does battle in the Ozark Mountain Super Shifters Circuit but his immaculate high-winding Maverick can run with the best in open competition, too.
When was the last time you saw a completely stock-bodied 1946 Ford do THIS?
The only eliminations program contested on Saturday during the Muscle Car Reunion was the annual Russellville Eliminator program for car club members in the Jefferson City/Russellville, Missouri area. This year‘s winner was Nick Wildhaber’s 406-inch Chevy-powered ‘49 Ford pickup which dropped Larry Armstrong’s 327 Chevy-powered ‘40 Willys pickup in a heads-up match with an 11.14/113.05.
Indiana’s Richard Edwards will continue his weekend of double-duty driving on Sunday. He advanced to the semi-finals of AA/FC competition in Justin Grant’s “Stardust” ‘73 ‘Cuda, (seen here on a 6.69/213.30 qualifying effort), and will drive his own VP Race Fuels ‘48 Fiat Topolino AA/FA in Top Eliminator from the qualifying pole, (7.08/191.27).
Donnie Wilson’s fantastic “Survivor” ‘65 Coronet 440 will need to be just that on Sunday; the thirty-two car Nostalgia Super Stock field is full of killers.
There’s nothing like the sound of a big block on fuel at full song trying to throw the rear rubber right off the rims at the stripe!