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Words by Ted Yerzyk
Photos courtesy Walt Herr

Take most people away from their place of employment and there’s a pretty good chance they don’t want to do anything related to their given profession. A few beers, some quality TV time or hacking a bucket of balls at the driving range is a more preferred way of relaxation. After playing nine innings of baseball, you won’t find too many MLBers at the batting cage or hitting balls off of the batting tee. Following a 10-hour day at the race shop or coming off a back-to-back swing, most people involved in the NHRA tour would rather kick back with the remote control or do most anything that doesn’t include the automobile.

There is, however, that rare breed of "car guy" that can’t sniff enough nitro fumes or get enough dirt underneath the fingernails. While not as prominent has his boss, Don "the Snake" Prudhomme, or his driver, two-time champion Larry Dixon, Walt Herr is one of the more visible figures on the NHRA POWERade tour. The spiky-haired, 34-year-old from Tucson, AZ is the clutch specialist for Dixon’s Miller Lite dragster. Herr has worked on Dixon’s rail since 1997 after embarking on his maiden NHRA voyage as a member of Doug Herbert’s team during the 1996 season.

Prior to joining the NHRA tour in the mid-1990’s, Herr owned Walt’s Auto Service in Tucson where he honed his mechanical skills that played a major role in helping Dixon win 30 races and consecutive titles. Winning races means long hours at the drag strip. It also means a little extra play money which Herr used to build his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro over the course of three years.

In November 2001, Herr convinced former teammate Aaron Brooks –- currently the assistant crew chief on Gary Scelzi’s Oakley Hemi Dodge -– to sell his ’69 Camaro for $800. Sounds like a deal, right? Considering it was just a rolling shell with no engine or transmission, Herr had his work cut out if Project 9-second Camaro was ever going to roar to fruition.

After purchasing the roller, Herr shipped the car from California to Indy where it underwent a three-year facelift that would put a smile on even Joan Rivers’ face. The car was stripped before it went to Keith Burgan’s Roo Man Motorsports shop in Brownsburg, IN, where Brooks used his fabrication skills to assist Herr in building an NHRA-certified 7.50-legal roll cage.

“We stripped it down, took off the bumpers and lights and pretty much gutted the car,” Herr said. “We took the glass out and then took the car to Roo Man’s shop. I wanted to make sure the roll cage was certified before we installed it so we didn’t have to backtrack. I’ve had that happen to me before and that’s not fun.”

“Aaron [Brooks] did most of the fabrication work on the roll cage,” Burgan added. “He was working for me on the GM Pro FWD project at the time. We both knew Walt [Herr] from the racing side and he needed a place to work on the car and we had space. As a former crewman myself, I know how hard it is to get a project like this finished when you don’t have the fabrication equipment readily available.”


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